Death Cafe: A heart open space where we can talk about death

By Angela Gutzer –

It has been close to one year since my mother died (March 18, 2017). Our family has had our first summer at the cabin without her. We had our first Christmas without her. Of course, these milestones were difficult. There are also the day-by-day markers of time where you are suddenly aware that your mother is gone forever. For me, it was just a few days ago in Prince Rupert walking on a warm and surprisingly sunny day. Spring was in the air and teenagers were playing basketball in a cul de sac as I lived in and played basketball in at that age. Bam! A sudden wave of nostalgia and loss came over me. Unexpected tears ran down my face whereas moments before I was smiling and enjoying the warm ocean breeze.

Chilcotin Bones / Bison Skull. Photo: Nicola Finch

I have experienced mixed reactions talking to others about my mother. From discomfort, shared sadness, or even a change in the subject. Because of this I keep my grieving journey safe by not talking about it to many people so that I don’t make them uncomfortable. I do not judge these people. It is a reflection of our society. It is a reflection of the fear we have of death. It is a motivator for writing these articles. It is a motivator behind creating space for others who want to talk about death.

The Death Cafe was developed by Jon Underwood and his mother, Sue Barsky Reid. They were inspired by the ideas of Bernard Crettaz. Jon and Sue had their first Death Cafe in 2011 in the UK and since then the movement has spread around Europe, North America, and Australasia. The basic format of the Death Cafe is to provide a space in which people can talk freely about death while sipping tea and eating cake. The objective is to increase awareness of death with a view of helping people make the most of their (finite) lives.

The Death Cafe is a not-for-profit group that offers a confidential, respectful, and positive environment. It is not a counselling session but more of a group-centred open format where people can share stories or thoughts about their loved ones or death in general.

The Cariboo Community Deathcaring Network will be hosting a Death Cafe Wednesday, April 25 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at the Hobbit House. The Hobbit House has generously donated the space and staff to make this event possible. Coffee and tea will be provided by donation. Snacks are free. If you feel called to, please bring a small keepsake for the shrine we will be co-creating. Please RSVP a spot at nicola@rememberme.ca as there is limited space.

We hope to continue the Death Cafe movement in Williams Lake if there is enough interest in the community. We look forward to seeing you there.

Much love,
Angela

If you are interested in joining the Cariboo Community Deathcaring Network or want to RSVP to the event please write to nicola@rememberme.ca or find us on Facebook as Cariboo Community Deathcaring Network. For more information about Death Cafes, please visit deathcafe.com.

Angela’s focus in the next year will be to transition from the veterinary world into the death doula services she hopes to provide. A special interest to her is home funerals, and Green burials with respect to both animals and people. The Cariboo Community Deathcaring Network has been created in the hopes that the community finds a place to address any of their needs in regards to the dying.

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