We had a Death Cafe the last Friday in September! We had a great turnout given that this was a Friday evening! It was an inspiring evening, and I learned a lot from the perspective of an organizer and also a participant.
It took place at the St. Elizabeth Healthcare Community Grief Support Center....they generously provided the space and volunteers for this event, not to mention the parking and bathroom facilities!
The cake was provided by The Globe in Covington. The Globe is a new cocktail bar at 12 E. 5th Street.
The coffee and tea were provided by Bean Haus Bakery & Cafe in MainStrasse Village. Bean Haus also made the cake!
For those who have never attended a Death Cafe, these events are often intellectually and emotionally stimulating. You are eating cake, sipping a beverage, and having meaningful conversation with people you have never met before.
At our Death Cafe, we started with about 15 minutes of introductions and thank you's. Everyone introduced themselves and shared where they live. They also talked about why they were interested in attending a Death Cafe. It was nice to put names with faces and learn a little bit about everyone in attendance.
We then had three 15 minute blocks where everyone was broken up into smaller groups. During each 15 minute period, people discussed amongst themselves. At the end of each 15 minute period, people had the option to move to a new group or stay put, take a break or step outside.
The last 30 minutes we came together as one large group and talked about...what we talked about! It was nice to come together in one big group to share all that was discussed.
At the conclusion of the event, I saw people hugging. That's kind of the neat thing about Death Cafes....you arrive as strangers but leave as friends!
We plan to have more in the future. I'll share details when we get there. In the meantime, you can sign up to get the Death Cafe email newsletter here.
WHAT I LEARNED
1. People are definitely interested in this kind of thing! The day of and the day before the event I had well over a dozen emails from strangers asking about the event. I've been involved with other events.....even events much, much larger...and never had that kind of interest. So, if what is holding you back is fear that there won't be enough interest....don't worry!
2. Having an introduction period at the beginning was helpful, and name tags were exceptionally useful. The attendees came from all sorts of backgrounds, professions, cultures and neighborhoods...knowing names is the difference between a stranger and a friend.
3. The closing discussion was tremendously helpful. Some attendees had more profound discussions than others, some folks shared a lot while others mostly listened. Having a big group discussion helped everyone connect their puzzle pieces together.
4. For as much as I read about subjects within thanatology, and for all that my job exposes me to in this world, I learned a tremendous amount. We had a discussion about how our childhoods shape our belief systems about death and dying. To be able to candidly share about this with a group of strangers was refreshing and enlightening to say the least. That's one thing I definitely learned: if you are a Death Cafe organizer, you will absolutely have a meaningful experience too!
Thank you to the Cincinnati Enquirer for publicizing this event!
On each table, there were 4 discussion prompts. This really helped folks out if their group needed a discussion topic.
Here they are, for any of you in need of prompts:
- Why are people so afraid of death, given that it happens to everyone?
- What shaped your ideas about death/dying and how have they been changed?
- How does death make living better?
- Think about a loss you have had. What 'good' came out of it? (For example, maybe you learned something about yourself, or the world....what did you learn?)