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Chris Raymond

The Inevitable Discussion re Discussing the Inevitable

By February 19, 2013

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I've lost track of how many conversations I've had with complete strangers about death, funerals, human mortality, etc., over the years, once they learn about my background.

Typically, there's an awkward silence after I answer the question, "And what do you do for a living?" Sometimes there's a barely audible intake of breath or perhaps an involuntary widening of the eyes, but usually there's just silence. After a few seconds, he or she then smiles broadly, leans forward and says: "Hey! I've always wanted to ask you guys something..."

Based on these experiences, I firmly believe that most people don't have a problem discussing the inevitable, provided the setting is casual/comfortable. A hospital ER? No way. Sharing a flight to Vegas? Oh yeah.

This is the concept underlying a "death café" -- a safe environment where people gather to discuss dying and death with each other. I encourage you to attend such an event in your community if the chance arises.

Would you attend a death café if one were offered in your community? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photo © Riou/Getty Images

Comments
February 21, 2013 at 9:00 am
(1) William Gordon says:

I think the idea of a ‘Death cafe’ is a brilliant concept, and not at all ‘morbid’ ( as I fear many people’s first reaction might be – particularly in the U.K. where one is almost ‘expected’ to keep a ‘stiff upper lip’ about all manner of emotional upsets) Bereaved folk often talk about the ‘lepery’ of the bereaved – when neighbours (and even one-time friends) are known to cross over to the other side of the street rather than ‘accost’ someone who has rcently lost a loved one.
Therefore, to be able to join with others with this common interest in a non-judgemental environment I feel can only be for the good. However , I realize there may be those who feel thgat a ‘group gathering’ such as this might in fact prolong the grieving process, with the participants becoming more and more dependant on each other and ‘grasping at straws’ rather than ‘moving on’ at an appropriate time to them. Perhaps (as in most things in life) it’s a question of balance?
The value of an experienced Coordinator I would have thought to be an essential factor in such an enterprise.

February 21, 2013 at 1:06 pm
(2) Chris Raymond, Death & Dying Guide says:

Thank you for sharing your comments, William, and for reading my article about death cafes.

While a death cafe is open to anyone from the public, these events are usually geared toward helping those who seek more-general information about dying, death, funerals, hospice, palliative care, etc., rather than helping someone mourning the loss of a loved one. For the latter, many support groups exist that are conducted by skilled, experienced coordinators/facilitators, as you suggest.

Thanks again,

Chris Raymond
About.com Death & Dying Guide

February 21, 2013 at 7:25 pm
(3) Melissa Horton says:

Yes, I would attend a Death Cafe. I think talking about something that will happen to us all is good. My Father has been given 6 months to live
and is not talking about it. I need to be able to follow his lead.
I am going to visit him this weekend and let him know how much he means to me and my family. I need all the advice I can get so I do wish
I could go to a Death Cafe.

August 1, 2013 at 1:02 pm
(4) teejay Henner says:

I am 86 years old and do not have a terminal illness, unless one defines a terminal illness as life itself. Am a practicing Buddhist and believe in the impermanence of everything. The way to end suffering is to reach Nirvana, which you may reach if you behave yourself. I think we all have Buddha nature and it is like a bubble which gets separated from the physical body at death and is returned to a great sea where it gets mixed up with other bubble and when a baby is born, that bubble which we may call human nature, the life force gets planted in the baby. And so we are all related. I enjoy thinking of all the possible people I may have been: anything from a water carrier in ancient Crete to a snow leopard in Nepal. You don’t really know. I hope that I only have a few more lifetimes until I reach Nirvana.
teejay

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