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5 Fascinating TED Talks on Death and Dying

by | Jan 7, 2014 | Funeral Profession

Someone holding a smartphone and looking at a laptop

There are tons of inspirational TED Talks out there on the subjects of technology, business, and design.  But did you know that there are many others — including talks from doctors, artists, philosophers, and more — offering their own perspective on the realm of death and dying?

A search of the TED website turns up plenty of interesting viewing options, but the following five videos represent a great place to dive into the organization’s thought-provoking speeches.

Judy MacDonald Johnston – Prepare for a Good End of Life

By day, MacDonald Johnston is a children’s author. But a recent experience acting as the primary caregiver and decision-maker for an elderly couple led to this video, in which she reflects on the practice of planning for a good end of life.  While those in the death care industry are likely already familiar with these types of recommendations, it’s a great video to watch.

Runtime – 6:05 minutes

Candy Chang – Before I Die I Want to…

Another unconventional look at the subject of death and dying comes from Candy Chang. She’s a New Orleans based artist who transformed an abandoned house into a public chalkboard on which passers-bys answered the question, “Before I Die, I Want to…”.  The resulting video gives viewers some interesting insight into our collective pre-death fears and the ways in which we interact with one another and public spaces.

Runtime – 6:20 minutes

Stephen Cave – The 4 Stories We Tell Ourselves About Death

In this TED Talk, philosopher Stephen Cave attempts to tackle the question, “When did you first realize you were going to die?”  His resulting explanation of the narratives we tell ourselves to manage the terror of death should be required viewing for any funeral industry professional who’s interested in understanding why we grieve the way we do.

Runtime – 15:33 minutes

Jae Rhim Lee – My Mushroom Burial Suit

You all know that I’m fascinated by the mushroom burial suit that debuted at this year’s NFDA Annual Convention.  So just imagine how excited I was to find a TED Talk by the suit’s creator – Jae Rhim Lee – describing the work that went into developing the product!  If you want to learn more about Lee’s vision for “decompiculture,” check out the video below:

Runtime 7:20 minutes

Dr. Peter Saul – Let’s Talk About Dying

As an intensive care physician, Dr. Peter Saul has witnessed his fair share of deaths.  The result of his experiences is this TED Talk, in which he shares a simple process for starting the conversation on preferences for end of life care.  It’s an important video to watch, whether you use the information to advise the families you serve or to make sure your own arrangements are clear to your family.

Runtime – 13:17 minutes


  1. Sue Goodrum

    Beautifully expressed by Peter Saul and so much thoughtful information here. I love the quote from Dame Ciciley Saunders

  2. Dave Savage

    Another worthwhile Ted video is From Dr. Lani Leary
    Dr. Lani Leary is an expert and insightful adviser in how to be with and supportive to someone who is dying.
    See her Ted Talk presentation and interview. They are a summery of her book No One Has to Die Alone –
    Preparing for a Meaningful Death

    Lani has over 25 years of experience working with chronically ill, dying, and bereaved clients. She served as the director of mental health services at Whitman Walker AIDS clinic, as a professor of Death Studies at George Mason University, and as a researcher at the National Cancer Institute of NIH. Lani also garners wisdom from her personal experience—her mother’s death when she was a child, her father’s death from cancer, her own profound near-death experience—and has sat with over 500 people as they died. Lani’s book – No One Has To Die Alone – was published in 2012.
    DrLaniLeary.comTed x presentation
    Dr. Lani Leary – Hour long interview –

    This Video and many other related materials and resources are at
    January 2014



  1. 7 Inspiring TED Talks for Personal and Business Growth » Frazer Consultants Blog | Frazer Consultants - […] this year, we published a blog post titled “5 Fascinating TED Talks on Death & Dying” that got a…

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