relatively speaking

relatively speaking

looking at the informal ways we talk about death and dying in our everyday conversations

When was the last time you “died laughing“?  Please tell me below.

It’s interesting to check out the #diedlaughing twitter stream.!/search/%23diedlaughing

 In the relatively speaking blog series

I’ll be highlighting a deathly figure of speech  from my vast collection.

Here are some upcoming phrases:

i’m dying to know

to die for

kiss of death

drop dead gorgeous

i just died

i’ve died and gone to heaven

it’s a matter of life and death

over my dead body

before i die

i’ll sleep when i’m dead

death and taxes

dead giveaway

do or die

deadpan look

dead of night

death watch

back from the dead

innovate or die

dead in the water


starving to death

drop dead

dying of thirst

play dead

love them to death

death warmed over

die-hard fan

dead wringer

dead end

relatively speaking

Talking about death is talking about life. 
Let’s talk about it!


relatively speaking

What do you think is






relatively speaking

talking about death is talking about life

A project to promote healthy conversations about death and dying by bringing awareness to the common phrases about death that permeate our everyday language.

relatively speaking allows us to explore the boundaries of talking about death and dying with curiosity & fun.

cards & gallery exhibit in development

A Bittersweet Paradox: Talking about Death is Talking about Life

I am honored that Maria Shriver’s blog invited me to guest blog last week.  Her philosophy that “by sharing our worlds, we help one another make our lives matter” resonates with me.




I have received wonderful responses from the post which further confirms my belief that people are thinking about death & dying and ultimately they do want to talk about it, but just not sure where, when, or how.  During my Gatherings we talk about why our society doesn’t talk openly about death & dying.  Overall the responses are fascinating and varied in the way they are expressed, but yet a few common themes emerge: “Fear/anxiety/denial/vulnerability”, “We don’t want to seem morbid, depressed, or negative”, “We are afraid that if we talk about it, death will happen, we’ll be tempting fate”, and “Talking about death and dying is too emotional and personal”.  However, at the Gatherings when we discuss why we should talk openly about death & dying the list grows long, because there are so very many reasons: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, financial, relational, societal, generational, and universal reasons!

In our culture, we spend a great deal of time defining “living well.” Let’s learn together what it means to “die well.” Let’s lean into the paradox, lean into the tension between wanting to talk about death and not wanting to talk about death.  Talking about death is talking about life.




Death by Chocolate

Last year I received some unsolicited marketing advice that I can’t get out of my head.   After learning about my book, my airplane seat mate, leaned over and said, “Lady, you’ve got a hell of a problem ahead,  you need to make death attractive, like a candy bar, it’s not going to be easy”.*

For me, it is fascinating to listen to stories, thoughts, beliefs, and experiences that people have with death, dying, grief, and loss and learn how these experiences impact their lives.  I find most people do want to talk about their “death and dying” experiences and ideas when asked.  But it is paradoxical.  About eight out of ten people also share that they are afraid if they talk about death, it might happen. Often they comment on how it is uncharacteristic of them to be superstitious, but yet they can’t help thinking they might be “jinxing” their lives by talking about death.

Do you think eating this dessert will be tempting fate?

Should I bring samples of Death by Chocolate to my marketing appointments?

Death by Chocolate

Yield: 12 servings



8 oz (225 g) dark semisweet chocolate (40-50% cocoa)
2/3 cup (140 g) butter
1 cup (210 g) sugar
4 eggs
4 heaped tablespoons (1 dl) all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ teaspoon baking powder or 1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons sour cream

Ingredients for frosting


2/3 cup (1.6 dl) heavy cream or whipping cream
9 oz (260 g) semisweet chocolate (40-50% cocoa)



  1. Preheat oven to 350 deg F (Gas mark 4 or 180 deg C).
  2. Line a circular 10 inch (25 cm) cake tin (3 inches tall) with grease proof or other non-stick paper and grease the tin. (Please note that the cake will rise to 3 inches and collapse somewhat when cooled. If your cake tin is less than 10 inches wide and 3 inches tall we recommend that you use two cake tins.)
  3. Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt it with butter over hot water.
  4. Beat the eggs with sugar, mix with flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and vanilla extract.
  5. Slowly fold in the melted butter and chocolate and the sour cream.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, approximately 40 to 50 minutes (if using 2 cake tins 20-30 minutes may be sufficient).
  7. Cool the cake completely. When it has obtained room temperature place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before removing the cake from the tin (the cake is sticky and difficult to cut when it is warm!) Remove the crusted surface on the top of the cake, and cut in half, horizontally.



  1. Heat 2/3 cup (1.6 dl) of heavy cream or whipping cream in a sauce pan.
  2. Remove from heat, add 9 oz (260 g) of finely chopped dark semisweet chocolate, stir until smooth, and let it cool until in thickens.
  3. Use one 1/3 of the frosting between the two layers, 1/3 on top, and the rest around the cake. Put the cake into the fridge for one hour or more to harden the frosting.
  4. This cake should have room temperature when served.


* About ten minutes later he told me about the death and funeral of his beloved Grandmother.

Living Life Dying Death Playlist

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The lyrics of music are a great source of healthy communication about death and dying.  Check out the Living Life Dying Death Playlist!
Please send me your suggestions!

Talking About Death: Essential Qualities

Talking about death and dying is talking about life and living!  I believe there are essential qualities to a healthy conversation about death and dying………..well……….really I believe they are the same essential qualities when having any conversation!

Drawn by User:Ngb
  • Non-judgment ::: Tolerance for the opinions and variety of ideas and beliefs that will be presented.
  • Compassion ::: Kindness and sensitivity not only for other’s attitudes, but also for ourselves as we explore the complexity of discussing life and death.
  • Honesty ::: Genuine expression of beliefs ::: not falling into cliches and societal norms when discussing aging, dying and death.
  • Active Listening ::: Attentive listening for new understandings and deeper meanings that may be expressed.
  • Flexibility ::: Not being rigid or defensive while dialoguing.  Allow for the possibility that definitions of words such as health, healing and hope, may change and grow as life evolves.
  • Tolerance for Ambiguity and Paradox ::: Sometimes more questions than answers surface during conversations about death.  Recognize that life is strong and fragile; simple and complex; joyful and sorrowful.
  • Respect ::: Each individual has the right to their own decisions.  Be prepared to not state your opinion or agree to disagree respectfully.  Never force difficult conversations.  Respect should always be honored when an individual states they do not want to talk about death or dying.
  • Humor ::: Laughter is a very useful when talking about the human condition!

Talk about death and dying to inspire life and living.

Talking about death and dying at Living Life Dying Death . com | Welcome!

“It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens”.

Woody Allen

This is so true for many people, including me:   “Hey, I’ve got plans next week!”

. . . living life dying death. . . is a call to conversation.

I am passionate about listening and talking about death and dying because I believe the simple fact of the matter is that if we all start sharing these conversations we will live better and die better.

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