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Death Cafe

At Death Cafes people come together in a relaxed and safe setting to discuss death, drink tea and eat delicious cake.

The objective of Death Cafe is “To increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives”.

Jon Underwood founded Death Cafe in 2011 based on the work of Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz. Bernard offered ‘Cafe Mortels’ in Switzerland and France. Jon read of this in a newspaper article in November 2010. Jon was already developing a project to get people talking about death and immediately knew that Bernard’s vision clicked with his.

Death Cafe is part of a set of projects by Jon about death and dying called Impermanence.

The first Death Cafe took place in Jon’s basement in the UK in September 2011 and was facilitated by Sue Barsky Reid. Following this, Sue developed a model for running Death Cafes that have been used ever since. This involves creating a safe, convivial setting where discussions are led by the group.

Death Cafe UK have subsequently held Death Cafes in the Royal Festival Hall, a yurt, cool cafes and other people’s houses, and will shortly be holding their 100th Death Cafe. Around 1,000 people have so far attended a Death Cafe across England, Wales, the U.S., Canada, Australia and Italy. The events have invariably been very special and feedback has been fantastic.

The Death Cafe model has been established as a ‘social franchise’. This means that anyone with the skills and experience can host one if they sign up to our principles. These are that Death Cafes are always offered:

  • On a not for profit basis (though to be sustainable we try to cover expenses through donations and fundraising)
  • With no intention of leading participants towards any particular conclusion, product or course of action
  • In an accessible, respectful and confidential space, free of discrimination
  • Alongside refreshing drinks and nourishing food – and cake!

We encourage hosts to let their communities know a Death Cafe does not constitute a bereavement support or grief counselling setting, especially not for people who have experienced a very recent and/or traumatic loss or death. This is partly in an effort to sustain Death Cafes as comfortable, relaxed and openly exploratory spaces, as well as to respect continuity of existing bereavement resources.

In February 2012 a guide to running your own Death Cafe was produced, which is available via www.deathcafe.com. This has prompted other people to start their own Death Cafes, the first of whom was Lizzy Miles in Columbus, Ohio. The Central Coast Death Cafe has utilised this model and the first ever Death Cafe on The Central Coast was run on Thursday 13th June at Hatters Tea House in Ettalong. 22 people attended!

I personally stumbled across Death Cafe whilst searching the web to see what death-focused work was going on around the world. As soon as I saw it, I knew that it was the first of many things that I wanted to do to help change the way we do death in Australian culture.

If you would like to get involved with Central Coast Death Cafe please contact me via the contacts tab or kim@pickledtink.com.au. You may want to attend or help host a Death Cafe, or send me something for our  “Death Cafe Central Coast” Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/groups/deathcafecentralcoast/. Either way we’d love to hear from you 🙂


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