Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The big Death Cafe website switchover

Death Cafe is about to enter the unknown...

Now feels the right time to switch over to the new Death Cafe website. This will happen in the next week or so. This will be the last post on this site.

I think you'll enjoy the new site. It is intended to be a friendly community space for people who want to talk about death.

The new website has some cool features such as a completely re-written guide to running your own Death Cafe. You'll also be able to post your own Death Cafes, search for Death Cafes by location and set up a profile. Hopefully it will create an opportunity for more people to talk or think about death.

The new site is far from perfect so your open-mindedness and, especially, patience are very much appreciated.  

We only have 43 of our 200-odd Death Cafes listed on the new site at the moment. I am determined that all the Death Cafes from this site will be added over time. If you want to list your Death Cafes in the meantime please email me.

Otherwise, see you on the other side!

Update 4th September: Everything is ready(ish) to go and I would switch today but the company that I use to manage the domain for this website won't let me do the switch for an unknown reason! The new website will be live asap. Apologies for the delay and thanks for your patience.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Report on the first Death Café Petaluma on August 13, 2012

By Karen Garber

Aqus Café was packed with nearly 40 participants eager to share in the first Death Café Petaluma. After the local newspaper ran an article on the event, the RSVPs poured in. Unbeknownst to the facilitator, Karen Garber, an article also ran in several other community papers without mentioning an RSVP! Tables were set with flowering plants, boxes of Kleenex, and tent cards reserving them for Death Café attendees. Printed out lists of Questions for Your Consideration were distributed. Those questions can be found at the end of this entry.

Tables filled up quickly and conversation started to buzz before the event even started. A microphone was needed so the facilitator could be heard above the din. After a brief intro about her background as an oncology and hospice nurse, and how she discovered Death Café, she read some quotes about death and dying to set the mood and then said “Let’s talk about death!”

There were no apparent lags in conversation. Topics ranged from early experiences of death, to fears, to how to prepare for the inevitable. People spoke about their own declining health or that of parents and loved ones. One woman who is 66 years old, single, childless and healthy, talked about an appointment she made with the local hospital to do a “tour” so she might know what to expect when she did become ill.

Of the 37 people who signed a sign up sheet (there may have been more people who did not), 22 provided written evaluations. Eighteen of these rated the Death Café a 5, and four of them rated it a 4 overall. The only significant complaint was the noise! Words used most often to describe the evening were “safe”, “community”, “inspiring” and “comforting.”

Our youngest participant was a 19 year old college student, and she was encouraged to start a Death Café of her own on campus. Our eldest was 79 years old. We had 3 couples, one mother and daughter, one brother and sister, and a few friends who attended together.

There was a genuine feeling of excitement and enthusiasm surrounding this new idea of openly discussing death. Most people wrote that they were anxious to come back. In the days following, the facilitator was told by several people in the community who were not there what a successful event they’d heard it was, and that they hoped to be able to come to the next one.

The next Death Café Petaluma is scheduled for Tuesday, September 10 from 6:30-8pm at Aqus Café. RSVPs will not be taken for the next event; it will be first come, first served so get there early to get your seat!

Questions for Your Consideration

Our culture is so fearful of death that few of us can bear to think about it long enough to make any plans or decisions when the inevitable occurs. Death Cafe opens the door to the conversation.

1. What is your experience with death?
2. What does it mean to have a good death? A bad death?
3. What would you need (to put in place) to have an ideal death?
4. How do you live now that would contribute to a good death later?
5. Are you afraid to die?
6. What about death scares you?
7. What do you think happens after you die?
8. Do you believe in life after death/ghosts/reincarnation?
9. Is there a “right” age to die? A “right” ailment to die of?
10. Would you choose to be immortal if that were an option?
11. What do you think about the right to die movement?
12. Should people be allowed to choose to end their own lives?
13. How do you feel about suicide?
14. What would you like your funeral to be like? Does it matter to you?
15. How do you feel about organ donation?

Feedback from Death Cafe Nevada with Paula Schneider and Laurie Jain

By Paula Schneider

Nevada’s second death café, presented in Carson City on August 3, was an overwhelming success. Our first death café which was at the end of May attracted 7 participants, and this time there were 12. This was a perfect number for the small, but intimate and comfortable, space we shared in a historical home in the old part of Carson City. We provided reading lists of favorite books on death and dying, handouts of interesting and timely topics from various news sources, a notebook of favorite articles collected by one of the presenters, and a beautiful book of samples of shroud materials from a company in California that specializes in incredible silk and other natural material shrouds, along with instructions on how to clean and wrap a body in a shroud. We also provided samples of scented, green shrouding wash.

Participants were treated to homemade lemon bars and drinks, along with cheeses and vegetables.

Comments included, “Keep doing this! It was a great event. Thank you.” “Very awakening.” “Helps me to feel even more comfortable with death.” “Reassuring, helpful.” “The conversation was relaxed and open.” All but one evaluation rated us the highest number, 5, and that was rewarding.

We used the same format this time as we did in May, with introductions of participants and speakers, then “seeding” with questions for participants to consider and comment on, a break mid-way through, and a few more questions. We only worked our way through about 3 questions, as everyone who attended shared comments and stories. Two hours passed Oh So Quickly!

