Co-Creating End-of-Life Conversations.
Through my master’s thesis research, I learned that people who talk about death with loved ones are less likely to face unnecessary suffering during end-of-life. However, most people fear death and because of this they avoid thinking about their own mortality, yet alone talking about it with others.
Realizing that if we as a society want to shift people towards an attitude of understanding that dying well is an option, then we need new ways to reflect upon and talk to each other about death. So I designed Future Funerals, a workshop that generates unexpected ways to self-reflect and hold conversations about death through ritual making and storytelling.
Prompted to select meaningful actions, props, and moods participants are able to create a personalized ritual for their funeral, then segue into a shared conversation about end-of-life. My hope is that these workshops help people challenge their perspectives of western-centric funeral traditions and encourage them to become involved in creating their preferred futures in turn increasing the chance that they receive the care they want during end-of-life.
Most recently, I’ve facilitated the workshop as part of Re:Imagine NYC, a week of events reimagining death and celebration of life through creativity and conversation. As well as with The Future Project a national organization focused on activating high school students to build a better future. Overall, we’ve collaboratively designed over 75 unique funeral rituals, and each participant has walked away with an artifact that can help them initiate uncomfortable conversations at home.
Participatory Research · Futuring
Research, Design, Facilitation
FEEDBACK & IMPACT
The feedback I received from the iterations of the workshops were very helpful in forming the most recent version. People were hesitant in the beginning of the workshops, unsure what to expect and unaware of the tone we may be jumping into. However, once the workshop kicked off, people were interested in how they have perceived end-of-life and challenging their assumptions around death and end-of-life planning.
The workshops allowed people to put aside their fears and consider their loved ones and to imagine alternatives to the traditional Western funeral. Each workshop ended with an optional sharing session. While most people were not overly eager to share at the beginning, they usually all shared by the end of the session, expanding the discussion, exchanging ideas, learning about what was meaningful to each other, and sharing traditions from their own cultures.
The most measurable reflection of the impact can be shown through feedback I received and in the comparison of a rapid stream of consciousness exercise I run before the workshop which asked participants to call out words they associate with funerals. At the end of each session, I compare this list to the words on their activity worksheets. The participants are usually amazed by the contrast.
I ask the participants to take their worksheet home with them and share there experience with someone at the dinner table, over coffee, or on the phone – as long as they share it. What I've heard back is that this allows them to turn what they found as a strange, yet thoughtful and fun exercise into a conversation starter, opening the door a crack into end-of-life discussions.
PROCESS & PROTOTYPING
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For more information from user research to insights to final solution, etc. — Please reach out