Next event:
ERINN SAVAGE – Performance
Tomorrow 15:00 GMT

Death Avoidance

From early research and interviews, I discovered death is still a taboo topic in many Western societies including the UK. Thinking and talking about dying and death is unlikely unless you've had some experience with it. Most conversations about death happen close to the end of life.

Death as a taboo subject can have substantially negative consequences; unnecessary fear about the process of dying, not receiving preferred treatment and care, and not dying in a preferred place. Families, doctors, and carers often do not have the vocabulary and confidence to talk about it, meaning people are often unaware they are dying in the first place. How can we encourage these conversations to happen earlier to ensure people experience a good death? How can we promote death literacy in the wider society?

Death Literacy

Following further desk research, video interviews, and autoethnography, three key areas for death literacy were identified.

Reflection & conversation: reflecting and discussing end of life wishes and what it means to have a good death.

Knowledge & skills: giving people practical knowledge about supporting themselves and others in having a good death.

Planning & preparation: highlighting the ways and importance of planning for end of life before falling seriously ill.


The proposed concept is The Journey, a role playing card game that seeks to improve death literacy in a playful yet informative way.

The goal of the game is to work together as a team and capture four end of life artefacts before the time runs out and the patient dies.

Key features:


Roleplay offers a way of building empathy towards the end of life experience. One player would take on the role of the patient while other players would have supportive roles helping the patient through the end of life experience. This would also encourage cooperation rather than competition between players.


To further promote cooperation, the goal is centred around collecting artefacts as a way of winning the game. Each artefact is related to end of life planning to emphasise its importance in real life.


Time advancing symbolises the Patient’s life getting closer to the end. This serves as a reminder that death is inevitable for all of us but that we also have some say on what we want that experience to be like if we take the time to engage with it and plan in advance. That is, for the sake of ourselves and others.


Each card provides a decision or event to advance the story (and game). Content of the cards is related to practical knowledge and resources about end of life to prompt reflection and discussion between the players throughout the game. Humour has also been used to ensure the experience is light and playful, but also informative.


As the prominent death doula Alua Arthur says: ‘Talking about sex won’t make you pregnant, talking about death won’t make you dead’. The Journey could be used as an educational tool in classrooms as part of health education, allowing students to engage and explore relevant resources and knowledge about death with their peers and/or families at home.