Thursday, 13 June 2013

Report from Death Café in Leeds, Yorkshire by Catherina Petit-van Hoey

Held on Sunday the 2nd of June
Global Tribe Café, a small but lovely vegetarian and vegan café/restaurant  which opened last July above the Global Tribe Crystal shop in the centre of Leeds, is owned by my friends Bev and Mario.

They want their café to be more then a café, so in the evenings or on Sundays when the café is closed for the public it is used by different community groups in line with their interests. From a spiritual book club, to a raw food workshop, a meditation group or an intimate music gig.

I am very pleased that they welcomed the idea of hosting a Death Café and I want to say a big thank you to Bev and Mario for having us and offering their 'free' Sunday to serve and support us.

About 18 people reserved a place with 15 people actually attending. The age range was between early twenties and about seventy years old.

Originally we laid out 2 groups of tables, but when everyone was there it was decided to join them altogether, which felt much better.

Prior to the day I was somewhat concerned about how to deal with a group, larger then 12 people as I was worried that there would not be enough time to go several times around the table for people to talk. I have never attended a Death Café myself where the group was divided into smaller groups, but I can imagine that with a large group it might be necessary to do so, although the atmosphere would probably somewhat different.

As people where introducing themselves and sharing their personal stories the atmosphere became more relaxed, open and supportive to one and other. At times some people got emotional when talking about the bereavement of a loved one but the recognition, acceptance and support of others was comforting and inspiring.

After the first round of sharing we had a break and refilled our cups with coffee and teas. Someone made a comment afterwards that is was good that we had several carafes with water on the table, as the water felt more life-affirming and supportive to the emotions.
Also we had far too many cakes, which luckily didn't go to waste as the café could use them in the week.

When we started again I was surprised that we had only ½ hour left to go, which threw me off balance and I found it difficult to direct the conversation along earlier raised subjects, so things became a bit fragmented.

I also realised for myself that this time I talked to much about my own experience and need to sit back more to let others talk. So some lessons for me to be learned.

Apart from that, most people expressed on the feedback sheet that they would like to come again to a Death Café in Leeds and rated the overall experience with an average of 9 out of 10.

Here are some of their comments:

Inspiring, liberating, supportive environment. Everyone is so supportive to each other, it's lovely.

The event has helped me to give more consideration about my own physical death and that my funeral to be a 'bonding' experience.

Brilliant, it was nice been able to talk about death and not being criticized about it.

Very worthwhile, 'interesting' if that is the correct word! And enhancing – brought many aspects to the fore for consideration.

Death Café – at last relief where I can talk openly about Death, positively, constructively.

So overall the Death Café in Leeds was an inspiring event and showed us again the need and importance of providing a space where we can share our experiences of death whilst creating together a relaxed, open, respectful, warm  and supportive environment. To me this is what humanity is about – simple  serving each other to make the most out of life.

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