Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Report back from the First Death Café in the Twin Cities

By Anna Lee Roberts

We are happy to announce that the very first Death Café in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, took place on the 2nd of June, 2013! We purposefully kept this first event small and simple, meeting in the community room of Common Roots Café in Uptown Minneapolis. In addition to the delectable locally-sourced and seasonal menu items, Common Roots Café has a separate meeting room space available, free to non-profit community groups- perfect for a small Death Café gathering.

Our facilitators included: Sheila Duddy an experienced nurse, hospice educator and thanatology aficionado; Rebecca Chesin an independent therapist with a focus on relationships and life purpose; and myself, Anna Lee Roberts, a hospice music therapist and educator. We had ten total participants of varying backgrounds, faith traditions and ages. Some people came with a professional perspective including the facilitators, a grief counselor and art therapist, and even a hospice physician. Some participants brought their personal experiences with death and dying to the discussion, and others just brought their curiosity.

Sheila came prepared with crayons and toys to play with as we talked, like silly-faced squishy balls, kaleidoscopes, and other party items. This was a great idea. Just about everyone was coloring on their menu, or playing with the items at some point during the gathering. Sheila also started us out with some great readings to set the tone. We started conversation with “What brings you to the Death Café?” from there, the ball rolled along quite well. Boy, did we cover a lot of ground in those few hours.

Here are some take-away points, shared by our participants:

· There is a need to talk about death.

· Some come to teach. Some come to learn.

· Death is certain; its hour, uncertain.

· Our existence is a journey of losses—the biggest one is the last: your life.

· The care of the dying has moved from the family and community responsibility to a medical model. Many people crave to take it back.

· Some children learn about death early as a normal and natural fact. Our American culture seems to shield children (and adults!) from the death experience.

· There is a need to learn ways to open the conversation with others.

· Some of us have left our traditional religious cultures, and seek new ways to find meaning and support at the time of death.

· There is much distress, and sometimes wonderful beauty, in the death of our loved ones.

· We fear abandonment in our grieving, so we often hide it away.

· There is a lot of judging, including ourselves, of how we respond to death.

· There is some openness and comfort in sharing personal stories of death with sympathetic strangers.

· Tears are welcome and respected.

· It is a pleasure to find others who are willing to share this conversation.

· Death makes life poignant.

We ended with some brainstorming about how we would all like to move forward with our Death Café in the Twin Cities. I think we are off to a good start, ready to open this event to the larger community and see where it takes us. Thanks to every one for their support and ideas. We are so happy to part of this amazing movement!

In Peace,




  1. Inspiring. It takes a volunteer to step up and get the ball rolling.

  2. I am suffering a terminal disease called aging, supported by vascular dementia. I see death for me as a release, yet something that can come in its own time. I am curious on death to see what if anything happens, assuming something will. It is good to see this subject becoming a cause for meeting and discussion rather than fear and avoidance.

  3. Hi, Jon. I've tried to sent you an email several times, but it keeps getting returned. So... here goes, from my email:

    We have had a first very successful Death Cafe in Sedona, Arizona, on June 1, 2013. And now we are preparing to have our 2nd one on July 6th. Here are some articles I posted at examiner.com: http://www.examiner.com/article/first-death-cafe-sedona-a-great-success
    You can see more at my link: http://tinyurl.com/msv6aw.

    I'm wondering if there'd be a way you might be able to help me get the word out about my books and website, too: www.changewithcourage.com. One of my books, The Last Adventure of Life, actually had a 2nd ed. published through Findhorn Press of Scotland!

    I'm looking forward to hearing from you and keeping in touch! You're doing a wonderfull service for humanity! Keep shining ;)

    Highest Blessings from the Red Rock Country! Maria dancing heart~~~~
    Maria Dancing Heart Hoaglund
    Body-Mind-Spirit Specialist
    105 Sugarloaf St.
    Sedona, AZ 86351


    Stand still like the hummingbird and know that all life is in the nature of the miraculous. -- Henry Miller

    There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun! - Thomas Merton

    I'm not afraid of death because I don't believe in it. It's just getting out of one car and into another. -- John Lennon


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