A death cafe is a social meeting organised to enable people to talk about death and dying. I’ve wanted to go to one for over a year now but they are still relatively few and far between. They have been around for over ten years and over a 1000 have been held throughout the world. The mission of a death cafe is to remove the taboo that exists around death and to reduce fear through openness and reflection. Hence the rather stark title – euphemisms are definitely not what this movement is about!
So off I headed to my first death cafe in a small county town in the Midlands. I was surprised that there was not one nearer to me as I live in a city but I felt that it would be worth the long drive. The meeting format is prescribed by Deathcafe.com, a social franchise which post events to their website. Enter your postcode and you will find your nearest one.
The meeting was held next to the cafe in a local community centre. So tea and cake was on offer as promised. The other participants all knew each other because they meet almost weekly and have long-standing members as well as drop-ins whereas many Death Cafes are stand-alone events. They were very welcoming and the facilitator did a good job of keeping us on topic and letting everyone speak. I was impressed by the openness and honesty of those present, talking about their own experiences as well as opinions they held about death. Death cafes are not support groups for the bereaved or grieving but members still got to speak about loss they’d experienced and how it made them feel about their own deaths. It wasn’t maudlin or despairing. It just felt as natural as talking about birth and life.
I came away from the meeting feeling privileged to have spent those two hours with such open and thoughtful individuals. And I feel motivated to organise one in my own city. Just got to find a venue that isn’t phased by serving tea and cake at a Death Cafe.