It sounds like a famous Eddie Izzard sketch (and I love that one). Actually today I’m referring to Death Cafes and I just attended a local group to see what it might be able to offer me on my journey through grief.
Death Cafes were started by a British chap called Jon Underwood who saw a need for death to be integrated into our culture. It’s a get together of whoever wants to attend and you all drink tea, eat cake and talk about death, without any particular agenda.
A friend of mine recently expressed his horror at hearing of a Death Cafe starting in his town. What seemed to shock him more though was my reaction.
“Brilliant!” I said, “I really want to go to one of those, we need to make death a commonplace subject for discussion”
In a culture that now exploits all manner of human experiences, why is death such a taboo subject? Why does it make us feel so dreadfully uncomfortable?
Because we are all scared stiff of it (excuse the pun).
Fear is generally relating to the unknown, so in theory if we become better acquainted with the unknown, the fear should have less power over us. A problem shared is a problem halved n’ all that. I believe the more of our human experiences we share, the more empowered we are to make choices and form opinions rather than avoiding the topic altogether.
After all death is the one certain thing about life and the two cannot be separated.
It was a cosy group of around 10 people at the Death Cafe I went to. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in terms of demographic. There was quite a good representation mainly in the older age groups. What was really interesting was the different reasons people went. A couple of us had been touched with recent loss, or currently going through it, some folk wanted to use it as a way of gathering information about getting their affairs in order and some seemed happy just to be there.
I feel that these kind of discussions really need to start in schools (along with any other important life skill that doesn’t actually get taught at school). Perhaps if we made it cool at school we might be more open and less scared as adults.
It also made me realise just how many of us are touched by death and loss. We can feel isolated and alone in our human experience, I know I have done of late, but death is actually so unbelievably common place it’s quite incredible that we don’t talk about it more.
These ‘death spaces’ can be used, not only to talk about our fears, but also to connect in our shared human experience and to use it as a backdrop to simply give ourselves permission to be human and vulnerable.
It’s really given me food for thought, there is clearly a need for these kind of events and I’m going to put my thinking hat on because I feel like I’d like to help spread the word ….