The Art of Darkness

Death Cafe

July 9th, 2013 by Cobwebs

Skull TeacupIn 2012 Jon Underwood founded a not-for-profit social enterprise called Impermanence, out of a belief “that if we were more sorted about death, the world would be a much, much better place.” The organization currently has three active projects: Dying Matters, a resource site for people who expect to die within the year; Funeral Advisor, aimed at helping the consumer make informed choices about the funeral industry; and, particularly intriguing for we memento mori types, Death Cafe, gatherings where “people come together in a relaxed and safe setting to discuss death, drink tea and eat delicious cake.” Sign me up.

The stated objective of Death Cafe is “To increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives.” The Cafe isn’t a fixed location, but rather a moveable feast; Underwood has hosted several, but has also established the gatherings as a social franchise and encourages others to host their own. He and his colleagues have put together a free guide to holding a Death Cafe, with the main points being:

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

If you agree to these principles, you can have your gathering listed on the site’s schedule of upcoming events. (And, obviously, if you don’t want to hold your own meeting you can check the schedule to look for Death Cafes in your area.)

This sounds like a really interesting, convivial way to discuss a subject that many people find uncomfortable. Even if you don’t want to hew to their exact format, a tea party with death as the primary subject matter would be fascinating; subject matter could range from historical funeral customs to the meaning of symbols on gravestones.

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