Death is a universal experience. Everyone is born and everyone must die. We, as an American culture, are not comfortable talking openly about death. Birth is announced and celebrated. Death does not get its fair share of discussion.
Death Café is a movement that is changing this situation. A Death Café is a group-directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counseling 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!
In 2010 Jon Underwood decided to develop a series of projects about death; one of which was to focus on talking about death. In November Jon read about the work of Bernard Crettaz in the Independent newspaper. Inspired by Bernard’s work, Jon immediately decided to use a similar model for his own project, and Death Café was born.
The first Death Café in the UK was offered in Jon’s house in Hackney, East London in September 2011. It was facilitated by pychotherapist Sue Barsky Reid, Jon’s mum. It was a wonderful occasion. Death Cafes were then offered in a range of places including funky cafes, people’s houses, cemeteries, a yurt and the Royal Festival Hall.
Jon and Sue Barsky Reid produced a guide to running your own Death Cafe, based around the methodology Sue developed. This was published in Feb. 2012 and the first person to pick it up outside of the UK was Lizzy Miles in Columbus, Ohio. Since then, hundreds Death Cafes have happened across the globe.
Death Cafés have spread quickly across Europe, North America and Australasia. Over 3400 Death Cafés have been offered since September 2011.
We at Friends of Hospice see the need to normalize the discussion of death. For, in discussing death – fears, experiences, hopes, ideas – one begins to live more fully and richly.
Yes! We want to talk about death! Watch for a Death Café coming soon in Whitman County.
Editor’s note: Our first Death Café will be held in Palouse on October 16, 2016. Details to follow.