6 Amazing TED Talks On Death & Dying


Isn’t it strange that death is one of the least talked about topics in today’s society, yet it’s one of the most important events of our lives?

Starting my business in the funeral profession over a decade ago has helped me look at this in a new way. Not only do I think understanding and being comfortable with the reality of death is important, I think it’s vital for us to live healthy, fulfilled lives.

I’m hoping that this collection of TED Talks on death and dying help your families and community better understand death and inspire them to start having conversations about it:

#1: My mushroom burial suit” – Jae Rhim Lee

Join artist Jae Rhim Lee as she introduces a new way to accept and embrace our mortality and minimize the environmental harm we leave behind when we die. Her invention, the Mushroom Burial Suit, is not only a new alternative for a green burial, but also a symbol of a new way of thinking about death and the relationship between your body and the environment.

#2: “Prepare for a good end of life” – Judy MacDonald Johnston

In this emotional take on end-of-life planning, Judy MacDonald Johnston shares a touching story about her experience helping two people prepare for their end-of-life. Judy shares insights she learned as an end-of-life advocate for an older couple who owned a ranch and wanted to make sure all of their loose ends were tied before they said their goodbyes. Although you might shed a few tears, Judy’s story certainly teaches us the importance of creating a detailed plan so that everything runs smoothly when it’s your time.

#3: “Life that doesn’t end with death” – Kelli Swazey

What if funerals weren’t a one-time, private, somber event? What if they, like weddings and births, and were the glue to your community’s interactions? Anthropologist Kelli Swazey talks to us about the cultural importance of death and funerals in the Tana Toraja Regency, Indonesia and what the Western world can learn from them. In her TED Talk, she challenges us to ask ourselves what would happen if life didn’t stop at death.

#4: “Let’s talk about dying” – Peter Saul

Peter Saul’s TED Talk can be summed up in his first line: “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off”. Peter’s talk about end-of-life planning starts with a study he did that found only 1 in 100 people had a plan for what would happen when they died, and a mere 1 in 500 had a plan in case they became seriously ill. During his talk, Peter uses this study to try to understand why people don’t plan for their death, the most inevitable thing about life. His dry and at times morbid sense of humor is almost impossible not to appreciate as someone who works in the funeral profession.

#5: “Changing the way we mourn” – Laura Prince

After facing the suicide of her best friend at the age of 15, Laura Prince always had a hard relationship with death… until one day it was called upon her to plan a memorial for a family friend. Laura found that not only did she no longer feel negativity towards death, but she also felt the passion she experienced when planning the memorial exceeded every other passion in her life. And that’s when she decided to become a funeral planner. Join Laura as she takes you on her touching journey into the funeral profession, and why she thinks it’s time to change the way we plan funerals for the families of today.

#6: “Before I die I want to…” – Candy Chang

Candy Chang is an artist who has spent the last few years connecting people in her community through art in public spaces. And when she suddenly and unexpectedly lost someone she was very close to, she was prompted to think about death and realized how much clarity death brought to the things that are meaningful now. That’s when she created the now famous chalkboard wall called “Before I die”. It’s a chalkboard wall she created one evening asking people to share one thing they want to do before it’s their time. The response has been amazing – now countries all over the world are celebrating her idea with their own wall, and she even recently published a book with the answers to that infamous question. If there’s one thing you can walk away from during this talk, it’s that time and relationships are the most valuable things in our lives.

Which TED Talk was your favorite? Tell us in the comments below!

Joe Joachim


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  2. Gail Rubin, CT

    These are all great talks! Since this post was done in 2014, I hadn’t yet done my TEDxABQ talk, “A Good Goodbye.” Here’s a link to that talk: https://youtu.be/r9qR4ZiGX2Y. It’s worth your time.

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