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Talking Hands--Personal Attitudes Toward Death

About this article

This activity looks at the tendency to deny death and helps students examine their attitudes toward death. This activity could be used in the context of a course or class on death or during Holy Week to reflect on Jesus's struggle with his own death.
(10 minutes)

1. Have the participants assemble and sit in a circle. Introduce this activity as Talking Hands. Explain to the participants the signals that they will need to use. Tell the young people that each time they hear a statement they should consider their own attitude toward that statement and indicate their attitude with one of the following signals:

  • Agree totally = two thumbs up
  • Disagree totally = two thumbs down
  • Agree somewhat and disagree somewhat = one thumb up and one thumb down
  • Pass = two fists

2. Explain that after the statement is read, someone will count slowly to three. On the count of three, all the participants should display their signal and hold it long enough for everyone to see it. You might point out that the counting allows for time to think about the statement and ensures that each person's response is uninfluenced by how others respond.

3. Ask for a volunteer counter. Take a moment to review the signals with your group, ensuring that everyone is clear on how to proceed. Then read the following statements, pausing after each one for the signals and to allow a moment for questions or comments:

  • Dessert is the best part of any meal.
  • Life is a bowl of cherries.
  • To have to live forever would be hell.
  • Death is mysterious.
  • We need to stop and think about death more often than we do.
  • Everyone hates going to funerals.
  • Grieving is a good thing.
  • Graveyards should be located in out-of-the-way places far from the sight of the community.
  • Jesus rose from his grave.
  • Because Jesus came back from the dead, we can too.
  • What Jesus did is irrelevant.
  • Because people suffer and die, God must be unloving.
  • Modern medicine should be able to find cures for everything so that no one ever has to die.
  • Religion is for people who cannot accept that death is the end.
After the last statement has been considered, you might briefly highlight any important points brought out in this activity--the intensity of emotion around the topic of death, the unknowns, the depth of suffering, the questions raised about God, and so on. In particular, comment on any tendency to deny death, making a transition to the next activity.


(This activity is adapted from Death, Grief, and Christian Hope, a mini-course in the Horizons series, by Nancy Marrocco [Winona, MN: Saint Mary's Press, 1997], pages 21-22. Copyright © 1997 by Saint Mary's Press. Permission is granted for this activity to be used for classroom or campus ministry purposes. This activity may not be republished in any form without written permission from Saint Mary's Press. To order this book, contact Saint Mary's Press at 800-533-8095, or visit our online catalog at www.smp.org/catalog.cfm.)

Published February 6, 2004.