By Chris Haring

In a TED Talk, death doula Alua Arthur explains why she believes preparing for death can help people not only die with dignity but live better as well.

Amidst the vast cultural diversity across all corners of the world, there are still a handful of shared experiences that all humans will encounter. Of these, perhaps the most common are the events that bookend life: birth and death. So why do we almost universally celebrate the former while fearing and avoiding the latter? 

In her thought-provoking TED Talk titled Why Thinking About Death Helps You Live a Better Life, death doula/attorney Alua Arthur explains that not only should we embrace having thoughts about dying, but that doing so may even improve the quality of the time we have while still living.

With humor and aplomb, Arthur’s story takes us on a journey through the lens of our mortality, inviting us to consider the profundity of death and how it can help inform a life filled with purpose, compassion, and meaning. 

Death is the natural “period” at the end of life’s “sentence”

She begins by sharing her vision of a peaceful death: surrounded by nature, embraced by loved ones, and feeling fulfilled. Acknowledging our mortality is essential, and we should not consider it a morbid subject to avoid but rather a crucial component of life, she says. “How we die creates the period at the end of the sentence, but it is the period that makes it a sentence at all,” Arthur says; in other words, our limited time on this planet provides the context for our existence.

Amidst the light-heartedness and charm of her talk, Arthur touches upon the anxiety people often feel about death, the fear of losing control, and the existential questions that loom over us, highlighting the discomfort and unease we can experience over our struggle to surrender to the unknown.

Envisioning death as a “cosmic experience”

She concludes with a whimsical and vivid portrayal of her vision of what happens when we die. Arthur describes a cosmic experience, with pieces of glitter representing our essence falling, enveloping those who love us, and reabsorbing into the universe. Considering our impermanence, she says, awakens our sense of being “messily, magically, fantastically, beautifully, briefly, perfectly human.”

Alua Arthur’s insights into the end of life closely align with Death with Dignity, with a compelling call to live authentically and purposefully. She reminds us that in confronting the inevitability of our deaths, we can uncover the profound beauty of existence, even as we acknowledge the vulnerability and uncertainty that come with it.

Watch the video below:

Why Thinking About Death Helps You Live a Better Life

Alua Arthur
TED Talks
Published: April, 2023