Drink Tea and Talk Death: How to Host a Death Café

Unless you’ve been hiding under a social media rock, you’ve probably heard about Death Cafés.

A Death Café is an event where people hang out and talk about death and dying,  usually at a coffee shop, and usually over coffee and treats.

According to the official Death Café website, the official definition 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. 

Since its inception in 2011, the eyebrow-raising concept has grown into a worldwide phenomenon.

We see Death Cafés as a beautiful way to weave your community together, and position yourself as a trusted thought leader. Here are a few reasons to consider putting one together in your local community:

 

#1: Death Cafés create community in a time when we are all feeling isolated and separated from each other.

Whether we like it or not, we need each other…Community is an important aspect of mental health. And chances are, you are in touch with so many folks who are likely needing some community support. 

 

#2: Death Cafés offer funeral businesses an opportunity for leadership

Let’s face it: as a funeral professional, it can be a struggle to become a thought leader in the community. And the first step to becoming a thought leader is to get on the ground, talking with folks about things you’re an expert in, in a way that they can receive. For the first time ever, possibly, people WANT to talk about Death. So join them in that!

 

#3: Death Cafés are a perfect alternative for those who resist support groups or therapy

For those who are resistant to traditional therapy or support groups, Death Cafés give you an opportunity to support those who need it in a non-formal way. A Death Café is simply a conversation. Not a therapy session. And it’s arguable that you can get just as much, if not more, from Death Cafés than you can from talking at a therapist for an hour.

 

#4: Death Cafés provide solace around a topic many of us are facing now

With the pandemic still roaring, many of us have had to face the topic of death, right in the eyes. And, because of the pandemic, we don’t always have the opportunity to be with family or loved ones before, during, or after death. Death Cafés provide a safe space for these unspoken words around a topic that is inherently life altering. As a funeral professional, this is a great space to hold for your local community.

 

Inspired to host your own Death Café? Here’s some of our tips for doing so:

 

Hosting a Death Cafés

Hosting a Death Café is something you can do as a funeral home to offer a safe, supportive place for people in your community to connect and talk about tough topics. It’s a fun, casual environment where people are encouraged to talk openly without fear of judgement. 

We checked out the official Death Café handbook and read the instructions for holding one. Here are a few things to consider if you’re thinking about hosting your own:

  • You must have a facilitator to keep things on track. This can be you, or someone on your staff. The facilitator is there to make sure the discussions stay positive and civil. The idea is to give everyone a chance to speak without feeling judged or disrespected. Facilitators can also help keep discussions going if they stall by offering interesting topic prompts or asking questions. 

 

  • If your Death Café is in-person, serve tasty treats! One of the running themes with a lot of Death Café menus is cake, but you can serve whatever you think people would enjoy most. 

 

  • Do not allow obviously intoxicated individuals to participate. It’s up to you whether to allow alcoholic refreshments at your event, but it’s advisable that you ask everyone to keep things moderate.  

 

  • Keep in mind that a Death Café is not meant to be a support group or counseling-type experience. You can certainly offer to connect people in need of those things with the appropriate resources, but the Death Café is not the place for those discussions.

 

  • Never, ever sell stuff to people at a Death Café. Using these events as a venue for selling any kind of product or service is totally counter to the whole philosophy behind the concept. By hosting the event, you are positioning your brand in a positive light, and in turn, when the need for funeral services arises, people will naturally think of you first!

 

  • Guest speakers, presentations, and informational materials are strongly discouraged. This is because Death Cafés are not for giving out particular information; they are for allowing conversations to happen. The idea is that too much structure or pre-conceived agenda takes away from the ability for people to feel empowered and comfortable enough to join in the discussion. You don’t want your guests feeling like an audience instead of active participants. 

 

  • Never lead guests toward any kind of solution, conclusion, or belief system. This might sound redundant, but it’s super duper important that it’s kept as a totally open forum. 

 

  • There is no hierarchy in a Death Café. Participants are encouraged to meet one another on the equal footing of simply being humans who will one day die. You are asked not to use your work title or act in any professional capacity. This can be tough for those who work in the industry, but you’ve got to leave your Funeral Director card at the door if you want to stay true to the principles of the Death Café. 

 

  • The idea of the Death Café is to be a safe and inclusive place for all. That doesn’t mean you can’t hold one specifically for a certain group or community. Death Cafés have been held particularly for young people, elderly people, homeless people, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and many other groups.

 

  • Typically, Death Cafés do not include children. However, some groups have chosen to allow some kids into the discussion. If you do this, make sure all participants are aware that a child will be involved so they can decide if they are okay with that. Some people may not feel comfortable opening up in front of kids. Also, it’s usually not a good idea for babies or very young kids to be present. They’re not old enough to participate meaningfully, and it would be a distraction to everyone else. 

 

  • Death Cafés are always to be offered free of charge. You can absolutely ask for a donation if you’d like, but there is never a “fee.” 

 

Hosting an in-person or online Death Café is a great way to be more active in your community and show that you’re hip to the changing ways people talk about mortality. 

Are you interested in hosting one? Have you been hosting one and want to share your experience? Tell us in the comments below!

Rochelle Rietow

funeralOne

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