What are Death Cafes?

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Making decisions about funerals at funeral homes may be the result of attending a death café. In Western society, people have distanced themselves so much from death and dying as a natural part of life that they have become something to be afraid of and to avoid at all costs.

Modern medicine is focused on delaying the aging process and extending life as far as possible. Elderly people are moved into retirement communities, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes where strangers provide the majority of their interaction and care in the final years of their lives. Many people with terminal illnesses die in hospitals or hospices instead of at home.

All of these things coalesce to make dying and death something foreign to our everyday experiences. As a result, because we don’t experience death as part of life, like people before the 1950’s did, we’ve become afraid of what we don’t know.

Death cafes are aiming to change that fear into powerful knowledge. The goal is to talk openly about dying, not only in a physical sense, but in an emotional, mental, and spiritual sense. By having these discussions, asking questions, expressing concerns, and admitting fears, the stigma and mystery around death is removed. People become comfortable with talking about and planning for their own deaths.

Food and drinks are always served at death cafes. It may seem ironic to eat while talking about death and dying, but the premise of a death café is that the body needs to be nourished while it is alive, but the brain needs to be preparing for the time when it’s not.

Death cafes had their birth in 2004. Swiss anthropologist and sociologist Bernard Crettaz founded Café Mortel to make a space for a comfortable discussion of death. He modeled the format on the European tradition of gatherings that discussed philosophical topics over coffee.

It’s important to understand what death cafes are not. They are not grief counseling sessions. They are not support groups. Instead, what they are in an informal meeting, open to anyone who’d like to attend, to discuss anything related to death and dying.

The objective of death café events is to face mortality head-on and then decide how to live the best life possible between now and that last breath. What matters is not so much how we die, but instead how we lived.

Part of how we live is how we plan for the end of our lives. Some people end up in unresponsive states without anyone in their families knowing what they would want in terms of life support. Families left with making the choices often run up medical bills because they don’t know what to do. A living will is all it takes to give your loved ones peace of mind.

Many people don’t get around to drawing up wills or documenting the type of funeral they want, either. This, too, puts a tremendous amount of stress on the family, when they are already overwhelmed with shock and grief because there are so many decisions that need to be made in a short period of time with funeral preparations. Additionally, without a will, assets are immediately turned over to the court for probate (a judge decides, after debts are paid, how assets are distributed) and the family has no way to meet any financial obligations left by the deceased.

Talk about death. Prepare for death. Live like you’re dying.

If you need more information funeral planning at funeral homes, our empathetic and knowledgeable staff at Hopler & Eschbach Funeral Home can assist you. You can stop by our funeral home at 483 Chenango St., Binghamton, NY 13901, or you can contact us today at (607) 722-4023.