Paula and Laurie are presenting another death café – this time at Lake Tahoe – in November, and a request has come in for one to be hosted at Unity of Auburn in California. Paula and Laurie are so motivated and fulfilled by this work that they plan to continue offering death cafes as long as the public shows interest (we suspect it will go on for a long time)!

Death Cafe in Baltimore with Valerie Sirani and Amy Brown

Death Cafe Baltimore
September 14th
4 to 6PM
Atwater's at Belvedere Square

Please come join us for coffee, tea, cake... and conversation about death and life.

For more information about the Death Cafe in general, visit: www.deathcafe.com

Please RSVP to Val Sirani & Amy Brown at this email address... or:

Val Sirani: VAS213 @ aol.com
Amy Brown: asbrown98 @ gmail.com

Atwater's at Belvedere Square: 529 East Belvedere Ave Baltimore, MD

Death Cafe Millerton New York with Suzanne B. O'Brien

Death Cafe in Headwaters Canada with Jake McArthur

Death Cafe in Baldwin, Birmingham, Michigan

Thursday, September 26
Wednesday, November 6
Both at 7 p.m.
Baldwin Public Library
300 W. Merrill Street,
Birmingham, MI

You've heard about Death Cafes in the New York Times and National Public Radio. Now the first Death Cafe in Metro Detroit is coming to Baldwin. 

Groups around the world are forming to have frank and open discussions about all aspects of death, dying and grief. 

Mary Foerg and Cynthia Pimm of Hospice of Michigan will facilitate the sessions. 

Refreshments will be served. The Death Cafes will be completely free.

Questions? Call 248-554-4682.

Announcing the first Death Café in Southbury Connecticut with Rabbi Dana Z. Bogatz

Tues. Oct 1 at 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Jewish Federation of Western CT
444 Main St. North, Southbury CT 06488
203-267-3177 x334

In recent months it has become increasingly clear that many people seek a safe, nurturing place and community in which to discuss their interest and concerns surrounding death. Enter the Death Café, founded by Jon Underwood in the UK based on the work of Bernard Crettaz of Switzerland. The first Death Café in the US was hosted by Lizzy Miles in Columbus, Ohio in 2012. Since then these pop up one time groups have been offered in cities across the US. Its goal is to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives. And have something yummy to eat.

Death Café does not promote any religion, value system, or product. It is free to participants. A facilitator will ensure that it is a safe environment. And there will be something tasty to nourish the body while we talk.

Coordinator/Facilitator Rabbi Dana Z. Bogatz is the Chaplain for Brownstein Jewish Family Service. She is an ordained Rabbi and has completed one level of Clinical Pastoral Education. She has served as a Jewish Chaplain, Interfaith Chaplain, and pulpit rabbi. In her work she has discovered that often, people arrive at death’s door without benefit of having considered it in life, talked about it with family, or formulated a ‘wish list’. She is very excited about the opportunity to present a Death Café so that those who are seeking may enter.

Attendance is free and open to all but please pre-register. Contact Rabbi Dana Bogatz at 203-267-3177 x334.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Death Café in Brattleboro, Vermont with Cheryl Richards

Death Cafe in Denver with Anita Larson

Write up of Norwich Death Cafe by Beth Settle

Sunday July 14th saw a drop-in Death Cafe at the Friends Meeting House, Norwich.

Beth Settle (who had also facilitated a Death Cafe in Norwich recently) had joined together with Su Squire and Kayla Bainger of Norwich Death Cafe. We had decided we would like to try out holding fairly regular Death Cafes, and the drop-in was to be the first in a trial series. Our plan was to, over several months, offer a larger drop-in Death Cafe, followed by two smaller, booked Death Cafes, likely with focussed topics of discussion. If this worked well we would repeat the process.

We publicised the drop-in event with posters in varied venues around Norwich, on the events pages of local press, and also on the morning of July 14th, Su appeared on BBC Radio Norfolk's 'Sunday Breakfast' show to discuss and promote the Death Cafe. Kayla had also recently set up a open Norwich Death Cafe group on Facebook.

This was our first Death Cafe at the Friends Meeting House. The wardens were friendly and welcoming from the start. We were able to customise the space and move furniture around, and had full use of a kitchen. We asked for donations towards refreshments, which were (many different sorts of!) tea and coffee, water, and six different types of cake:

We were using the entrance hall space, which was large and light and airy, quite a long rectangular space, though we also had use of the garden (and it wasn't raining either!). We set up our refreshment tables at the far end, with tables and chairs grouped along the hall, and some benches here and there too, as well as garden chairs outside. Our hope was that people would mingle here there and everywhere.

Beth greeted folk at the door while Su and Kayla mingled and chatted to arrivals. Although it was a drop-in, we felt it needed an introduction, so about fifteen minutes after our start time (the event ran from 3-5.30 pm) we gave a short introduction, to Death Cafe, to each of us, and covered the basic 'admin' (e.g. fire exits, photo permission, donations etc), and then Su finished this part by reading a poem, 'Gone From My Sight' by Henry van Dyke.

