Death Over Dinner -

How we want to die – represents the most important and costly conversation America isn’t having. We have gathered dozens of medical and wellness leaders to cast an unflinching eye at end of life, and we have created an uplifting interactive adventure that transforms this seemingly difficult conversation into one of deep engagement, insight and empowerment. We invite you to gather friends and family and fill a table. Click Get Started to plan a test dinner. We call it a test dinner because trying out this process in no way commits you to follow through with an actual dinner. Learn More.

WATCH VIDEO

How death came to dinner

On August 24, 2013 we launched Death Over Dinner and in a single night we tracked over 500 dinners in 20 countries. Since then there have been over a hundred thousand #deathdinners around the globe.

This adventure began when we learned that 75% of Americans want to die at home, yet only 25% of them do. When we learned that how we end our lives is the most important and costly conversation America is not having. And when we realized that a conversation among loved ones, friends, and even strangers could begin to change these numbers, and bring the conversation about death back into mainstream culture.

It all started with a University of Washington graduate course called Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death, taught by Michael Hebb and Scott Macklin, which quickly grew into a beautiful website designed by Seattle agency Civilization with content developed by Angel Grant. Our platform has now grown into a global project with an Australian Edition, a Jewish Edition, and even a Doctors and Nurses Edition currently being designed and built. We are thrilled to announce that we are now part of the RoundGlass family of initiatives, which will allow us to expand this project to millions of individuals and dinner tables.

This project was created as a gift, an invitation and a simple set of tools to help families and friends address the basic human fact that we are all, at some point, going to die. We suffer more when we don’t communicate our wishes, we suffer less when we know how to honor the wishes of our loved ones. As we build greater comfort and literacy around this important topic, every single one of us wins.

You might ask: Why would I have this conversation over dinner?

The dinner table is the most forgiving place for difficult conversation. The ritual of breaking bread creates warmth and connection, and puts us in touch with our humanity. It offers an environment that is more suitable than the usual places we discuss end of life.

So we raise a generous glass to you and your loved ones and humbly submit version 2.0 of Death Over Dinner!

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Photos by Amanda Ringstad

Team

We’re collaborating with everyone from oncologists, gravestone designers, palliative care experts, authors, curators, health care CEOs and artists to spark a powerful movement around facing death and planning for end of life. We’re putting out a call to action for people to start a conversation with their friends or family about death- and we’re giving people to tools to make it easier, more meaningful, and even fun.

Dianne Gray

Dianne Gray is the President of Hospice and Healthcare Communications, (www.hhccommunications.com), an international firm focused on creating and furthering advocacy projects and education/...

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Jonathan Ellenthal

Jonathan Ellenthal is a Partner and President of TEDMED, LLC. As the exclusive licensee of the globally recognized TED brand for the field of health and medicine, TEDMED focuses entirely on...

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Dr. Anthony Back

Anthony Back MD is Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington and Cancer Research Center. His research focuses on improving communication between patients, and has been funded by the...

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Alexandra Drane

Alexandra DraneFounder, Chief Visionary Officer and Chair of the Board at Eliza Corporation

Alexandra Drane has devoted her career to inspiring people to lead healthier, happier and more...

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Jonathan Bush

In 1997, Jonathan Bush co-founded athenahealth as a women’s health practice management company. Today, athenahealth has evolved into a leading provider of cloud-based business services to U.S....

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Angel Grant

Angel, Co-founder of deathoverdinner and drugsoverdinner.org, set out to understand why we’re here and what death has to do with it when she understood in her bones that existence is...

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Abby Schneiderman

Abby Schneiderman, Co-Founder of Everplans.com, is a repeat entrepreneur who loves finding ways to use technology to make people’s lives better. Prior to launching Everplans, Abby was a Principal...

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Gabrielle Reece

Dubbed one of the world’s sexiest athletes, former Women’s Beach Volleyball League star and fitness icon Gabrielle Reece, also known as Gabby, possesses a look that conveys both athleticism and...

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Laird Hamilton

World renowned waterman Laird Hamilton is known as the guiding genius of crossover board sports, and is largely considered the primary influence behind many surfing innovations, including, tow-in...

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Deogratias “Deo” Niyizonkiza

Deo is the co-founder and executive director of Village Health Works, a grassroots non-profit organization providing comprehensive health care—everything from clinical prevention and treatment to...

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Shirley Bergin

Shirley Bergin is a Partner & Chief Operating Officer of TEDMED, LLC. and is an active member of the TED community. She is an accomplished business leader with experience working with leading...

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Yael Cohen

Yael Cohen is the founder, president, and CEO of Fuck Cancer, an innovative health organization aiming to activate Gen-Y to engage with their parents about early detection, preventative lifestyles...

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Frank Ostaseski

Frank Ostaseski is a Buddhist teacher, international lecturer and a leading voice in contemplative end-of-life care.

In 1987, he co-founded of the Zen Hospice Project, the first Buddhist...

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David Ewing Duncan

David is an award-winning, best-selling author of eight books published in 19 languages; he is a journalist and a television, radio and film producer and correspondent. He is a correspondent for...

