On June 16th, 2023, we hosted our first event at the University of Vienna: The MyGoodbyes Party for Tomorrow University. Hosted by James Barrett and Faye Temperley and attended by 40 students of Tomorrow University, the session aimed not only to provide enriching conversations about a challenging topic, but also to break the stigma attached to discussing death, dying, and end-of-life preparations.
A Beautiful and Comfortable Space for Open Conversations
The historic city of Vienna provided an elegant and inviting location for the event, with its neoclassical architecture and stunning gardens. The university campus however is the opposite, with its modern architecture and bright lecture halls. Set up in a spacious room with comfortable seating, the atmosphere was both relaxed and intimate. The panel discussion took place on a stage at the front of the room while a large screen displayed the Party videos and the Slido platform for audience participation.
Engaging Interactions with the Panel and Attendees
Four university staff members – Carla, Maria, Marion, and Irene – made up our interviewee panel, sharing their personal stories and insights about death and dying. Students were encouraged to participate by submitting their questions through Slido or shouting out, which allowed for more comprehensive discussions and gave the event an interactive and enjoyable dimension.
Laughter, Joy, and Learning: Four Key Takeaways
1. Breaking the taboo: The event managed to create a safe space to openly discuss end-of-life topics, encouraging students to share their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment.
2. Cultural differences: As the attendees and panelists came from diverse backgrounds, the event allowed for an enlightening conversation on different customs and beliefs surrounding death and dying.
3. Sustainable death: Panel members and the hosts discussed eco-friendly options for burials and end-of-life preparations, making students aware of their impact on the environment even in death.
4. Finding joy in a difficult subject: Many people may feel hesitant to talk about death, but the MyGoodbyes Party proved that it is possible to find laughter and joy in these discussions, making the subject more approachable for all.
“@James what an amazing session!!! thank you, thank you, thank you! What an important conversation we started with this community”
Organizing an event around such a sensitive topic wasn’t without its challenges. We had to ensure that the panellists and students felt comfortable sharing their experiences and ideas, so we took great care with the seating arrangements and the room’s atmosphere. The inclusion of the Slido platform was essential in making sure everyone felt heard and involved in the conversation.
Final Thoughts and Plans for the Future
The MyGoodbyes Party for Tomorrow University was a resounding success, helping students and staff find comfort in discussing a once-taboo subject. Witnessing the growth of understanding and empathy among attendees was truly rewarding. We are looking forward to organizing similar events in the future, continuing to foster open conversations on death and dying, and helping people prepare for the end of life with knowledge, comfort, and dignity.
“Kudos @James! such a great session!! Thank you”