Everybody then naturally gravitated towards the tables and we all ended up fairly organised, in groups of around 4 or 5 at the tables. One conversation started from the poem we had just heard (with one person looking up and reading Dylan Thomas' 'Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night'). We had put bowls of 'conversation starters', consisting of relevant quotations or discussion statements around death and dying, on each table. One table's conversation flowed almost entirely from these, whereas on a different table they weren't used at all!

There were many many different topics discussed at the various tables - these included: living on after death in memory/through ancestors; looking after dying relatives; arranging your own funeral; living wills; the right to die; quality of life over quantity; what may come beyond the moment of death. There were some truly wonderful, interesting and meaningful conversations.

Despite the drop-in nature of the event, only one other attendee arrived after the introduced 'start' of the Death Cafe. Almost everyone stayed until the very end of the Death Cafe too - we had expected a bit more coming and going, similar to the previous drop-in Death Cafe that Su and Kayla had held at House Cafe in Norwich back in April, where many people popped in for a while rather than staying the whole time. In total there were 14 attendees, which was a slightly smaller number than we'd hoped/expected, leaving us with a bit of a cake surplus at the end! We also found that we received less donations than we'd hoped/expected, meaning we did not break even with our costs.

After the Death Cafe, we distributed the extra cake among us, cleared up (with the generous help of a couple of Meeting House wardens) and then before parting ways stopped in a pub garden to reflect on the day over half a cider. We read out the evaluation forms and discussed what we'd felt had worked and what we might change or improve for the future.

We felt that the venue wasn't quite ideally suited to that type of Death Cafe, and wondered if the long room/our furniture set-up had inhibited the flow of people round the room somewhat. People had remained quite static throughout and stuck to their tables, so the number of different people spoken to ended up being fairly limited for all. We had thought conversations might start at the refreshments table, for example, but in fact people tended to visit individually. Although the garden was used at the very start, before the introduction, it was not used again after this.

This was reflected in some of the feedback, with suggestions for a different room lay-out or location, and the idea to use a bell to encourage people to get up and move about, received on the evaluation forms. Overall the feedback was positive, in some cases very enthusiastic, and gave us some good ideas for the future too.

Some of the feedback received included:

"Such a radical idea, but really wonderful - thank you"

"Really enjoyed the conversation, thought-provoking"

"Very relaxed and informal atmosphere"

When asked to describe the Death Cafe in three words, these included:

"Friendly, liberating, welcoming, important, open, safe, profound, inclusive, positive, caring, sharing, stimulating, informative"

A good number of people added their email addresses to our mailing list for future Death Cafes, which was great. We welcome the next Norwich Death Cafe, which will be a fairly different experience, in a cafe setting and with a fixed number of participants, discussing pre-determined topics. We also hope to invite guest speakers to some future Death Cafes... so watch this space!

Norwich Death Cafe - https://www.facebook.com/groups/481813535230338/

Bologna International Death Cafe!

This is Elisabetta Lucchi and Hilary Wilson from Death Cafe Verona meeting Nigel George from Death Cafe Borley Green meeting yesterday in Italy!

It's great that Death Cafe is facilitating lovely connections such as this. It makes me feel that Death Cafe is really a community - of people who think that talking about death is important. Frequently I am helping to put people who want to talk about death in contact, in Austin, Washington DC and Liverpool, and all from our hq in London.

This makes me really happy, and I hope that our new website, live soon, will facilitate more meetings, conversations and friendships in the future.

Jon Underwood

Report back & next event from Death Cafe in Flagstaff, Arizona with Further Shore

Write up of Death Cafe Millerton New York with Suzanne B. O'Brien

Thursday, August 15, 2013 What a wonderful evening for our first Death Cafe! The Death Cafe- Millerton NY welcomed 20+ guests ranging in age from 31 to 83, with the majority being women. Guests choose from tables of 3-6 seats, filled out a name tag and signed in. This table activity gave guests a chance to meet and greet each other. There were carafes of water and bowls of pretzels on the tables. There was delicious cake, fruit, cupcakes and beverages to nourish the body and lots of positive energy in the room to nourish the spirit.

At 7 pm Suzanne B. O'Brien, facilitator, welcomed everyone and gave a description of Death Cafes, how they got started and where they are today. She referenced several articles, one from the NY Times and one from the August 14, 2013 Time Magazine called "A Good Death: How Boomers Change the World a Final Time." She introduced herself, hostess Lynn Martorell and organizer, Joy Martorell.

The first challenge of the evening was for each of us to write down 3 words that came to mind when Suzanne said the words Death or Dying. Once we had written down our words we were to think about how death has impacted our lives and make notes and discuss among our tables.

The conversation started quietly but within minutes the room was quite noisy. There was even some laughter. It was then time to share with the group (if you wanted to). Everyone was offered the opportunity. The room was filled with so many interesting people, their amazing stories and paths all different, yet all pertinent and important. There was clapping and cheering for some, encouragement for others and compassion for all.

With a few minutes left to the evening Suzanne was winding things down and Lynn asked that everyone please fill out the Death Cafe evaluation to help us continue to improve and make this the best experience it can be.

