Death Café: Food for Thought
By Kate Hambleton, Staff Nurse
‘Food for thought’, ‘Enlightening’, ‘Great to be part of the discussion’ were just some of the comments from over 50 people who attended a recent Death Café at St Joseph’s Hospice, on Thursday 5th February 2015.
Nurses, artists, writers, psychotherapists and funeral directors as well as hospice patients and staff were amongst the crowd who attended the event, held as part of a day dedicated to encouraging openness and dialogue about death and dying.
They all came together to join in the conversation with the shared certainty - we are all going to die someday.
This large response to the Death Cafe demonstrates an appetite for a forum where talking about death is welcomed.
Talking about death
We broke into smaller groups to allow for more intimate sharing. Everyone was encouraged to share or just to listen, whatever they felt most comfortable with. Some people were living with terminal diagnosis – aware that they were running out of time. Others were there for different reasons, having lost loved ones and trying to understand what death is all about. Other people were there to try and understand how to support someone who is dying.
Dying for a cuppa
Over tea and cake we talked about a variety of topics including:
- the desire for an easy and perhaps comical death;
- the difficulty of seeing physical and mental deterioration and suffering;
- being present at the moment of death;
- how we talk about those who have died;
- how we might broach the subject and discuss death with close relatives who are either facing their own death or that of a close family member; and
- contemplations of what might happen after death.
It was a joy to hear the moving sharing of heartfelt stories, the shared inquiry of what is present in the group and the pearls of wisdom gained from experience.
Death is not always a light hearted or easy subject matter yet the willingness to speak and listen respectfully brings a sense of community as we scratch the surface of the depths of our shared humanity.
Where do we go from here?
Feedback from the event showed a desire for more opportunities to talk about death and dying, in both Death Cafes and even in cancer support groups. Others asked for similar events to be held in other languages, so more people could join in.
We hope to offer another Death Café as part of Dying Matters week in May.
This Death Cafe was facilitated by Staff Nurse Kate Hambleton and Nurse Consultant, Nigel Dodds who both work at St Joseph’s Hospice.