Since September 2019, we have been hosting a local Death Café on the first Wednesday of every month at 6:30pm. The meetings typically last 1.5-2 hours depending on the energy and genuine conversation flowing. We get all walks of life that attend our meetings, from nurses, to students, the young and elderly. Although the backgrounds and age groups differ greatly, we all have one thing in common- the curiosity and questions surrounding the topic of death and dying.
Death Café was a created by Jon Underwood in the UK in 2011 and has since spread like wildfire across the world. It’s a “social franchise” with a group directed discussion about death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session with the aim of educating and helping others become more familiar with the end of life. Being open with dialogue and questions is a movement that is gaining momentum and we are amazed at the interest we’ve received so far, and we hope this can help more people in our community!
I first heard about Death Café a few years ago and the concept really didn’t elicit a response out of me. Fast forward to 2019, I am sitting at home and my husband, Kevin calls me and says “Hey, Erin (our colleague), just told me there is a Death Café in Kelowna tonight, we should check it out!” At this time, we were about 4 months into running our own funeral home (Kettle Valley Memorial) so this time the idea really piqued my interest! So off we went to Kelowna to see what it was all about. Kelowna’s Death Café was held at the Library by 2 wonderful ladies are Death/End of Life Doulas. Jo-Anne and Sherii have since become good friends of ours. Kevin and I were so inspired by the people and conversations that we decided right then and there to start hosting a Death Café in Penticton. Immediately I registered our event with DeathCafe.com and built a Facebook page to build awareness and invited anyone who might be interested. Our first meeting was held on September 4, 2019 and we had 17 attendees. A great turnout, I thought! We’ve since hosted 9 meetings with the last one moving into the virtual world via Zoom due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
One of the most important parts of Death Café (in my opinion) is the hot drinks and delicious treats that we serve! Traditionally tea and cake are served but we’ve found the love of coffee and Nanaimo Squares at our meetings cannot be denied!
Each time I come away from Death Café, I am enamoured with the stories told, the emotions shared, and the connections made. I feel like the although the Death Café isn’t a grief counselling group or therapy session it truly builds genuine connections with others. If you haven’t been to a Death Café before but you’re interested I highly recommend attending one- you don’t have to speak unless you’d like to and there is no agenda or pressure on anyone to share more than what they’re comfortable with. I’ve found that those who admit they’re there to listen and observe end up being the ones who share the most meaningful stories by the end. There is no charge to attend the meetings, and no need to register- just show up!
As scary as the thought is... we are all going to die so why not break down those walls, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, ask your questions and share some laughs! Some of the topics we’ve discussed are:
• What song would you like played at your funeral?
• If a spouse dies, what are the first things you would get rid of and what are the things you would keep?
• After death, if you could send a message from other side, what would you tell your family?
• Who in your life has inspired you to make positive changes in your life?
• Do you know what your spirit animal is?
• How often do you think about dying?
• How do you think you will die?
We hope to see you at our next Death Café and if you don’t live in Penticton, here’s a link to see when the next meeting is happening in your city deathcafe.com/deathcafes
For more information about the next event follow us:
Here are a few more resources:
I’ll leave you with my favorite Death Café quote: “I talked about death at the Death Café and I didn’t die!”
May 4, 2020