Acceptance of death as a normal part of life
While the question about what happens after death is still hotly debated (and probably always will be), the idea of facing it head on with other like-minded souls is a new idea.
Death is typically portrayed as messy and unpleasant and of course, something to be avoided at all costs! We talk about it in hushed voices and behind closed doors. Most of us don’t even like to think about it. Maybe we make arrangements for our passing and maybe we don’t but either way, it’s not an openly discussed topic. Much like our feelings about assisted suicide, we keep our heads down and avoid letting death be a part of life.
The Death Café is a relatively new concept that pushes death out in full view of the living. Groups of people (often strangers) meet in a safe location to discuss all aspects of death and dying. As either a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down or to set a celebratory tone, cake is generally provided. There is no agenda, bias or schedule. Participants are free to voice their opinions and meetings run about two hours. The cafés do not offer counseling or bereavement. Rather, they are discussions about all facets of death, dying and different approaches to both.
The popularity of Death Cafes has spread across the United States, Europe and Australasia. Death Café facilitators schedule get-togethers at coffee shops, restaurants and private homes. The facilitators require no specific training but must be able to comfortably discuss death, actively listen and engage and deal with any issues that may arise. Death cafes are not-for-profit and locally driven.
Talking openly about death is yet another step towards acceptance (and even embracing) the inevitable process of aging. Aging (and consequently death) are inescapable facts of life and while we do our best to skirt those issues, they remain as ever-present as the wrinkles on our faces.
If we strip away all of the general “yuckiness” of dying, it’s really quite practical to consider specifically what we want to happen to our bodies when we go. Grieving family members are not likely to be in the best space to make such decisions. Similar to an Advance Health Directive, what about leaving End of Life Instructions? Clear concise instructions ensure an end-of-life plan exactly to our specifications.
Bucket lists have grown in popularity in recent years. Most of us have at least a loose list of things we want to accomplish before our time here is finished. Why not make talking freely about death one of those things?
Incorporating conversations about death into our lives is a salient reminder that life is short. Like it or not, the end is coming. Rather than shun these unpleasant thoughts, let’s embrace them and allow them to factor into our decisions, our thoughts and our motivations.