Death might be the only thing we all have in common, but for a lot of Australians, mortality is still a taboo subject. Yet there’s plenty of reasons why talking about the inevitable is not only rewarding, but essential. That’s why death cafés are encouraging people to open up about end of life issues and start breaking the silence around death.
The death café movement started in Switzerland, known as Café Mortel. Jon Underwood brought the idea to the UK in 2011 and the death café has now spread across the world, to Europe, the US, South America and Australia.
The premise is simple: groups of people meet up in local coffee shops to talk about death. You don’t need to be coming to the end of your life to attend – all you need is a willingness to chat about the big questions in life. These can include everything from end-of-life care and funeral options, to experiences with loss and how to cope with grief.
Death cafés are not designed to be like group therapy sessions. If you need professional bereavement support, it’s best to speak to a qualified counsellor or therapist. Death cafés are more casual and deal with death more generally. They usually have a relaxed atmosphere, where everyone is encouraged to speak their mind and let the conversation flow naturally.
That’s not to say death cafés can’t be therapeutic though – there’s plenty of benefits to broaching the taboo. Talking about death can help you prepare for the future, both practically and emotionally. Apart from helping you think about important things like writing a will, planning for medical care or making financial provisions, it can improve emotional wellbeing.
Psychiatrist Irvin Yalom discussed the benefits of talking about mortality as a way of treating patients’ anxiety, particularly when that anxiety is death-related. More generally, being aware of how little time you have left can make you savour every moment and appreciate what is truly important to you.
If you want to start talking about life’s big questions, you can check www.deathcafe.com for forthcoming death café locations across Australia and beyond.