My Wonderful Life

Let’s Talk: Conversation Starters About Death and Dying

posted on 7/16/12 by David Hlavac

When to talk about death

Sex. Politics. Religion. Death?

While none of these topics make for polite dinner party banter, talking about death can be difficult no matter who’s at the table.

So what’s the best way to broach the subject with loved ones, especially those who are reluctant to talk? Here are some possible “openings” for starting the conversation:

Reading the obituaries

Occasionally, reading the newspaper obituaries will elicit a sigh of resignation or a pitiful headshake – a perfect opportunity to ask: “Have you thought about what you’d want your obit to say?”

Watching TV/movies that feature funerals

Whether they’re played for laughs or for tears, funerals are a popular way to frame the human condition in television and movies. Try asking how your friends or family might imagine their own funerals.

Visiting loved ones at the cemetery

Paying respects at the cemetery is often a solemn affair, but it’s also a good opportunity to start “the talk” with something simple like: “Did you want to be buried here, too?”

Death of a friend or relative

It’s important to be respectful and tread lightly in these situations, but someone who is bereaved will likely have death and remembrance on their minds. A gentle “How do you want to be remembered?” is a good opening.

During religious observances

Religious traditions have a tremendous impact on people’s funeral/memorial practices – why not introduce the subject the next time you’re at church or synagogue or speaking with a member of the clergy?

We’d love to hear your ideas, too. What do you think is the best time to break the ice and ask your loved ones about their final requests? 


Photo credit: Aware of you Care

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