Death Cafes. What are they? Why would I want to go to one?
“Making the most of our finite life”
Death cafés. First of all , please don’t be put off by the name! So many people say to me I don’t think you should call it that, it’s a bit ‘off putting’. But, first of all, I have to use that, it’s a ‘movement’, based on a set of agreed principles. Secondly, one of the main points of a death café is to take the fear and mystique out of death. So the best way to start is to quit using euphemisms.
Conversation often is perceived as easier if it’s in whispered tones and using, ‘passed away,’ ‘lost’ ‘gone away’, ‘in the clouds,’ ‘in a better place’; and I have no problem with people using any term that makes them feel more comfortable.
My interest in Death Cafés is to help people talk about death, discuss their fears, voice their struggles, share uplifting tales or moments of enlightenment; offer signposting. I’m not there as a counsellor, I’m there as a facilitator.
The simple message from the founders of deathcafe.com is this: the objective of Death Cafe is helping us all ‘make the most of our finite lives’.
The history of the Death Café
Cafés philosophiques (“philosophical cafés”) started in Paris in 1992: in the relaxed atmosphere of a café, strangers gather to have a drink and debate ideas. They inspired Dr. Bernard Crettaz, who in 2004 launched a café mortel (“death café”) in his local bistrot (pub) in Switzerland. In a society where people may feel embarrassed to talk about death and dying, his Death Café was an occasion for people to discuss death in an informal and open way around a drink. Since then, Death Cafés have spread around the world.
The Death Café Model
The Death Café model was developed by Jon Underwood and Sue Barsky Reid, based on the ideas of Bernard Crettaz. It is run purely on a voluntary basis as a ‘social franchise’. This means that people who sign up to the Death Café guide and principles can use the name Death Café, post events to this website and talk to the press as an affiliate of Death Café.
Death Cafés have spread quickly across Europe, North America and Australasia. As of today, they have offered 15512 Death Cafes in 83 countries since September 2011. If 10 people came to each one that would be 155120 participants. These have established both that there are people who are keen to talk about death and that many are passionate enough to organise their own Death Café
At a Death Café people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death.
Quite often it’s easier to talk about death and dying with strangers than with your close ones. There will be no agenda, and no pressure to speak. When you arrive, you will be warmly welcomed, be able to get yourself a drink or even a biscuit or cake. The facilitators will introduce themselves and invite anyone there to introduce themselves if they want to. Everyone is free to start talking about their thoughts, experiences or concerns in relation to death and dying! For instance, people may wish to share their experiences of talking about dying with their children, or their funeral wishes, or foreign rituals which they find interesting, or their bucket list, etc. Those who facilitate will have no intention to lead participants to any conclusion, product or course of action and will listen alongside those present, with respect and without judgement to other people’s views.
As Summarised on the Death Café Website
The events will have no agenda, guests speakers, or specific themes. The only objective is ‘to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives’. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session.
Death Cafés are always offered:
– On a not for profit basis
– In an accessible, respectful and confidential space
– With no intention of leading people to any conclusion, product or course of action
– Alongside refreshing drinks and nourishing food – and cake!
How to find a local Death Café
I’m delighted to be co-hosting these now in Llandovery, roughly one every other month.
if you are local to me you can contact:
Chris (Mandala Yoga Ashram, Llansadwrn): firstname.lastname@example.org
Berni (Cerdyn Villa Guest House, Llanwrtyd): Alternativecelebrant@outlook.com
Francois (Llandovery): email@example.com
Or for more information about a café near you or to access resources go to www.deathcafe.com