- Do you avoid the subject of death?
- Do you dismiss your children’s questions about death?
- Do you know why you avoid any conversation about death?
- What's the worst thing that could happen if you speak about death?
One of the first people to speak publicly about death was Dr. Elisabeth Kübler Ross. Read about Elisabeth's pioneering work in this Time magazine article “The Woman Who Made Death a Conversation Starter.”
In the mid-1960's she interviewed dying patients who were willing to talk about their experience for the benefit of medical students. Life magazine subsequently ran an article about these interviews entitled, “A Profound Lesson for the Living,” which you can read by clicking on the title.
Elisabeth believed that facing our mortality is what truly enables us to live more fully. She wondered why out of sheer natural curiosity we do not speak more often about death since it is one of the few certainties of life. The sad thing is that many of us do not think or talk about death till it comes close to us due to illness or the death of someone close. But it does not have to be that way.
In recent times media reports tend to move away from using the word ‘death’. The term more commonly used is 'passed away' or something similar. Since the word death is universally understood and adequate when speaking about the end of physical life there is no obvious need to change the term.
Having met Elisabeth my interest is in following her example by trying to make it easier for people to speak about death. I work with individuals or groups to help them start a conversation about death in a sensitive, safe and ethical way.
A ‘Death Café’ is a lot more enjoyable than it sounds! In this format I invite people to come together as a group over tea or coffee and we talk about death. My job is to make sure everyone is safe and heard and that no one person dominates the conversation. This is a very different sort of process to counselling or group therapy.
Below are some of the comments from people who participated.
- ‘I never thought a ‘Death Café’ could be so enjoyable’
- ‘Hosting a ‘Conversation Café’ about death with my family was a very healing experience. We couldn’t have done it on our own. Mary’s non-intrusive and skilled help made the difficult things we needed to speak about possible. We shall be forever grateful to her.’
- ‘The experience was invigorating and life-giving.’
- ‘We were surprised to learn that there was no real need to avoid the subject of death. It was such a relief to finally speak about it.’
- ‘All I can say is that it was a transformative learning experience thanks to Mary’s help.’
When the fear of death is lessened by speaking about it in a safe and well facilitated environment people are often relived at being able to address important practical matters that were put on the long-finger beforehand. Every time we realise that our time on earth is limited our priorities often fall into a different kind of order.
Mary launched ‘Conversation Café Ireland’ in October 2015 to encourage conversations that matter. The name describes a process that involves more than a casual conversation. A Conversation Café provides a taste of what can happen when people really communicate and feel heard. The process can be adapted to suit all kinds of situations and diverse groups of people. Contact Mary to discuss your needs and it will flow naturally from there - talking to Mary is the first step whatever you are thinking of.
The ‘Conversation Café’ process is structured along established ethical principles in such a way as to allow the organic nature of an authentic human conversation to happen. The aim is to support and encourage the flourishing of each human person through the process of an ordinary conversation that can accommodate the extraordinary.