My friend said, “Death Café? Can’t they call it something else?”
I said, ”That’s the point. Nobody talks about death.”
At the Death Café, we sat in a circle with cookies and coffee. I didn’t know anyone. One person was already sniffing. The sound triggered eye wiping among others. I felt that lump in my heart and looked up towards the ceiling to keep my own tears away. We were here to talk about something usually talked about in our society. Our pent-up emotions were tangible.
The rules were clear - respect, confidentiality, nonreligious and religious points of view accepted, no direction to action from anyone, only acceptance, and support. In many ways, it was like Alcohol Anonymous meetings I had attended once. But we are not confessing addiction; we are discussing our personal experiences with mortality.
Death Cafés began in 2011. On the website, they state:
At a Death Café, people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death.
Our objective is 'to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives'.
A Death Café is a group-directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives, or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session. Our Death Cafés are always offered:
On a not-for-profit basis
In an accessible, respectful, and confidential space
With no intention of leading people to any conclusion, product, or course of action
Alongside refreshing drinks and nourishing food – and cake!
We went around the circle with introductions, like a book club, but each offered a brief description of their grief rather than their favorite novel -
"I lost my mother in the fall."
"My brother died thirty years ago."
"She was gone in five days."
"He lingered on and his passing was a relief."
"I feel lost."
"I am not myself."
"I don’t know what to do now."
"Caretaking is so hard."
"All my friends are gone now."
These are general examples of our discussion.
Then, gathered in small groups, we had more of a conversation. “I hear you. I understand. I feel that too.” Our pain and grief and desperation were affirmed. There was laughter and love as well as anger and frustration. Back in the group, the shared response was gratitude for having this place, this Death Café. The chairs were replaced. Cups and plates were put away. The group disbanded. Some walked with others. Some hurried away and some lingered. But in the end, we walked away alone.
I walked out quickly. There were groceries in my car. As I drove home, I noticed that I drove slower, my brow unfurrowed. No one had told me what to do, and my burden was unchanged, yet I found it lighter since the sharing. Death Café refreshed me as if I had a cup of coffee with a trusted friend.
Trinity Presbyterian provides space for a Death Café
at 4pm on the last Monday of the month.
Call Diane Swift or Bob Miles 828-595-9063
900 Blythe Street, Hendersonville NC 28791