Death cafe hosts have reported an increased interest during the pandemic which has made discussions about mortality more necessary than ever.
UK-based psychotherapist Sue Barsky Reid (mother of the late John Underwood who founded the death cafe movement) who facilitated the first death cafe in 2011, and now coordinates, together with her daughter Jools, is quoted as saying in a report in The Guardian: “In these difficult times, as death comes closer, it’s very important to have a forum to talk about our fears and anxieties".
Death cafe hosts worldwide have moved their events online as the interest in discussing death surges.
UK death cafe host Nicole Stanfield based in Taunton, Somerset, held two events online over a weekend recently, which was well-attended by visitors from all over England and even one from France.
Although she expresses surprise by the amount of interest and amazement at the geographical spread, Stanfield notes that it’s only natural that people would think of death at a time like this.
“We’re only going to see more death during this pandemic, so people are suddenly thinking about living wills, advanced care discussions and funeral planning,” she says in the article.
Death cafes in the US are seeing a similar surge of interest.
US death cafe host Megan Sipe-Mooney based in Missouri says that they are getting many requests on their Facebook page as people are forced to face their own mortality during the pandemic.
“There’s a huge need right now and I’m getting lots of requests on our Facebook page. I’ve been training other hosts how to host virtual death cafes and make sure tea, coffee and cake is still present.”
Unlike traditional counselling or educational sessions, death cafes offer a relaxed, casual atmosphere, with cake and coffee, as what was intended by founder Underwood.
UK death cafe host Aly Dickinson based in Exeter, England, says that conversations about death have become more practical since the pandemic.
“People realise that deaths during this pandemic won’t be what they might have envisaged. They want hard facts and information about what dying of Covid-19 is actually like,” she says. She adds that people seek information like how they will be able to register the death, having a wake remotely, and sharing grief and memories at a distance.
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