Palliative Care hosts Death Cafe

It’s one of two things we are sure of in life, and it’s not taxes. That leaves death, which most people don’t want to think about, much less talk about. It is the hope that a relatively new concept known as “Death Café” will bring about a healthy, safe environment to deal with such a sensitive subject.

  Death Café’s originated in the UK in September 2011. It was developed by Jon Underwood and Sue Barsky Reid based on the idea of Bernard Crettaz. It is now a huge social movement and the idea spread quickly to Europe, North America and Australasia. In fact when last counted, there had been 8397 Death Cafes in 65 countries.

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At a Death Cafe people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death.

The objective is 'to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives'.

  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!

Deloraine and Area Palliative Care Committee members heard of this new idea and were intrigued enough to book a Death Café. Committee member Merle Teetaert introduced Christine Cross and Cathy Coulter of Virden who are the region’s facilitators. There were about 25 in attendance on May 9 to take part in the interactive presentation.

  Christine Cross gave words of welcome on behalf of herself and Cathy Coulter. She ensured everyone it would be a safe environment and that everyone’s thoughts, ideas and expressions were welcome.

  “We honour our ancestors and all who have taught us about life and death. The subject of death used to be dealt with much more openly. Often loved ones died and were “laid out” in the home and the family took care of preparing the body.”

  Today, the funeral home takes care of everything and we are further removed from death. Part of the reason for the Death Cafes is to move conversation forward, to offer the opportunity to discuss death.

  “I’ve lived in Virden all my life and worked in home care and nursing. In my retirement I wanted to pursue supporting people around deathcare,” said Cross.

For Coulter it was the death of her 14-year old son that prompted her to help others in deathcare. “I learned that when you talk about it and help others that it has been a huge healing for me as well. There is no time limit on grief and everyone does it in their own way. I said my son’s name everyday many times a day – whereas my husband could not say his name for at least a year.”

  They also talked about STUG – a Sudden Temporary Upsurge of Grief that can hit at any stage of the grieving process. Cathy says she calls this Ninja grief – it sneaks up on you unawares.

  Following the introduction, smaller groups were formed to hold discussions about death. After about 40 minutes the smaller groups came together again for general discussion and sharing.

  These gatherings are held in the strictest confidence – what is said at Death Café stays at Death Café. Suffice it to say the discussions were interesting, beneficial and educational.

  This was the 9th Café hosted by Cross and Coulter. They said one thing that’s happened for both of them by doing this is a greater gratitude for life. For more information or if you’d like to host a Death Café, please contact Cathy Coulter 204-748-8136 or email tel@rfnow.comor Christine Cross 204-851-2166 or email


© Deloraine Times & Star

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