Talk to explore
Talk to explore your thoughts about death and dying with others—friends, family, strangers even.
- Death Café — “At a Death Café people drink tea, eat cake and discuss death. The aim is to increase awareness of death to help people make the most of their (finite) lives.” Find a café happening near you. The Ithaca Death Café is hosted quarterly. We normally post the dates on the Death Café website. However, when we went virtual during the pandemic, we only advertise to our Death Cafe list. Email us at email@example.com if you’d like to be on the list.
- Death Over Dinner — “The dinner table is the most forgiving place for difficult conversation. The ritual of breaking bread creates warmth and connection, and puts us in touch with our humanity. It offers an environment that is more suitable than the usual places we discuss end of life.” Gather family and friends to have dinner and talk about death. This site will take you through simple steps of preparing yourself and your guests to have a fruitful conversation.
Talk to share and inform
Talk to share your wishes for end-of-life care with your health care proxy, family and loved ones. Don’t forget to share your wishes for the final disposition of your body.
- The Conversation Project — Dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care. “…no guide and no single conversation can cover all the decisions that you and your family may face. What a conversation can do is provide a shared understanding of what matters most to you and your loved ones. This can make it easier to make decisions when the time comes.”
- This lovely TED talk by Michelle Knox offers a compelling argument for why you should talk about death while you’re still healthy.
Still need convincing that talking is the right thing to do?
- The Town Where Everyone Talks About Death
- Talking Early About How Life Should End
- Talking About End-of-Life Decisions Won’t Kill You
- Why don’t we talk about death?
A little bit about the Ithaca Death Café
The first Café in Ithaca was in 2013 and it’s still going strong. Every café has a mix of new and returning participants with 15 to 30 people sitting in small groups, each with a facilitator. And, of course, we eat cake and drink tea.
We start from the perspective that death belongs to everyone and we are meeting simply as people who are going to die. Those who work around death and dying are asked to leave their professional identities at the door.
With no agenda beyond “bringing death out of silence,” the conversations wander through the landscape of our experiences of death and dying, our fears and beliefs, and our preparations for our own deaths—be they practical, philosophical, or spiritual.
One table explores the idea of green burial, while another is deep in debate about medical aid-in-dying and a third is telling ghost stories. On another occasion one table talks about how their exposure to death as children (or lack thereof) colored their current attitudes, while another table is discussing the merits of having a gravestone for others to visit versus incorporating their ashes in a fireworks display.
The Death Café serves as a container to hold what needs to be spoken or felt about death by the people in the room on that day, making each Café unique. There’s curiosity, nervousness, laughter, sadness, and the occasional sugar rush! Feedback from participants notes how useful it is to have the space to speak on a taboo topic, to hear others’ views and to be heard, and the value of meeting kindred spirits and feeling part of a community.