Death Cafe

There is something a little chilling in the phrase “Death Cafe”.  Much of our society has difficulty in dealing with and speaking about dying and death.  I went to a seminar once where a palliative care worker asked the audience “Who among you has lost a loved one”.  Most hands went up.  He went on to ask “Where did you lose him/her?  Did you find them again?”.  In other words we use phrases that mean death (passed on, passed away or just plain passed) but keep us from having to say the word itself.

A movement known as Death Cafes are popping up in cities across the world.  I had never heard of the events until I read an article in the Ottawa Citizen today. From the article “Their (the Cafes) stated purpose is to “increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives.” Underwood (who started the movement) held his first one in the basement of his home in September 2011, and since then more than 100 have taken place in homes, cafés and other spaces in Britain, Europe, Canada, the U.S., Australia and elsewhere, with more than 40 hosts and 1,000 guests participating.

 I am interested in what these events have to offer.  They are very small gatherings.  The one in Ottawa has a capacity of 30 people.  You can see though that 1,000 people gathering across many nations is really not that many, is it?

I like the idea of celebrating someone’s life regularly after someone has died (as noted in the article above).  It helps keep memories alive, pass them on to younger generations and to deal with the permanent loss.  

And so I signed up to attend.  My husband said (after he asked if our life insurance was paid up) he’d join me.  

What do you think of the concept of a Death Cafe?  Would you attend if one came to your neighbourhood?



2 thoughts on “Death Cafe

  1. Having been indirectly involved with Palliative Care for 11 years or more, I concur heartily with any attempt to get people thinking about, and talking about, and more comfortable with the idea of death. It is the elephant in the room. Death Cafe is not the most appealing name I ever heard, I will admit. I am not familiar enough with all the meanings of Cafe, I guess. To me a Cafe is a place to buy meals and Death Cafe is a place I would not likely frequent. Roadkill Cafe, Sam n Ella’s Cafe, maybe.

    1. “Cafes” are used as discussion forums. I first heard of the concept when working at CADTH. We hosted Cafe Scientifiques on topics that were of some controversy or where we hoped to get information out into practice. It was an opportunity for discussion and the airing of different views in a non-judgemental environment. The concept is to try to spread new knowledge via grassroots. Thank you for the comment, Al.

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