D is for Death Cafe

D is for Death Cafe
The subject of death and dying is usually a conversation stopper but not for a growing number of people taking part in the world wide project called ‘Death Cafe.’ There are 1900 cafes across the world and these are ‘pop up’ events. It has been estimated that around 19,000 people have attended a Death Cafe. Conversation is always lively, thought provoking and interesting. How people cope with death, grief and loss varies between individuals and between cultures and it can be helpful to share thoughts and experiences.

I am sure you would agree that a discussion about death – with a group of strangers over homemade cake and coffee sounds like a strange medley. Would the idea send you running to the hills? But actually why not break down this greatest of all taboos? After all we are all going to die one day; that much we all have in common. By talking about this inevitable fact of life we can come to terms with our mortality and begin to plan our lives better, making the most of the time we have left. That’s the idea behind Death Cafe.

I have co-run the Mid Sussex Death Cafe for about 18 months and this has been a journey for me and I have changed in the way I look at my life and how I now approach death. For me I think it’s essential to have a ‘bucket list.’ I’m now half way through that list and creating new life goals to aim for. I think Death Cafe has helped other members in their life journey: coming to terms with the loss of relatives and helping them to think about their dying wishes. We are in control of our death and we can have what we want but do we have the confidence to let our loved ones know ahead of our death? It’s that taboo again!

Discussions are varied at Death Cafe. This month we touched on suicide, ashes, visiting graveyards, Alzheimers, the hospice movement and so on. An amazing variety of people have come along to our bi monthly meetings: people working with the sick and dying, people grieving loved loves, curious people, spiritualists, Muslims, Christians, counselors, teachers etc.

The subject of suicide is often the elephant in the room. Everyone knows someone who has tragically ended their life but Death Cafe is an opportunity to explore our feelings and thoughts about this very sad way of death. One member said that you just have to “accept and adapt.” We don’t know what goes on in the mind and we’ll never know. She believes that it is something sparked from an event; the person sees red mist or it is something that is carefully and methodically planned over a long period of time. Another member said that it happens when “all hope is gone and an important ingredient of life is hope.” Depression can feel like the loss of hope, the members said. At times suicide seems the only option because all hope goes and it becomes like “treading through treacle,” “the light closes over and over again.” When someone is in this depressive phase they think they are going to live like this forever but eventually they learn how to manage it. Management of depression is the key to improving. Exercise, it was suggested is a good aid to helping depression because it gets the endorphins going.

This month we also discussed the issue of ashes and how we felt about our loved ones’ ashes. This subject frequently comes up at Death Cafe. It is difficult because when someone dies we are thrust into the decision of what to do with the ashes. We aren’t always ready to make that decision. Some people keep the urn containing their loved ones ashes for years before making a decision. Unless people talk about death how do we know what they want after their death? Without instructions this can be distressing for families.

If you are curious about Death Cafe or want to discuss your thoughts about death, dying wishes, the funeral process, bereavement come along to the Mid Sussex Death Cafe. Find us at www.Deathcafe.com

Division and Disaster

Well the nation has spoken; only 65% of the nation though. I wonder what the remaining 35% would have voted. Maybe they were supporters of the smaller parties who saw no point in voting because under our first past the vote system many votes are wasted. Or maybe they were apathetic voters who never watch the news and don’t understand that everything they do in life is affected by some legislation or other. Or they could have returned the Monster Raving Loony Party. Who knows!

There was a staggering swing in Scotland to the SNP. A stunning victory no one had predicted. The Conservatives are governing the nation, the United Kingdom and yet they only have 1 seat in Scotland. Hardly a United Kingdom is it? Labour were also wiped out of Scotland. David Cameron has no legitimacy in Scotland and so governing Scotland will be difficult. He is saying he needs to ‘reclaim the mantle… the nation’ but he will need to now offer more devolution, more powers back to Scotland. Its hard to believe Scotland swung to the Nationalists given that the referendum was defeated last year. We thought the nation was safe. We were so wrong. The next 5 years will now be about the ‘Scottish Question.’ But maybe Cameron is to blame for this surge; whipping up a fear among the electorate of nationalism. Sturgeon may well demand another referendum.

Labour also had some pretty crushing defeats and this was not predicted. How do Labour now reinvent themselves in Scotland? Douglas Alexander losing his seat looked almost in tears. The loss of Ed Ball’s seat was dreadful for Labour too.

But the greatest disaster was the crushing defeat of the Liberal Party. One by one key figures fell like dominoes: Danny Alexander, Vince Cable, Simon Hughes, Ed Davey. Vince Cable said something I found surprising ‘on the doorstep people were mainly concerned about immigration.’Nick Clegg only just held on in Sheffield Hallam. I think he will resign today. That’s what they are saying.

UKIP while only securing one seat (so far) did well nationally achieving 10 percent of the vote. That’s 1 in 10 people who want to pull out of Europe. 1 in 10 people who are worried about rising immigration. Add that to some of the Conservative numbers and there could be a YES to the European Referendum.

So what mattered to the electorate? We Brits still have a ‘make do and mend’ mentality fearing a deficit out of control and despite the terrible effects of the painful austerity cuts most people, I suspect what to continue this course fearing economic disaster otherwise. There was a great deal of talk about the fear of Labour’s spending plans and a deficit way out of control but maybe people also want a European referendum.

We will now have to wait and see what happens next..