What is a Death Café?
A Death Café is a gathering where people discuss their feelings about and experiences with death. A host might lead the discussion, but the people attending drive each session, so no two are the same. However, each serves to help the guests learn more about death, its reality, its meaning, and its role in our lives.
The concept of Death Café was started by Jon Underwood in 2011 in London. He was not a funeral practitioner, but had the vocation to encourage us to “make the most of our finite lives”. He spread the word amongst the industry, and I had the pleasure of meeting Jon at previous Good Funeral Awards events, festivals and exhibitions. Jon himself died unexpectedly, leaving a young family. His legacy rings loud and clear.
I held my first Death Café in Brighton 10 years ago – I was delighted to stumble across this article about it when researching this post. I became a dab hand at gingerbread coffins and making cupcakes with skulls on!
I’ve hosted several other Death Cafés over the years at various venues around the city. Since opening the premises at Preston Park Station last year I’ve been able to welcome people in for all sorts of events, including a monthly Brighton Death Café, run by fabulous host, Louisa.
In September 2022 we held Brighton’s first ‘Queer friendly Death Café’ here with fantastic discussions! All our events are friendly and welcoming and open to all. I hope you all might consider attending any future get-togethers.
Reasons to attend a Death Café:
A welcome opportunity to connect to others
Death Cafés are safe, facilitated, inclusive meetings where people can meet to share their thoughts and feelings about all things relating to death and dying. These are not professionally supported bereavement support groups as such, though grief might come up as a topic. Talking with others is always beneficial, and your host will endeavour to connect you to appropriate services if needed.
Peel back the great mystery at a Death Café
It’s a pleasure to provide a venue for these important get-togethers. The conversation is structured but open and always flows! I’ve heard people discussing all sorts, people planning their own funeral wishes, opening up about personal bereavements, philosophising about our current relationship with the inevitable.
Death Cafés can sometimes turn out to be myth-busting sessions, with lots of practical ideas and creative inspiration shared.
A safe space to share how you really feel
I remember a woman in her 80s driving for around 40 minutes to get to one of our Death Cafés. She was very satisfied with her life, had travelled the world and really lived. Frustrated with her adult children’s refusal to talk frankly about her death, she wanted to come along to the gathering in order to say aloud: “I’m ready to go – and that’s ok!”
Death Cafés are important as they encourage us to tackle the taboo, open up, and talk about things. Confronting our mortality is always going to be challenging – so best not leave it too long, or until a critical time.
You really, really like cake
Don’t forget, there’s cake!
Want to get involved and maybe set up your own Death Café?
Caught the bug? If you’d like to get involved more deeply in the death conversation or even the death positive movement, find some good links on our Honest Talk page.
Find a Death Café near you, or find out how to hold your own here.