The evaluations rated the evening as "Excellent" with everyone "feeling comfortable" and interested in hearing other people's perspective, learning about new resources, getting new ideas of their own and reaffirming current thoughts, ideas.

Several suggestions were made about the physical set up....smaller tables, lighting. Requests for more death cafe dates, a book list, guest exchange of contact info, and speakers on specific topics.

Our next Death Cafe will be Thursday, September 19, 2013

Report on the Death Cafe meeting in Petaluma California by Sandy

Report on the Death Cafe meeting in Petaluma California hosted by Karen Garber. Initial meeting at 6:30 PM on August 13, 2013

Venue: The Aqus Cafe, 189 H St.

Perhaps 45 people were there for the DC event about 15 of which, like myself and my sister-in-law driver, did not RSVP and were a surprise to the hostess. The cafe had another 20-30 folk in the other end of the same room who were just random patrons.

Having said all that it was a lively group with many earnest but localized discussions going on. I watched the tables occasionally and noted postures that indicated to me that the folk involved seemed to be enjoying themselves. I heard no unusually raised voices or arguing at all.

Karen opened the meeting with a short statement about DC and a little bit about herself. She is an experienced Hospice nurse and RN who came to the field as a calling after a couple of older and close relatives died. She wants the dying experience as comfortable as possible for the individual in the many facets of the word comfort. She has generally good people skills and will make, I am sure, a good leader of the monthly DC gatherings. I felt that the unexpected big response she got, due to stray people showing up, threw her off her stride. She was clearly aware of the issue though.

The attendees were a mixture of ages and sexes with a bit of a bias on the mature female side. Our table had 4 women and two men, averaging perhaps late 60s or so.

I believe the DC concept will be well received in this community and, with a better venue, or a more controlled one, a very satisfying way to break folk into having freer discussions of "the topic that is not talked about."

Well done, Jon, you have started something which, hopefully, will over time, change societies for the better. Wow, what an awesome thing to do!

Best wishes,


Today! Death Cafe Santa Fe with Elyzabeth Stow

The next Santa Fe Death Cafe' will be:

MONDAY, AUGUST 19th, 6:30- 8:30pm

In the past few weeks in looking for a new space to hold the cafe', I contacted Steven Gabaldon, the funeral director at Berardinelli Funeral Home.

He was very open to having the cafe' in their community room in the McGee Chapel building, which is across the street from the Funeral Home on the corner of Alta Vista and Luisa streets. There is ample parking both by the Chapel and across in the funeral home's lot.

Bring your questions, experiences, thoughts and wisdom to share regarding the inevitable for us all.....mortality and how that influences...or not...our present lives.
Possible questions worth pondering ( if you like):

How does it feel to be discussing this topic in this setting?

What is the difference between knowing one day you will die, and finding out you are dying?

What are the beliefs and stories we tell ourselves about death and dying?

Last month we had a lovely turn out and some good questions and answers which arose from our small group discussions. I am looking forward to another evening together to explore this most intimate of topics for us all.

Please take time to register with me if you are going to attend. Bring a friend and pass this mail on to those you feel would be interested.

See you Monday the 19th.

Elyzabeth Stow

I would like to ask those attending the evening to make a donation...to offset the costs for refreshments and beverages. Many thanks.

Death Cafe in Cleveland, Ohio with Lauren Herzak-Bauman and Nicholas Fenell

Who: Facilitated by Lauren Herzak-Bauman and Nicholas Fenell (http://nicholasfenell.com/home.html)
Where: Wednesday, November 6, from 7-9pm
When: East Cleveland Township Cemetery Chapel, 1621 East 118th Street, Cleveland, OH 44106
Links: http://www.sculpturecenter.org/show_details/2013_Fall_Exhibitions.html
(more links to come)

About us and why we are doing this:

Lauren Herzak-Bauman is a visual artist working in Cleveland, OH. Her work investigates objects and temporal installations about mourning and loss, using the physicality of porcelain as a metaphor for the human condition. She graduated with her BFA in 3-D Studies from Bowling Green State University (2004) and her MFA in Studio Art from University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (2009). Lauren is the recipient of two Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Arts Grants (2011/2013) and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design Jerome Emerging Artist Fellowship (2012).

Nicholas Fenell is an artist/ curator with a BFA in painting from the Cleveland Institute of Art (2011). Fenell is a multi-disciplinary artist with performance and interaction of the public critical to his practice. He has exhibited work at The Wasmer Gallery of Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, OH (2010) and hosted a performance work responding to Decoration Day at Orange Cemetery in Pepper Pike, OH. Nicholas is a 2013 Jewish Arts and Culture Lab Fellow, with work to included in a group exhibition at the Mandel Jewish Community Center in Beachwood, OH, in May 2013. The Jewish Arts and Culture Lab's mission is to enable the Arts to be a Jewish source of inspiration and expression. The fellowship is made possible by generous support from the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and the Mandel Jewish Community Center.

