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Death café offers place to discuss, grieve

People can gather to share tea and concerns

Jo Ingles
A central Ohio woman is inviting people to talk about death at what’s believed to be the nation’s first death café this week.  Lizzy Miles says the event is already full, and she’s taking reservations for another one next month. In an interview with Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles, Miles says she’s importing the idea from England.
Ingles report

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Miles: A death café is a pop-up event where strangers get together to talk about death, have tea and yummy desserts.

Ingles: What do people do at these death cafes? Are these terminally ill people who come to these? How do they work?

Miles: It is open to the entire community and one of the principles of the death café is there’s no ideology. So you can come if you are worried about your own death or want to talk about someone who has died and you are grieving, or you can come if you want to hear what someone else has to say and you haven’t formed your opinion yet.

Ingles: What made you want to do this? This is kind of a strange thing to think, ‘I want to do death cafes.’

Miles: I’ve worked in hospice for several years and in hospice we find so many people who even with terminal illnesses, have not had the discussion of death with their families. Their families still don’t know what they want. They don’t know what they themselves want. And with my other hospice colleagues, we all say, ‘Well, how can we get people to start talking about death sooner?’ And this is my attempt at seeing if opening the conversation to the general community will help people think about death.

Ingles: Let me try to understand how this operates. You get people together and how does this work?

Miles: It really is just an open conversation of what brought you here. We have tea, coffee, cake and I have cute little cookies that are shaped like tombstones. So there will be food, too. That’s part of it. Comfort food, when you are talking about such a serious topic like death, it’s nice to have some cookies and cake along with it.

That’s Lizzy Miles, who is hosting a death café near Columbus.  She says two facilitators will help her with the 30 people expected to gather. There will also be a death cafe specifically designed for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community in the coming months to help them deal with unique problems surrounding death. 

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“It always seems like there isn’t a right time. You don’t want to talk about death at the dinner table, soccer practice or on vacation. But eventually you have to talk about it because eventually, unfortunately, we are all going to die. So start having those conversations now before you are in crisis.”

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