Talking death over tea and cake
Death Café coming to Haliburton offering open conversation about uncomfortable topic
By Jenn Watt
Published Jan. 17, 2017
We are all at least a bit curious about death – what comes after life, how to deal with losing someone close to us, how to plan for our own last days – but many of us avoid talking about it.
It makes others uncomfortable and it can be upsetting, but it can also be freeing to set aside the societal constraints and just have a frank chat about what comes next.
On Wednesday, Jan. 25, Haliburton’s first “Death Café” will be coming to Baked and Battered. An international movement, Death Cafés have been held in 42 countries since 2011, according to the official website.
In Haliburton, the Death Café is sponsored by Community Support Services and the local CARP chapter and will be facilitated by Yvonne Heath, author of Love Your Life to Death. It will follow the standard practices set out by Death Café founder Jon Underwood: that people gather to talk, eat cake, drink tea and chat about dying in order to enjoy their lives more. It is not a grief support group or counselling session, though those experiencing grief are welcome.
“What he [Underwood] wanted is to have a place for people to come to have conversations about death, dying, fears, questions, just open conversation [that is] non-judgmental,” says Heath.
North American culture shuns death and many people avoid talking about it, but Heath says it’s healthy to open up and let light shine on the subject.
“Talking about these things, that’s what diffuses that fear, that anxiety,” she says.
The Death Café is free and conversation will follow no set agenda. It can go any direction the group takes it. Heath says her role is simply to start the conversation and ensure everyone has a voice.
Often those who attend talks on death and dying are those who believe they are approaching their own deaths or those who have experienced the death of a loved one. However, Heath says there is no “right” age to be discussing this universal subject.
“I would love to see people of all ages there. My goal is to create a culture of change where we normalize these conversations for all generations,” she says, noting that no one knows when he or she will die. “We don’t all die of old age,” she says.
The Death Café is an inclusive event open to all adults whether you have firm ideas about death or are just curious about the event. To find out more about Death Cafés in general, go to deathcafe.com.
Yvonne Heath is the author of Love Your Life to Death and launched an audio download of the top seven take-away messages from her presentations on death and dying on Jan. 17. Go to loveyourlifetodeath.com to find the download and to read more.
The Death Café runs from 2 to 4 p.m. at Baked and Battered on Highland Street in Haliburton on Wednesday, Jan. 25. It is free. To reserve a seat, email firstname.lastname@example.org.