What on earth is a death café?

A chat about life’s end over coffee and cake doesn’t sound like everyone’s cup of tea. But could it be a way to get people talking about a subject we can’t escape and is often avoided?


The thing is that people don’t just find talking about death uncomfortable – they find the idea of talking about death uncomfortable. In general, we just don’t do it.

This is what inspired Jon Underwood to create the non-profit death cafe in 2011, based on the Swiss Cafe Mortel movement. As he saw it, western society has long outsourced phentermine discussions about death to doctors, nurses, priests and undertakers. The result, says Jon, is that we have lost control of one of the most significant events we ever have to face.

He suggested to various cafes in east London his idea of setting up a place to go and talk about death, but there were no takers. So the first death cafe in the UK was in Jon’s own house in Hackney and was run by his mother, Sue Barsky Reid, a psychotherapist.

It was a great success and interest grew. The premise was simple: people go along, drink tea, eat cake and discuss death: not to be morbid, just to raise awareness and to “help people make the most of their (finite) lives”.


Excerpt from article in Guardian Mar 22 ‘14

What is a death cafe?

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