The title of this focus group is Death and Dying: A Community Journey. A focus group is designed to be student led in order to create a new type of intellectual environment. What this environment looks like is up to you! Welcome to the community. You might ask, why is this space different? For one, you're not "graded" and the assignments are optional*. This time slot offers one reserved time each week for self reflection and discussion with your peers centered on death and dying. Sharing is always optional.
Death is a topic that universally affects everyone, and it is scarcely discussed. This course will be an attempt to move beyond atheist propositions of what happens to people after they die. Throughout the quarter we will engage with psychological and spiritual theory, music, and one another.
Each meeting will begin with a practice in mindfulness. We will have readings assigned each week to complete before/during class in order to help spur discussion. There will also be time allotted for journaling-- I will provide paper, but a phone or notebook works fine as well.
The "midterm" assignment is to make a collaborative playlist on Spotify. This assignment is designed to be a continuous memento of our time together. For a final assignment we will write our own eulogies and prepare a mock funeral to celebrate our last class.
Week 1: Describe your first encounter with death.
Week 2: Write a letter to someone who has died.
Week 6: Do you recall a time mourning for someone you do not know personally?
Week 7: If you were told you had one year to live, how would that change (or not change) the way you live it out?
Week 1: Introductions
Reading: Why is it so hard to die? by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Week 2: Death and the Body
Reading: MacMillan Encyclopedia of Death articles (1)"Rigor Mortis and Other Postmortem Changes" and (2) "Sex and Death, Connections of" [focus on the section "Special Case of AIDS"]
Week 3: Hospice and Physician Assisted Suicide
Reading: MacMillan starting at page 267, titled, "Euthanasia."
Week 4: Reading pushed back
Week 5: Snow Day!
Week 6: Anxiety around death
Reading: "When Death is Good for Life..." in canvas files.
Assignments: First, a reminder to add songs to our collaborative Spotify playlist. Secondly, I want to introduce the final eulogy assignment and offer tools to understand and complete this exercise. Writing your own eulogy comes in two parts: first, you will write your eulogy as if you were to die today. Be realistic, but not unkind to yourself. Second, you will write your future eulogy-- what you want to be remembered for, have accomplished.
“By writing both the eulogy and the legacy statements, you may begin to see a gap between where you are and how you want to be remembered in the future,” Harkavy says. “This gap then creates a felt need that should propel you toward putting a plan together to close those gaps in your life.”
You can even look at them side by side afterwards and see what it is that’s missing in between. What have you been ignoring or putting off? Who have you not connected with? Where haven’t you gone? What do you spend time on now that won’t matter at the end? Now you know. And you can still do something about it.
After you write both pieces, I encourage you to reflect. Any or none of this assignment can be shared with the group.
Week 7: Healing through written works
Week 8: Grief
Week 9: Psilocybin and death
Reading and viewing: https://melmagazine.com/en-us/story/death-doula-lsd-psychedelics-dying
Week 10: The Tibetan Book of the Death
Optional end-of-quarter potluck hosted at my house. Date: TBD.
Focus Group Description
Student Faciliator: Simone Schwartz-Lombard
Supervised by: Phillip Thurtle
Death is a topic that universally affects everyone, and it is scarcely discussed. This course will be an attempt to move beyond atheist propositiions of what happens to people after they die. Throughout the quarter we will engage with psychological and spiritual theory, music, and one another. In its culmination, the final project will be writing one’s own eulogy. This will be a discussion-based seminar-style course. Individual interests within the subject of death and dying will be explored as a group.
Most assignments and readings are optional, but highly encouraged. Some of the readings are as follows: Death: The Final Stage of Growth by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and Sogyal Rinpoche who writes The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying: New Spiritual Classic from One of the Foremost Interpreters of Tibetan Buddhism.