Made in Mourning brings death into light with its artwork installed in the two galleries of The Sculpture Center and within the grounds of the historic East Cleveland Township Cemetery. Meaningful mourning and the removal of the taboos of death can be integral to a happy and fulfilling life. Made in Mourning offers art as creative guides to the consideration of varied mourning practices in our contemporary times. The accompanying community outreach activities joyfully integrate death and cemeteries into life. Death Cafe gives both Lauren and Nicholas a chance to have conversations about death in a friendly and safe environment.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Change it is a comin'

Hello Death Café Hosts, attendees and those interested in the Death Café movement. We wanted to take this time and let you know about a few things. 

First, we plan to have our new website up and running around the end of August. Once that has happened, it will be much easier to access information about Death Cafes in your community and also to connect with other people who value talking about death.

The new site will be much more interactive. You will be able to share links and blogs with one another as well as posting your own Death Cafe listings and write ups. This is really going to help all of us correspond with one another. Jon has been working on this website for over a year now and we’re excited for it to come to light. 

Another item that we would like to discuss with all of you is community involvement. As you all know, the Death Café movement has spread very quickly and continues to do so, which is great. However success brings challenges and right now we’re looking at all of our documents, guidelines, etc. with a view to updating them for the launch of the new website. 

Following this, we could like to have an open discussion with the community about how we do things. There is a diversity of opinion certain aspects and we would like to hear views about how Death Cafe should function. This not only pertains to Death Café hosts, but also to our attendees and to those who are interested in the Death Café movement. We value feedback and would really like to hear everyone's views. While we don’t have an exact date of when this discussion would start, we wanted to let you know that it’s in our plans to do so soon. 

Finally, we really need help from Death Cafe hosts to transfer information about your Death Cafes to the new website. At the moment the worldwide map of Death Cafes on the new site (below) is pretty sparse! If you have time to help with this, please contact Jon for instructions: underwoodjon @ gmail.com.

Thanks everyone for all of your support. Stay tuned for more details.

Death Cafe in Belfast, Maine with Nancy McAlley

WHAT: Many people recognize that we live in a death denying culture and that we can live more fully if we embrace the fact that death happens. Death Café is a place with a relaxed, open, safe atmosphere where you are invited to share discussion with others, relating to issues surrounding life and death. This is not a support group but rather a forum of open discussion.

WHO: Anyone is welcome. It is an event for all ages

WHEN: Monday, August 19th from 6:30pm – 8:00pm

WHERE: 9 Field St., Suite 340, Belfast, Maine

Complimentary food and drinks will be provided.

There is no fee to attend.

RSVP to Nancy at 342-3421 as space is limited.

Directions will be provided with RSVP

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Report on the Death Café at Café Rouge, Hampstead, London, on 29 July 2013

By Josefine Speyer

The July Death Cafe at Café Rouge in Hampstead was a success. For the first time it was fully booked a week in advance, in fact I had over booked it, allowing for several cancellations on the day.

Thank you to Liz Wong (Death Doula), David Spofforth (Interfaith Minister) and Celia Urbach (Psychotherapist) who agreed to help me facilitate – each of us to a table - which ensured that everyone had a chance to speak. Feedback in June suggested that this would help.

As the host, I welcomed everybody and set the scene for the evening with introductions and general guidance.

At the beginning of the second half of the evening, I invite everyone to contemplate the question, “What would be your ideal death?”, and then to talk about this in pairs. ‘The room then buzzes with animated talk!  It is great for everyone to have the chance to talk one-to-one.

I paired up with a young man who had come back late after the break and did not have a partner. I was taken aback by his response to the question. He said he did not care how he died. “Not even if you can have a choice?”  He said, no, it was more important what his family would do afterwards.

When we rejoined the table, relaying what had come up for people, it was a most intimate and moving circle, with a great sense of warmth and acceptance of everyone and an incredible openness amongst the group.

Before drawing the evening to a close, I asked everyone to listen to a story, which David read to us standing on the steps to the balcony. It is an amusing, philosophical story about what creates a meaningful, rich life.

Then each table had a closing round where everyone had a last say, to express how they felt at the end of this Death Café experience. I was very moved by the atmosphere that was generated around our table. It felt like a deep bond of humanity. I think this feeling was shared by others in the room.

From an email the next day:

Thank you so much again for offering me a place last night. It was really good to experience the event and it helps guide the decision about offering a Death Cafe locally in North Hertfordshire.

There was a rather extraordinary gathering around the table after the exercise (What would be your ideal death?).  Four of us were Jewish and we shared a very similar legacy regarding the holocaust and the pogroms - and how it led us to the work we do now. That meeting of souls was a very beautiful gift. 

From Suzanne Michal, healer and author:

" My life has been shaped, destroyed and reborn by losing many close people in my life including my husband, sister, soul brother and friends. It has been a lonely path to recover and learn that ultimately death is a gift as it makes us cherish life. But now I have found the Death Cafe where I have met other people who want to share their stories and questions around death. This has proven to be the most wonderful experience. This very special event has opened my horizons, challenged me emotionally and opened my heart in a very big way. It is no wonder at the end of it, nobody wanted to leave, everybody was hugging with deep, deep gratitude for this unique opportunity to talk about death! "

From a blog by CJ Swaby:

I attended my first Death Cafe this week. Now I know what you are thinking, But I bet you are curious right?  When I told my friends where I was heading that Monday evening, they looked at me bemused. Behind the contorted face, their confusion gave birth to questions such as, "Death Cafe? What's that then?"  Or "You mean you talk about death all night? Isn't that depressing?"   Well actually it's not.

