Death means designing a better life

We are all going to die, and yet no one really thinks or talks about it. In my family, I’ve never heard anyone planning for a death, or have someone saying what will be left after their departure or even what should be done if it happens. Only when death is around my family’s social circle, they tend to feel sorry for the person who loses a beloved. But I wonder… Did they ever feel they were going to be next? Whether in loosing someone or thinking about their own death…

I’ve never heard anything related to this topic at home, other than relating to it in religious or cultural terms.

Knowing that my grandfather has attained an old age, I know that the hour is approaching, and yet no one has ever felt the need to discuss about it only mentioning briefly that he sill has few years to live. Yes, so what? What are we supposed to do? What are the things that we could be implemented starting now?

It’s not about the procedures only, it’s about a whole mindset that a family needs to adopt in order to cater someone’s death. Maybe dealing with the subject of death is a big part of the deal.

When I first researched on the topic, I’ve realized that many designers and researchers have already done a whole lot of work on it. From IDEO recently, to Re.Designing Death, both design projects focus on the end-of-life experience, first one moving more towards the experience itself and how can on live it better, second focusing more on making better plans around it.

I felt that both segmentations were equally important, given that there’s on the emotional and then mental involved in each. Also, I’ve realized that in design you need to take into consideration whom will the design be for: Is it targeting the family or the deceit? One thing to take into consideration from the very beginning. It could be both, depends on the directives of the project.

Not to mention the types of death that might also shift the focus of design.

An App called Flutter was created by designers at Fabrica for grieving adolescents. The choice of an app was made knowing that adolescents are connected to one other all the time but that most of them get isolated during grieving times. Their idea as designers, was to facilitate the expression of grief through music, by engaging adolescents in a melody composition made from personal emotions. So instead of verbalizing , words are transformed into sound. I really felt that this is the kind of innovation I would like to make in regard to death.

Going back to my family and what I found the most compelling is having people talk about death, moreover kids. Imagine all children who lose a parent or face death at an early age. How would these beings grasp the concept of it? Of course not all children react the same way specially if they are from different ages. Which is why the Flutter might not be useful for younger kids.

We know that early on, we learn from our parents, meaning that our first outlook on death is immediately transmitted from within our own household. A good way to start the research is to look at how parents behave around death with their kids, knowing that the subject of death in Lebanon is always related to religion. Most people do not invest neither in their children’s awareness of the subject nor in the planning of death. They let things happen momentarily, and then pay the heavy prices. When someone is overwhelmed with death, the person barely has the time to process things. Having feelings and thoughts in between responsibility and self management is really hard to handle during those time. Not to forget if someone has children… Here’s comes the mess. Assuming the scenario, here is my main interest.

As Stephanie Pappas, a science writer, says:

“when death hovers at the edge of consciousness, humans strive to push it down.”

Obviously, the reason why most family do not plan death ahead of time is because of it brings to them a sort psychological imbalance or dismantlement. So how can a human start being engaged with death in a proper way?

Two great examples are Death Over Dinner, a platform that helps set a dinner in a very experimental and interactive way, and Gift of Grace, a set of cards that initiates conversations about death, which I have already ordered and want to use with my grandfather. My grandfather enjoys every moment of his life, he seems light headed, listens to music, reads literature and philosophy, and shares with us his opinions and thoughts making us learn from him constantly . But what if he discussed about his own feelings about his death maybe we could learn more.

Going back to the design project, I need to start gathering all sorts of stories from people before framing my focus. Now let’s move onto the first part …