What Really Happens at a Death Café?


Friday, July 24th, I attended my first Death Café. I have been hearing about them for a while, but have not had the opportunity to attend until now. For me, the idea was very intriguing; Gather a group of people who are willing to have an actual conversation about death while you throw in some hot tea and a chocolate fountain. The purpose and tone (as far as I see it anyway) is not to focus on the macabre, but on the undeniable reality everyone must face at some point. For those unfamiliar with this global movement, please check out their website for information about the history, events, pioneers, and future plans. 

So, how was my first Death Café? When I spent some time reflecting on my experience, a quote by Aaron Wolfe came to mind. “Sometimes you just have to say, ‘Hello, death, nice to see you again!’" You might wonder why such an exclamatory quote. But as we all sat around a table, eating way too much chocolate and discussing the topic of death, I felt a light-hearted freedom shared between all of us in attendance. While some of were relatives, co-workers and acquaintances, others were meeting for the very first time. And yet, I was amazed at how openly and casually people spoke about the death of loved ones, their own funeral plans, and a number of other intimate topics. I appreciated that there was no formal itinerary but a free flowing conversation in which everyone willingly participated.

One of the great surprises about Friday night was how much laughter filled the room. This is not because we kept the conversation light and fluffy. As I mentioned earlier we delved into some pretty heavy discussion. I can’t help but think that even though the topic was serious in nature, the people involved felt a release and possibly even a sense of joy to finally be able to talk about such a taboo topic. 

What continues to resonate with me almost a week later is the notion that death is a thought bouncing around most of our heads at various times throughout the week. What happens when these thoughts are just locked in our own minds and are never given the opportunity to be expressed and allowed to run free? It makes us scared; it creates anxiety and frustration within us. Being able to ask the questions we’ve all been wanting to ask and to say the “not in polite company” things we’ve been wanting to say in a safe place helps to ease a lot of those fears and anxieties. That is my biggest takeaway from my first Death Café event; a lot of joy and laughter can be experienced over sharing some chocolate and engaging in a conversation that many in society are afraid to have.