Well no actually, it isn’t. Which other topic can you think of that affects each and every one of us so much, that we avoid discussing it and consider it taboo to mention?
As a Highcliffe Death Café host, I obviously think being open about death is not such an unusual idea, and the growth of the Death Café movement supports my assertion. I am in good company too, as there are now fellow hosts in 37 countries around the globe hosting more than 3,500 cafés.
The first official Death Café took place in London in 2011 and was organised by Ian Underwood, who heads the www.deathcafe.org movement. Ian was originally inspired by a Swiss model, Café Mortel, started by sociologist Bernhard Crettaz in 2004 with the aim of breaking the “tyrannical secrecy” surrounding the topic of death. The charity “Dying Matters” reveals that more than 70% of us are uncomfortable talking about death. Fewer than one third of us have spoken to family members about end–of–life wishes.
I have worked with many people over the years who have been touched by death and find the subject difficult to share with family and friends. I am very excited about being able to offer a forum for anybody, of any age, to speak about death. The ethos is simple: be willing to talk about death in any shape or form. It is surprisingly liberating for anybody attending. I have been offering monthly Highcliffe Death Café afternoon meetings in my Highcliffe home since June 2014. It is the only Death Café currently running in Dorset.
More than 70 people have attended; some regularly, while others only once having felt they had had the chance to open their hearts. There is no agenda, no speaker, no set topic or set format of the cafés. The 1½ hour meeting, which includes coffee/tea and home–baked cake, is always full of surprises, laughter and exploration in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Death Cafés aren’t a grief-support group, but some people will have suffered a family loss. Quite often people who work around death and dying find it useful to come along and share their professional expertise and we all learn from them.
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