I have to admit, as I entered Cafe Rouge on Hampstead High Street that Monday evening, I was bubbling with curiosity. I was late.  As I clambered up the stairs to the intimate room at the top, the host, Josefine Speyer, was already setting the stage for the evening with an openness, calm, respect and gentleness that seemed to give the attendees permission to open up to complete strangers about why they were attending, and their personal experience.

So why do we even need Death Cafes? That's a great question, and lets be honest, as one of my more eager friends put it,
"Oh wow! that is rather interesting. Conversations about death, without people thinking your suicidal or crazy."  The question of death ultimately ties in with it the question of life.  Now this was no counselling session, but it opened up a space for people to express their inner most thoughts and feelings, fears, hopes, insecurities, and also what they loved most about life too.

The death cafe  is a non-judgemental place that brings into sharp perspective our own mortality, and unifies us in our experience, in that death does not discriminate.  It is not prejudice. Is does not care about how much you earn, what sex you are, what race you are, or even your sexuality. In this powerful, shared experience, through our conversations we were able to get back in touch, and connect profoundly with not only ourselves, but complete strangers, if just for a brief moment in time.

I found myself recounting tales of my grandmothers death, and that of my brothers. I even recited my brothers poems that I have tattooed on both my legs.  What was striking to me was the difference between how I related to these stories, compared to if I had told them to you six or seven years ago.  Before where there was pain, anguish and suffering. Now I can remember them with a smile and be really present to the love I have for them both, and the gratitude that I have for having had them in my life, others hadn't. There were those who had a terminal illness and were battling for their own right to die. There were those who were still in obvious pain, and those who were at peace.  The age group was diverse. Their stories equally diverse and mind blowing.  It was a fascinating and precious experience that expanded my perception, and touched me profoundly.  So to answer the question why do we need a Death Cafe? Perhaps to inject a little life into death.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Merilynne Rush on why Death Cafe is popular

I think Death Cafe is popular because:
  1. With all the on-line stuff we do, people want in-person contact and conversation opportunities
  2. Death is a topic we all share in common
  3. There is a recognized need to talk about death but you can't talk about it anywhere else
  4. We are frustrated with current conventional funeral industry and end-of-life medical complexities
  5. It's drop in; There's no commitment
  6. It's edgy 
  7. On-line listings have made it so that we can find out easily about stuff to do in the community
You can quote me!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Write up of Death Cafe in North Kingstown, Rhode Island with John Eastman, Ginny Eastman and Tony Silbert

By John Eastman

Today we held the first Death Cafe in Rhode Island. Eighteen people came out to The Hive in North Kingstown at 2:00 PM to eat calzones and delicious cake, drink tea and coffee and talk in an intimate setting about Death. And then we talked about Life. The two hours we set aside flew by and it was 4:00 PM before we knew it.

Everyone did really, really well and there was a lot of laughter as well as some poignant moments. People were very open about their fears and concerns and were politely listened to as Tony Silbert facilitated the group with love and understanding. Funny thing is; I brought two boxes of tissues and not one was used.

The evaluations and verbal feedback by the participants was very positive so there will be more Death Cafes in SORI in the future. One of the questions on the evaluation was, "if someone told you they were thinking of attending a Death Cafe what would you say to them?" Answers such as "go", "try it, you'll like it", "come with me" and "go for it" were expressed.

Remember, the objective of Death Cafe is "To increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives".

We will keep you in the loop for the next Death Cafe.

Death Cafe in Australia on The Feed

Death Cafe Ashland, Oregon with Laurel Miller and Marla Estes

Laurel Miller says "Our plan is to request a donation knowing that no one will be turned away for lack of payment. We are limiting attendance to 12 participants in this initial event to see how it plays.

"So, for the $60+\- we expect to collect, we will cover our expenses of food, the purchase of the movie Tightrope, plus the cost of copies of our menu and any other handout materials and the cost for the space we will be using.

"We believe that we are bringing this event to our community as a gift, ideally covering our costs and not expecting to "make a profit" so to speak."

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Death Cafe Northern Nevada with Paula Schneider and Laurie Jain

Write up of July 7, 2013 San Luis Obispo Death Café

By John Allen

General Description:

Hospice of SLO County hosted the first Death Café in San Luis Obispo on Sunday afternoon, July 7, 2013. 17 people met in the group room of the 100 year old house that serves as offices to this volunteer hospice organization. Robert Sachs, hospice social worker and spiritual counselor, served as facilitator.

The room was abuzz with conversation before the Death Café began, requiring the hospice staff member to gently coax everyone into quiet so that the session could begin. (This is always a GOOD sign!)

The group began with a basic instruction regarding confidentiality, the encouragement to participate and to partake of the homemade treats, tea, coffee and lemonade provided. There was an introduction to Robert’s role in his work and his experience in losing a child to SIDS almost 30 years ago, which focused his attention on the process of healing after experiencing death in the family.

