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