At some point in our lives, each and every one of us has a fear of death. This is completely natural. Perhaps you first thought about your mortality when you lost someone close to you as a child. Or, perhaps you started thinking about death as a teenager.
Maybe you made it through the first 6 decades of your life without worrying about your mortality, only to find yourself thinking about death more and more as an older adult.
If death is inevitable, why do we think about it so much? In my experience, our fears about death fall into a few categories.
The first set of questions that we have about death involve our own consciousness. What happens to me after I die? Is there a heaven? Will I see the people that I lost? These questions are, of course, impossible to answer with certainty, but, this doesn’t stop us from asking them.
The second set of questions involve more practical concerns. Some of us worry about what will happen to our family when we leave this planet. Others are concerned about avoiding pain in our later years.
Finally, some of us are worried about the impact that we made while we were alive. Did we say all of the things that we wanted to say? Have we reached our potential? What legacy will we leave behind?
If any of these categories sound familiar, I want to introduce you to the concept of “Death Cafés.”
I recently had the opportunity to interview Jon Underwood, the founder of the Death Café movement. During our discussion, he explains that he started the first Death Café because he wanted to give people a safe place to talk about death. He wanted to facilitate positive discussions about death. Most of all, he wanted to help us live better lives, while we still can.
Jon goes on to say that the Death Café movement was inspired by the work of Swiss psychologist, Bernard Crettaz, who started the “Café Mortal” movement, several years ago. The Death Café movement takes this concept to the next level and gives ordinary people the opportunity to start their own events.
Death Café events are intimate in their size and powerful in their scope. Typically, 10-12 people meet in a public place and share their concerns about death over tea and cake. The entire concept has become quite a sensation, with over 2,000 events being held in 32 countries.
The entire point of Death Café events is to give people the opportunity to talk about death in an open, non-emotional way. Some people will have specific concerns, which have been triggered by events in their lives. For example, they may be dealing with a partner’s cancer diagnosis or the loss of someone close to them. Others will share their concerns about death, more generally. It’s up to each participant to share the thoughts that are keeping them up at night.
Speaking only for myself, I see the value of Death Café events as helping us to shine a light on the shadowy thoughts about death that so often enter our minds. Most of us cannot “solve” the problem of death through reason and logic. In fact, many of us find that the more we think about death, the more we fear it.
Death café events help us to bring our fears into the open. When we hear our concerns out loud, the dynamic changes. When we learn that others feel as we do, we realize that we are not alone. Personally, I am looking forward to attending my first Death Café event this year. Will you join me?
Do you have a fear of death? Are your concerns metaphysical or practical? Would you ever attend a Death Café event? Why or why not? Let’s start a conversation!