There were brief introductions around the room, some participants had cared for a loved one at the end of life, some were concerned about their parents or their children, some were here because of basic curiosity.

Participants included a nurse, a firefighter-turned-administrator, a Palliative Care MD, a LCSW student in her 60s, a psych-tech nursing graduate, a mother of 3 who was mauled by a 160 lb. dog 9 years ago and has turned to the work of helping others, a massage therapist, a funeral planner, and many others.

Small groups worked on two exercises: Write down 5 words that come to mind when you:

1. Hear the word Death

2. Hear the word Dying

The results were discussed back in the larger group.

A sample of the words for Death: Surprise, peace, mystery, sacred, welcome, evolution, sadness, forgiveness, regret and inevitable.

For the word Dying: Struggle, fear, acceptance, chaos, sacred, release, support and regret.
During the final 30 minutes of the large group discussion these comments were made:

“The idea of death can put life into perspective.”

“I’ve become more selective about the things I will put up with or “suffer”, yet I am also more forgiving.”

“The present is all you have.”

“Because death is behind closed doors, there are a lot of practical things in our life that are really sloppy – that we don’t attend to.”

“Talking about forgiveness, we live so much better in the present when we forgive. Forgiveness is a part of living.”

When a participant said they wish we had more time, the facilitator said:

“Other types of cafes go on into the night. The Death Café just ends.”

Evaluations: 16 submitted

Attendees: 1 facilitator, 14 participants, 2 volunteers

1. Overall, how would you rate this event? 5 = Excellent 1 = Poor

10 Rated at 5; 4 Rated at 4; 2 Rated at 3

· Enjoyed the format. Would like it to be longer.

· Wonderful event for first timers! So glad we are able to do this – Thank you!

· Thank you for the gift of time and space

· Great, comfortable setting, excellent facilitator, exciting to be at the first one.

· Interesting!

· Worth attending

· Even being able to talk to peole about going to this event opens discussion

· Great sharing and leadership

· Utter success. Such interesting people.

· Really loved the small group setting with direction from facilitators

· Would be good to have a mechanism to facilitate ?’leader’? sharing

2. Would you say that attending this event affected your feelings about death and/or life? If yes, please attempt to say how:

· Yes and no. My heart and mind are very open, however it was great to hear other’s perspectives

· The varied experiences shared today opened my mind and compassion to life and its fragileness.

· Reassured me.

· Yes, to think further about preparing for it by using the time left fruitfully.

· Yes, it is helping me to prepare for this now for myself and for when my parents start their journey.

· No – but I am excited to see others approach the situation.

· Good reminder to keep death as your counselor.

· No, I have pondered death my entire life. It is nice to share with others.

· Sharing feelings on death is a blessing. It ought to be ordinary, yet is not. So grateful.

· Don’t know that it affected my feelings quite yet but provided an enjoyable opportunity to meet and hear from other thoughtful people about a challenging subject.

· Yes, reinforced importance of truly living.

· No, I realize I don’t have many issues with it.

· Feels good to share this conversation.

· Yes, I feel even more comfortable and right, talking about death and dying.

3. How comfortable did you feel during the Death Café?

5 = Excellent . . . 1 = Poor.

Is there anything you can think of that would have made you feel more comfortable?

· 5 - No

· 5 – Encouraging others to speak by giving the opportunity to “quieter individuals” some dominate.

· 5 – the approach was very relaxing and personal

· 5 – nothing needed

· 5 – I wasn’t expecting so many personal stories but I guess those pepoel are still working through their issues.

· 4 – A couple of people monopolized the floor and some said nothing except during introductions.

· 5 – It was great

· 5

· 5 – No

· 5 – very comfortable

· 3 or 4 - I like sitting at tables when there’s food involved but the room and setting were lovely and cozy.

· 5

· 4

· 5

· 5

· 4 – more activity in small group

4. How well did the structure of the discussion at the Death Café work?

Suggestions for improvement:

· Cannot think of any at this time

· Some came to me at break and said that they wanted to say something but they felt shy or others would talk over them.

· I felt that as a group develops, topics of a specified experience could be reflected on for the coming gathering.

· Three or so people didn’t speak in the group setting – not a problem.

· Have facilitator bring out quiet ones; tighten up on the small group timeline.

· When people wander in their thought process, reel them in.

· No suggestions.

· Great

· Great. Just right.

· Wasn’t a huge fan of the 5 words exercise, other than that, just great.

· Stay with small groups longer to go deeper and then do report backs to share.

· Less storytelling time

· Not sure

· Flowed

· Smaller group, more time

5. Overall how would you rate the facilitation?

Suggestions for improvement:

· Very good

· Can we let participants know in the beginning if the café that this is their time and their experience and to please be comfortable speaking up.

· Excellent and comfortable

· Ask if there is anyone who hasn’t spoken who has something to share, or a question/comment.

· Excellent

· Good. More time than 2 hours would be better.

· Perfect.

· Excellent

· Great…just right.

· Excellent

· Excellent

· Liked the comment that not finishing an exercise demonstrates how “death” is.

· 5

· Okay. Be sure to mention “no product, no promotion, no course of action.”

