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challenge societal norms through conversation

Change norms by talking about death openly, not to discount sadness, but to make it less of a world-shaking event when it comes close to us.

Photo of Hector Pahaut
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Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine the end-of-life experience?

Not everyone, everywhere, has access to great initiatives like the Zen Hospice Project, what we do all have is ourselves. The common thread is community, love, feeling, people. We can tap into the power of story and experience by creating a new societal conversation around death. It doesn't require expensive materials or experiences, just people and their stories. We learn most from stories, thanks to their real-world origins and narrative structures. Share existing stories to benefit everyone.

I don't know whether it should be in the shape of small meetups, or big collective 'healing sessions,' but I believe that sharing our stories about death (and any experience) aids in normalizing the experience. If we never talk about it, how will we ever be prepared when it does finally come to us? It is through continual conversation and communication that difficult issues are brought to life, literally. Not talking about something (especially things that are so inevitable, such as death) only increases anxiety around the subject, since 'it is not spoken about,' which means that there is also nowhere to go to be able to speak about it when it is not part of immediate life. Opening up and sharing stories about how close ones died, how we reacted, and what we felt and feel enables recognition in the other, which enables a higher understanding of oneself. If I think I am alone in my thinking and acting, I will probably not share that with others, our of fear of being 'eccentric,' 'weird,' or 'just crazy.' But, if I am empowered by the stories of others, which shows me that I am not alone and that I have community and support in times of difficulty, it may be able to relieve some of the experience shock.

Sharing stories to normalize death as a human experience doesn't discount sadness or any emotion, it enables the individual to really feel what they feel instead of worrying about whether it is normal or not. We all live, and we all die. We all share our stories of life, why not of death?

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Meetups could be organized to test out different ways the conversations could be framed and shaped. Talking with industry experts, psychologists, non-experts, etc. All in the goal to gain insight into conversation around death and how it could be enabled and improved.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Being a recent graphic design graduate, I'm just stepping into the professional world. To be completely honest, any help would be of great value. Having been born with a heart malformation, death is a tangible and present part of my life which has enabled me to truly live. I am afraid of death, but not of death itself, I just hope that whatever comes afterwards (if there is anything) isn't conscious eternal aloneness. Any aid, structural, intellectual, or otherwise is greatly appreciated.

Tell us about your work experience:

I just graduated with a project around how promoting conversation around sexuality will lead to understanding and accepting alternatives to the status-quo. I believe that similar ideas can be applied to death.

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

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Photo of Hector Pahaut

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Ibn Al Rabin