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James Andrews

James Andrews is the founder of Social People a strategic communications agency that helps brands navigate the social/mobile web in order to build better connections with their audiences. With...

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Christian McGuigan

McGuigan is currently Director of Social Action Film Campaigns at Participant Media, a Los Angeles-based global entertainment company specializing in socially-relevant documentary and narrative...

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Marcus Osbourne

Marcus Osborne serves as Vice President, Health & Wellness Payer Relations for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.  In that role, he is focused on furthering Wal-Mart’s stated goal of improving the...

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Dr. Shauna Shapiro

Shauna L. Shapiro, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology at Santa Clara University, licensed clinical psychologist, and internationally recognized expert in mindfulness.  Dr....

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Lewis A. Lipsitz, M.D.

Lewis A. Lipsitz, M.D. currently serves as Vice President for Academic Medicine and Director of the Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston, MA, where he holds the Irving and...

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Chanel Reynolds

Chanel Reynolds is the founder of Get Your Shit Together. Since the launch of www.getyourshittogether.org in January of 2013, Chanel has dedicated...

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Matt Wiggins

Matt Wiggins comes from a long line of Irish potato farmers who have been telling stories around the dinner table for generations. During the mid-18th century famine, the Wiggins’ mastered a system...

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Dave Lingwood

Dave Lingwood is one of the four members of the MTV show The Buried Life. As part of their efforts, Dave has been travelling the world for the past six years asking millennials the tough question...

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Nicole Patrice DeMember

Nicole Patrice DeMember is an internationally known entrepreneur, investor and advisor that works with high profile startups and NGOs. Born in Detroit, Nicole has always had a passion for music,...

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Matthew Holt

Matthew Holt, Co-Chairman, Health 2.0 Founder & Author, The Health Care Blog

Matthew Holt has spent 20 years in health care as a researcher, forecaster, and strategist. He learned from...

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Stephanie Gailing

PROJECT MANAGER Deathoverdinner.org. Stephanie Gailing is a wellness advisor, educator, and writer. Author of Planetary Apothecary: An Astrological Approach to Health and Wellness...

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CIVILIZATION

Civilization is the creative agency that provided the branding, direction and design for this site. Civilization believes believes in design as a means of social change, and are passionate about...

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Dr. Susan L. Mitchell, MD, MPH

Dr. Susan L. Mitchell, MD, MPH. a geriatrician and health services researcher, is a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Senior Scientist at the Hebrew Senior Life Institute for...

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Amanda Ringstad

A native of the Northwest, Amanda Ringstad draws from her formal fine arts education to offer a photographic vision blending her fondness for color with natural subjectivity. Her still life...

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Scott Macklin

Scott Macklin can often be found looking for an espresso.  He hails from a family consisting of preachers and teachers where evening meals consisted of conversations relating to the eschaton and...

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Cynthia Andrews

After graduating from Arizona State University in 2010 with a degree in Art History, Cynthia Andrews decided to head for the Pacific Northwest. Shortly after her arrival in Seattle, she began to...

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Bess Lovejoy

Bess Lovejoy is a mortality-obsessed writer, researcher, and editor based in Seattle. Her writing about death and other subjects has appeared in The New York Times, The Believer, The Boston Globe,...

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Greg Lundgren

Greg Lundgren is a Seattle-based artist, designer and founder of Lundgren Monuments. He designs memorials, cremation urns and caskets with a modern sensibility with an emphasis on large-scale cast...

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Jeff Weiss

JEFF WEISS founded CCI, Inc. in 1986. CCI runs exclusive ongoing forums where CEOs and senior executives from Global 1000 firms and large healthcare systems can explore strategies and growth.  CCI...

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Lesley Hazleton

Lesley Hazleton, aka The Accidental Theologist (www.AccidentalTheologist.com), writes about religion, politics, and existence. Her...

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Leigh Calabrese-Eck

Leigh brings her experience developing engaging messages and campaigns to the often staid world of healthcare communications. In her role at Eliza Corporation, she champions the company’s mission...

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Suzette Sherman

Suzette Sherman is an internet entrepreneur based in San Francisco, and the founder of SevenPonds.com. Through SevenPonds, Suzette has created an online community space with one purpose in mind:...

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Michael Hebb

Michael Hebb , founder of Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death, has been staging convivial gatherings and redefining hospitality/tablemaking since 1997; co-founding the City...

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Kirsten Murray

Kirsten is an architect, principal/owner of Olson Kundig architects and co director of storefront Olson Kundig.  In addition to her work with the firm, she is involved in various artistic...

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Library

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  • What Happens When Death Is What’s For Dinner?

    Breaking bread has historically been a step toward social progress, says Death Over Dinner founder, Michael Hebb. How can we use the power of home and hearth to change healthcare?

  • Engaging with Grace on the End of Life Issue

    Have you talked with the people you love?  Truly passionate talk about from Alexandra Drane sharing a personal story to illustrate how important it is to die the way we want and be cared for the way we want.

  • Is There Such Thing as Moving On

    Kelley Lynn talks about the things people say to you after you suffer a loss. She shares about the loss of her husband and the idea of moving on.

