Mourning Dove Studio Blog

Planning Ahead: Death Cafes and more

Maybe you have ideas or questions related to death that you haven’t had a chance to explore out loud. Maybe you’re not sure how to voice these thoughts or would like to hear the thoughts and questions that others have for themselves.

It’s generally noted that we have a death-denying culture here in the US and that this is true for many other countries, too.

Enter  The Death Cafe– started by Jon Underwood and Sue Barsky Reid in London in September 2011. “At a Death Cafe, 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’’”

They’ve estimated that 6,289 Death Cafes have been held in 56 countries – approximately 63,110 people talking!

“A Death Cafe 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. Death Cafes 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!”

As you can gather from the above, if you would like to talk about any topic related to death or dying, a Death Cafe gives you that opportunity. You can join in the discussion on whatever topics are on other people’s minds, and you can also bring up whatever is on your own mind.

The Death Cafe website will help you find the Death Cafes nearest to youYou can also organize your own Death Cafes, and the website offers guidelines for this.

Some people simply hold one Death Cafe, while others offer them on a regular basis. In addition, a regularly held Death Cafe on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, follows the instruction to have no specific agenda – AND then, following a break, a Death Education event is offered, focusing on a range of specific topics. People can choose to attend the Death Cafe or the Death Education presentation or both.

Talk About Death, Hold the Sugar is a Boston Globe article relaying one man’s experience at a Death Cafe, as well as a little more history.

Another way to engage with others is the public art installation Before I Die…  The words Before I Die I Want to... are written on a wall with underlined blank spaces left for people to fill in.

It was created by artist Cindy Chang when she was grieving the death of someone she loved, wanting to feel less isolated and to help others stop avoiding discussions of death.  At this point there have been over 4,000 Before I Die walls created in over 70 countries!

I was volunteering at an event near a Before I Die wall and saw a woman bring her bike to a quick halt, stare at the wall for a bit, write “forgive him for his betrayal” and ride away. Meanwhile, another person had written “clean the basement!”. See more responses and information here.

In a similar vein, artist Stacey Hammerlind used one of our cardboard coffins to invite people to respond to What I Want to Be Remembered For…

Finally, consider the remarkable Death Salon: “In the spirit of the eighteenth-century salon – informal gatherings of intellectuals – Death Salon encourages conversations on mortality and mourning and their resonating effects on our culture and history. We hold public events and provide an online community (through both Death Salon and our sister organization, The Order of the Good Death) to increase discussion on this often-ignored subject, focusing more on ideas and the broader cultural impacts of death than one’s personal interactions with mortality.”

Death Salons happen every other year – coming to the Boston area in September 2018!

 

In addition to considering the above experiences, before the next post on Sunday, make a list of family medical history.  Go as far back as you can remember, but keep it manageable enough to do in the time that you can devote to it.

Step #1 STRUCTURE IT IN
Step #2 find and use a PLANNING GUIDE
Step #3 learn from the FUNERAL CONSUMERS ALLIANCE
Step #4 draw upon INSIGHTS from bereavement research
Step #5 Find RITUALS that resonate with you
Step #6 Consider NATURAL BURIAL choices
Step #7 Consider HOME FUNERAL choices
Step #8 Think about a EULOGY
Step #9  Consider engaging with others at DEATH CAFES, etc

Sunday, May 20th – What we pass on

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