Want to Talk About Death?

Sara Golling
By Sara Golling
September 30th, 2015

I recently received another invitation to attend a Death Café.  The first two were so enjoyable that I was tempted to attend another, but decided to leave space for new people.  Have you ever been to one?  No? 

A  Death Café provides a rare opportunity for people to enrich their lives by exchanging their thoughts, ideas, fears, and beliefs about death.  We so seldom allow ourselves to do that;  as the founder of the international Death Café movement  said,  “Western society has long outsourced discussions about death to doctors, nurses, priests and undertakers. The result is that we have lost control of one of the most significant events we ever have to face.” 

The Death Café model was developed by Jon Underwood and his mother, Sue Barsky Reid, a psychotherapist,  from the “Café Mordel” invented by Bernard Crettaz of Switzerland over a decade ago.  It is described as a “social franchise” meaning that it operates on a not-for-profit basis, and anyone who wants to hold a Death Café can use the name as long as they follow the guide (at http://deathcafe.com/how/)  and principles.   

Death is a part of all our lives:  our friends and relatives die, our pets die, and ultimately we all will die.  While we live, we are responsible for the deaths of spiders, flies, wasps, mosquitoes and numerous other creatures, including all those who die because of our lifestyles.  

We know that death comes to all living things.  At a Death Café, we may choose to focus on death as a phenomenon, or to talk about the death of someone else, or our own unknown death.  We may find that examining and articulating our attitudes toward death right out loud, with other people, leads to a new and refreshing attitude toward life and how we want to live it. 

Discussion may be accompanied by tears, but is often light-hearted with smiles and laughter.  Just talking about death, so often a taboo subject, in a comfortable and safe environment can bring a surprising amount of relief and even a feeling of catharsis.      

The events are facilitated, and each set of facilitators may use a different method for initiating and organizing  discussion among  participants.  The rule is  respect and consideration.  No judgments against the thinking, opinions, or beliefs expressed by others. And no using the event to advertise or promote any business.  

This invitation came to me from the Kalein Hospice Centre in Nelson, where a Death Café will be held.  Space is limited, and people who do attend must arrange to do so in advance.  Particpants are asked (but not required)  to bring a $10 or greater donation to help cover costs.  Tea and goodies are provided for those who want them.  If you’re interested, here is the information from the invitation:

“Kalein Hospice Society is hosting the next Death Cafe on Wednesday, October 21.

“We will inspire each other, and co-create, together, a warm and respectful space, in which we can explore the many dimensions of what death is for us.  We would like to invite you into a living conversation, a dialogue, an exploration, and a discovery, where we can experience each other both as students and teachers.  Perhaps by slowing down and inviting a deeper listening, we might find ourselves in uncharted territory, and support one another to find the courage to stay present to tenderness, heartbreak, deep love, fear and gratitude, that are all part of the mystery of life. 

“Reservations for a seat at each cafe will be limited to 35 people, so please register early. 

“In gratitude for all of life, Rosalyn Cormier (Grady) and Millie Cumming

“To reserve your seat at the Death Cafe, please email: info@kaleinhospice.org

“Or Register online:  Death Cafe Registration Form

“Or call:   250.352.3331”


Or, to avoid that drive to Nelson, an interested individual or group could arrange to hold a Death Café in Rossland.  Check out the FaceBook page for a group that holds Death Cafés in Victoria:  https://www.facebook.com/victoria.bc.deathcafe.community  and check this link  for the official guide on how to hold a Death Café. 




Other News Stories