  • Doing What it Takes to Cope With Grief

    When Amy Green’s young son was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor, she made up a bedtime story for his siblings to teach them about cancer. What resulted was a video game, ‘That Dragon, Cancer,’ which takes players on a journey they can’t win. In this beautiful talk about coping with loss, Green brings joy and play to tragedy. ‘We made a game that’s hard to play,’ she says, ‘because the hardest moments of our lives change us more than any goal we could ever accomplish.’

  • Find a Place of Rest

    Frank Ostaseski, Founder, Metta Institute, author The Five Invitations, shares a story from caregiving that can benefit all of us.

  • The Coffin Club

    In this fantastically light and fun video, we see a group of older people in New Zealand who were fed-up after attending so many funerals that rarely reflected the vibrant lives of friends and family they were meant to honor, so they created what they call a Coffin Club.

  • The Only Reason We’re Alive

    Spoken word poet In-Q, accompanied by gorgeous animation, expresses the bittersweetness of life, aging, and death in the context of love like no other.

  • The Intersection of Living and Dying

    During the past 20 years few people have changed the conversation about the intersection of life and death more than Mitch Albom. ‘Tuesdays With Morrie’ author talks with Jane Pauley on a wide-ranging chat about a life well-lived, beginning with a time when he sat down for weekly conversations with a professor from his college days who was facing his terminal diagnosis.

  • Compassion and the True Meaning of Empathy

    Joan Halifax works with people at the last stage of life (in hospice and on death row). She shares what she’s learned about compassion in the face of death and dying, and a deep insight into the nature of empathy.

  • 59 Year Old Chimp Says Goodbye to Long Lost Friend

    In this short video, we see the potency of heart to heart connection and feel the undeniable importance in getting to share a goodbye.

  • Culture of Dying

    Stephen Jenkinson explains how our culture taught us to deny death and sadness. He thought-provokingly tells how to turn this around. Please listen from 8:30 – 25:00.

  • A New Approach To Dementia Care

    Larissa MacFarquhar spends time at a community built for Seniors with Alzheimer’s where caretakers are using reminiscence therapy to ease feelings of panic, rage, and misery.

  • 2. Aging Brains Stay Sharper With Daily Housework and Exercise

    Even something as simple as chopping up food on a regular basis can be enough exercise to help protect older people from showing signs of dementia, a new study suggests.

  • What Are You Doing Over There?

    The art of the little white lie gone awry while caring for his Grandma.

  • Saying I Love You

    A doctor who studies memory loss is confronted with her own father’s memory loss.

  • Dementia Matters

    Episode Feb 26, 2019: How Brain Autopsies Are Helping Further Dementia Research

  • Alzheimer’s Podcast

    Episode 52: A Good Death? Learn Tips to help you through a difficult time Episode 53: What Are the Thing No One Tells you about death Episode 54: Who are the end of life specialist and how can they help?

  • Alzheimer’s Speaks

  • Make End of Life More Humane

    Dr. Atul Gawande began researching hospice and end-of-life care options because he says he didn’t know how to broach the subject of death with his terminally ill patients. ‘Our system of medical care has successfully created a multi-trillion-dollar system for dispensing lottery tickets — the lottery ticket that you could get this longer life,’ he says. But he says it has not prepared people for the likelihood that physicians aren’t good at preparing patients whose lives will not be prolonged by medical treatment. ‘So we’ve failed to meet the other needs people have, other than just prolonging life.’

  • What Doesn’t Kill You

    Tig Notaro was diagnosed with cancer. A week later she went on stage in Los Angeles about her string of misfortunes. Listen from 3:04 – 15:35.

  • Just Show Up

    Sheryl Sandberg gives a vulnerable interview about what life looked like after her husband died suddenly.

  • The Bitter End

    ‘We turn to doctors to save our lives — to heal us, repair us, and keep us healthy. But when it comes to the critical question of what to do when death is at hand, there seems to be a gap between what we want doctors to do for us, and what doctors want done for themselves.’

  • Mortician Explores Many Paths For Sacred Transition Of Death

    Mortician Caitlin Doughty has traveled around the world exploring the ways other cultures approach death and talks about many of them as well as the differences in America.

  • A Nurse Reflects on the Privilege of Caring for Dying Patients

    Brown says that being with people who are dying is a profound experience. ‘When you’re with people who die… and being in their homes and seeing their families… it makes me realize this is why we’re here; this is what we do; this is what we give to each other.’

  • Last Day, from Charlotte’s Web

    Charlotte faces her death and consoles WIlbur with elegant practicality. EB White uses this beautiful story to illustrate the power of relationship along with the cycle of life and death.

  • Sam Harris Podcast: Lessons from Death

    In this episode of the Making Sense podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Frank Ostaseski about death and dying—and about how the awareness of death can improve our lives in each moment.


Press

Stories

We love hearing stories from all of you out there who have survived a death dinner! The beautiful collection we've gathered so far are shared here - feel free to take your time and peruse. If you'd like to add your story to our anthology, share it with us or tag us with #deathdinner. If you haven't had your dinner yet, get started below.

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Please choose a short piece for you and your guests to watch, listen to, and read before coming together at dinner. Links will be sent in your dinner prep email.

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