The best way to find out is to attend one!
The looks on people’s faces when they first hear the name of this global movement tell you all you need to know: What a terrible name! Change it now! And that’s the problem, because death is all around us and it’s no good pretending that it isn’t. What we have to do is to give it visibility, and remove the taboo that can often prevent us from living life fully because of our fears surrounding death.
I discovered the Death Café concept a few years ago, and I found in this space an opportunity to express and share my concerns about life and death in a relaxed, confidential and respectful environment with all kinds of ideas and beliefs (not to mention coffee and cake!).
A brief history: inspired by Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz and his Cafés Mortel, Jon Underwood and his mother Sue Barsky started Death Cafés in their London home in 2011. Since then, thousands of Death Cafés have been held in more than 80 countries (https://deathcafe.com/).
The rules of this global movement are simple:
- The facilitator cannot charge for facilitating a Death Café, although donations to the hosting space are accepted.
- There is no agenda. This point may come as a surprise, but if you have participated in a Death Café, you will understand that it is not necessary, and that participants themselves set the agenda for the meeting. That’s why each Death Café is unique and special.
- Nobody is an expert, which puts us in a situation of total equality. There is nothing more democratic than death.
It is important to specify that these are not spaces for therapy or mourning. As a facilitator, I limit myself to introducing the project, opening the two-hour session after a couple of minutes of relaxation, making sure that all participants have their space to express themselves, and ensuring the closing in a friendly and appropriate way.
In the wake of the pandemic, Death Cafés began to be facilitated virtually, and I must admit that this format has its advantages, although in no case should it replace face-to-face meetings as long as they can be held. In my case, every month I organise at least one face-to-face meeting in Malaga, and every three months a virtual one to which everyone has access from their device.
Having facilitated a number of Death Cafés, I am more and more convinced that we humans need to talk about death. But society has created a taboo around it: And when death visits us in some way at some point in our lives, our unpreparedness can lead to great suffering.
To talk about death is to talk about life: the more I am aware of my mortality, the more intensely I live every moment of my life. I want to make friends with death so that when it comes looking for me, I can at least look it in the face without fear. And we can only face things without fear when we know them. At Death Cafés we get closer to death, we become aware of our physical mortality, and usually with a great sense of humour (something that, I might add, often surprises the attendees).
Not only can Death Cafés lead us into very philosophical conversations, but matters of great practicality are also discussed. How many of us know what a living will is, or have made a living will? How many of us have informed our relatives of our preference for burial, cremation or other alternatives, once we are no longer here? How many of us can openly discuss this issue with our next of kin? How many of us know that there are other options to the religious ceremony, and to traditional cemeteries? Is it good to take children to funerals, or is it better to leave them at home?
These and many other questions arise in these spaces where the opportunity is given to share them. There are no right or wrong answers, there is no such thing as black and white, and we soon discover the infinite shades of grey. And most importantly, you will leave a Death Café knowing that you are not alone, and discovering alternatives and other ways of thinking that enrich you and give you a certain peace.
So, I invite you to participate in a Death Café so that you can experience the value of such an encounter, and perhaps find that space in which to share your feelings and thoughts about death… and about life.
My thanks to Tristram Congreve, who proofread the translation of my article.
En la vida no hay cosas que temer, solo cosas que comprender… Hablemos.
Teléfono/wasap: +34 622 146 132
Gracias a la vida, por poner en mi camino a todas las personas que me están ayudando a cumplir con mi propósito.