While there seems to be an endless supply of popular spots to stop at for a coffee, chai or a smashed avo fix, the idea of a Death Café is a new one for many of us.
And while food — especially cake — is a must-have at any Death Café session, there’s a much deeper purpose.
What is a Death Café?
There’s nothing certain but death and taxes, right? Whether you’re 25 or 95, the subject of death can be just as relevant and just as confronting. A Death Café is somewhere that people gather to discuss their inevitable mortality - and that of people they care about — in an open and supportive environment. It’s like a book club for positive and meaningful discussions around death.
A relatively recent development, it was Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz who first pioneered the idea. He believed Death Cafés could help break down some of society’s taboos around discussing death. In 2011, the now-late Jon Underwood started his own Death Café movement in London and the concept has since become increasingly popular in many countries around the world, including Australia.
Death Cafés are designed to offer:
- facilitated discussions about death, where no agenda exists other than to help people make the most of the lives they’re living;
- a supportive and confidential space to share experiences; and
- opportunities to meet others facing similar issues around death or coping with the loss of a loved one.
Why go to a Death Café?
Each person who goes to a Death Café gathering will have their own reasons. While a facilitator is there to help prompt the conversation, the rest is up to the people who attend. As a result, the list of potential topics is endless.
Death Café advocates suggest there are many benefits to having access to a forum about death, including:
- being able to open up about topics you haven’t been able to discuss with family or friends;
- developing an understanding of what to expect when you or someone close to you passes away;
- knowing your rights and feeling empowered to make decisions for yourself and others; and
- gaining peace of mind by understanding how to be prepared for illness, death, and funerals.
Death Cafés are open to anyone and everyone with no set agenda — the goal is simply to enable a group discussion. You may join wanting a safe space to share your own story or seek comfort in knowing you’re not alone. And while that’s important, you could also learn something new about death, discover new perspectives, or even make new friends.
Why is it important to talk about death?
While death can be a difficult subject for some of us to talk about, the reality is that death is a part of life and something we shouldn't shy away from discussing. Like any tricky topic, finding someone you trust to share with can be half the battle. Facing your own mortality head-on and better understanding death can also help remove some of the fear.
There are discussions you can have now that will help you plan for your future, and help the people closest to you if something were to happen. Consider if any of these conversation topics are relevant to you:
- - Making a will — your will is a legal document that sets out your wishes for your assets and any dependents like a spouse/partner and/or children after your death. It’s an important step that can help ease your mind and remove doubts and difficulties that can arise after your passing.
- Getting life insurance — life insurance is a financial safety net for you and your family. It’s there to catch you when things don’t go to plan. If something unexpected happened, a life cover policy could provide assistance to cover bills and mortgage payments when you no longer can.
- Covering your funeral costs — funeral insurance can help your family manage the costs that come with a funeral, tie up any loose ends, and cover legal fees related to your funeral.
It’s been said that a problem shared is a problem halved. If the idea of death is something you struggle with, or you simply want to feel more in control, start by talking. Whether that’s at a Death Café, in your own group of friends or simply starting conversations with your family, it’s completely up to you.