If you are thinking a death party has to do with vampires or teens with black lipstick, you couldn’t be more wrong.
Death parties are a new trend designed to get families to talk about a typically taboo subject: death. One of the most troubling things that happens when someone passes, is the fighting among family members. No one wants their death to be a catalyst for family separation, but when the deceased wishes are not clear and communicated, it is bound to happen.
A group of students and staff at the University of Washington began a program titled “Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death.” The program is to encourage conversation, at dinner, about the end of life. By sharing stories, thoughts, and fear about death and dying, it helps remove some of the stigma of discussing the components we normally don’t talk about, especially those end of life wishes we haven’t communicated.
“I learned that End of Life expense was the number 1 reason for bankruptcy in the U.S. and that over 75% of Americans want to die at home and yet only 25% do – half of us are not getting what we want – what we are entitled to – and paying dearly for it,”
~Michael Hebb, creator of “Death over Dinner”.
With the population aging as baby boomers are moving into the senior age community, it couldn’t be more timely. This generation, named the “Sandwich Generation” because they are frequently taking care of their aging parents and their own children at the same time, are having to face end of life questions in both roles. And while death is a topic that is thought about, it is still not discussed as openly as it should. Within the Death over Dinner conversation, topics such as wills, life support and more can be discussed candidly.
Do you want to die at home?
Who will take care of the children, home, pets, business?
Who will make medical decisions in the case you are not able to make them for yourself?
There are no guarantees that these conversations will completely stop families from fighting, but the communication regarding financial matters and medical care can help avoid suffering at the end of life.
Many families are doing these dinner parties with multiple generations. No one knows when their life will end, or even be heavily disrupted. Tragic accidents happen. They are simply a reality of life. With less than 30% of Americans possessing a living will which documents how they want to be treated medically in case they are unable to communicate, having these conversations becomes even more crucial.
Communicating your desires before you are ever in a situation like this is the only control you have. Nearly 50% of all deaths happen in hospitals where a variety of life-saving strategies are used. It is important to know which ones you don’t want and in which situations you want them, and more importantly, these desires need to be communicated.
So, cook up a dinner and have family bring a dish. Celebrate your lives and stimulate a conversation give dignity to your and your loved ones dying wishes.