6. How would you rate the food and drink? 5 = Excellent … 1 = Poor.

· Less sugary treats

· 5

· Yummy, 5+

· Being a vegan, I could not have other than beverages.

· 5

· Too much chocolate (LOL)

· 5! 5!

· 5 – Would like some non-sweet or salty treats, or fresh fruit would be nice, sugar buzzed.

· 5 – Homemade and healthy

· 5

· 5 +

· 4

· 5

7. Please choose three words that best describe your experience of Death Café:

· Comfortable, joyful, interesting

· Light/pleasant, comfort, encouraging

· New awareness, new acceptance, shared interest of understanding death

· Time flew by, excellent facilitator-good sense of humor, positive hopes for more cafes.

· Thought provoking, Enjoyable, Worthwhile

· Community, Openness, Sharing

· Interesting, Informative, Nice

· Grateful, Heartbreaking, Grounded

· Warm, Educational, Comfortable

· Easy, Friendly, Scratching the surface

· Interesting, Enlightening

· Inclusive, Welcoming, Friendly

· Sweet, Meaningful, Heartfelt

· Relaxing, Enjoyable, Uplifting

8. If someone told you they were thinking of attending a Death Café, what would you say to them?

· Absolutely go and I’ll go too!

· Do it! Sign up right away – they fill up fast!

· Come join me. This is a great opportunity to experience and share that which is not spoken of.

· I’d ask first – what do they know or expect.

· Go, by all means.

· Have fun!

· Yes, Yes & More Yes.

· Go, listen, see if you learn, Don’t judge!

· Talking about death will make you feel happy.

· Go for it! Have fun.

· You might like it.

· They will be surprised how comfortable it is

· Do It.

· Go, you will enjoy it and the stigma of talking about death is non-existent.

9. Do you have any other comments or things you think we should hear?

· This is not a networking opportunity. Explain confidentiality using an example.

· The openness and generous attention from each individual is very considerate and helpful to those who need to express something they have had locked in.

· Thank you for offering this experience for growth.

· Thank you for your time.

· Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! This is perfect for our town!

· Thank You + +

· Thanks for asking!

Report Back from Death Cafe in Sebastian, Indian River County, Florida

Photo by http://www.indianriverbyair.com/
By Marie Pedrick

On July 22, our group experienced the first Indian River County Death Cafe!

Our facilitator was Angie Messner, she is a thanatologist with over 20years in instuction on death and dying and also bereavement. She presented the guideline and concepts for the cafe and directed the group, another core member helping. This was Eula who operates her own business in the medical records field, and who was our contact person and scheduler. Sue Keler, an LPN with many years of hands on experience in bedside nursing in and out of hospice kept our contact lists and provided flyers, evaluation forms and all paperwork. I am Marie Pedrick, an RN with over 35 years experience, mostly emergency room and intensive care. I have very recently started in the world of hospice at a local inpatient facility. I helped establish venues, distribute flyers and work on our facebook page, Indian River Death Cafe.

We were delighted with the turnout at both the morning and evening sessions. In retrospect, two in one day was daunting. the topics were varied and intiguing. We kept it free form as suggested and let it take its own form, and it did. Each guest brought a different perspective to the conversation. the group ranged in age from 46-85 with a good representation of both men and women. vocalized were topics from the afterlife, if there is one, to spiritual influences, to the lack of death awareness in our culture. Reincarnation entered the talk, as did funeral and will planning. contact with those departed in relation to our dream and awake states of life were added.

The reponse was positive, everyone who attended requested further gatherings. We are skipping august due to holidays, but we plan to resume in september with bimonthly meetings in different parts of the county to open to all. dates and times to follow.

Death Cafe in Sedona, Arizona with Rev. Maria Dancing Heart Hoaglund and Tania Bloch

Come Join Us for Sedona's 3rd Death Cafe  

with Maria Dancing Heart & Tania Bloch

This will be the 3rd Death Cafe in Sedona! Death Cafe is a worldwide movement that's helping to bring out the taboo topic of death into the public arena. This movement began in the U.K. & Switzerland a year and a half ago. There have been at least 100 death cafes around the  world!

Place: The Lodge, 425 Concho Dr, Sedona (VOC), AZ 86351
Time: Saturday, August 10, 2013, 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Questions? Call (928) 284-4192, or email: Dancingheart22 @ gmail.com
Cost: Donations appreciated – and if you like, bring your favorite tea or goodies :)
 Come join us with intent to open & share our hearts & minds.
For more, visit: www.deathcafe.com or

Monday, 29 July 2013

Write up of Death Cafe Boothbay Harbour, Maine

By Lynne Tobin
Last night we had our first Death Cafe in Boothbay. A fantastic group, which included a hospice nurse, a university professor, a drummer, a grandmother, an intuitive and a yogi describes some of the attendees who took part. We enjoyed stimulating conversations about the "medical" model vs the "palliative care" model, doctors' "anxiety" about end-of-life issues, nearing death experiences and many other thoughtful topics. Death Cafe Boothbay has only scratched the surface. Join us in August at MacNab's for great cake and great conversation. Date to follow!