February 20, 2017 by Miller Funeral & Cremation Services Staff
Many people approach the concept of death – and the process of dying – with a fascinating list of unending questions. Some keep all of this wondering deep within themselves because they fear that discussing this sometimes “taboo” subject might be perceived as morbid or unhealthy. Others, thankfully, embrace the mystery behind the transition from life to death and give their questions the time and energy they deserve. This is exactly the point behind a death cafe, a safe space that cultivates awareness and acceptance.
The Power Of Authenticity
The idea of the death cafe evolved from the Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz. He believed that openly discussing death leads to authenticity, then launched cafés mortels in 2004. He traveled throughout Switzerland hosting these public conversations before moving the idea to Paris in 2010.
Jon Underwood read about cafés mortels and became inspired to host his own version of the death cafe in his home near London in 2011. Crediting Crettaz, Underwood helped the concept gain international renown. In his words: “The more we talk about dying and what it means about ego and self, the more we add to life.”
Death Cafe Policies
Underwood’s model for death cafe gatherings involve:
- Increasing awareness
- A quiet, respectful, and confidential space
- Guidance without leading others to a particular conclusion or course of action
Held in private homes, public libraries, coffee houses, and even cemeteries, death cafe meetings can result in common realizations or meaningful epiphanies.
Underwood fosters a wonderful community on his website deathcafe.com, continually posting various meetings and resources for people interested in the subject. These ventures are always not-for-profit, but donations are welcome to help pay for rental space and supplies.
A Full Life
There are numerous misconceptions about death and dying, as well as prevailing myths. For example, people feel that if you talk about death, you’re inviting it into your life. At a typical death cafe, you might hear questions like:
- What is death? How does it feel?
- Is it painful?
- Why do we fear death?
- How does our fear influence the way we live?
- How can I find physician-assisted dying?
- Who can help me with advanced directives, cremation, or funeral planning?
- What happens to us after we die?
- What becomes of our spirit or soul?
Tea And Cake?
These questions may surprise some, but when they’re hashed out over cups of herbal tea and fluffy cake, all seems right in the world. That’s right, a significant part of a death cafe is to eat and drink with the aim of easing fears and normalizing the topics at hand. You may even end up trading reading listsof books on the subject.
At Length And In Great Detail
It used to be that death would happen at the hands of a tragic accident or terrible infection. However, modern medicine and technological advances allow us to extend life as never before, and this prolonged process can affect how we deal with – and prepare for – death. At the center of any death cafe is the idea that attendants learn to die while living life to the fullest.