death dying, Education, End-of-Life, Grief/Grieving/Bereavement, Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

Food for Thought Discussion Groups

Food for Thought Discussion Groups

Just reading the name Death Café makes me wonder if that phrase encourages attendance or scares people away? I have come up with a term that is more inviting and open to interpretation: Food for Thought Discussion Groups.

To me, these groups would be for those 18+ and focus on discussions, but the topic can be anything related to death, dying or end of life with no specific guidelines or rules. The group could be geared to teenagers as well. The groups would go as the participants wish. It can be a peer support group for those who have had family members, close friends, patients/clients or pets die. It can be a group to focus on various topics; writing a will, advance care directives, training opportunities, raising awareness of the topic and subjects of death and dying. It could include guest speakers i.e., a funeral home director could come and discuss arranging a funeral and what is involved. A lawyer or notary could come to discuss the benefits of writing a will and/or an advance care directive. Perhaps resources are needed, referrals, networking; the list could include notaries, lawyers, counselors, social workers, psychologists, and grief and bereavement specialists. It could involve board games and trivia questions to get discussions flowing. It can be just general discussions on the topics of death, dying, and end of life.

The name comes from the first book, Journey’s End: Death, Dying, and End of Life as we ended it with a chapter titled: Food for Further Thought. Has a nice ring to it, eh? (Yes, that is a Canadian expression!) We hope individuals, whether a professional or non-professional are willing to try a group once before saying ‘no way’ or at least come and see what it is all about.

This is my goal and my mission as NorthernMSW, raising awareness about death and dying, provide training and educational opportunities for professionals and non-professionals, facilitate discussion groups, assist with memoir, life, and legacy writing, make referrals as needed, working 1:1 with individuals, support to the dying individual, caregivers or family and can include organization of one’s personal belongings and assistance with writing an advance care directive and will. Both will still require a notary to finalize. Some individuals may want a video to be shared with family and friends after they die or they have letters they want written to be shared after.

The benefit of changing the terminology and name of the group is one is not locked into the rules and guidelines of the Death Café term. The Death Café model is an agenda-free discussion, with the topics determined by attendees. This excludes events with themes, menus of topics and guest speakers. The Death Café model doesn’t include having specific topics, set questions and (in particular) guest speakers. One is asked not to have these at their Death Cafés. Their view is that, when it comes to death, people have enough to discuss already.

There are Death Cafés around the world and the concept has been around for years. At a Death Café people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea, and discuss death.  A special thank you to Jon Underwood for its creation. May his memory be for a blessing as he died on June 27, 2017. My sincere condolences to his family.

They have 2 models; Cafe model. This is when there is a facilitator with the group throughout the discussion. In this case, the ideal group size is between 6 and 12 people. Generally, 3 would be a minimum group size and 20 a maximum.

Salon model. This is when the groups are self-facilitating. Generally, the facilitator/s would give an introduction and then float between groups when needed. This works better for large Death Cafes. In this case, the group size would generally be between 4 and 8 people.

I admire the concept, the structure, but as a social worker I believe we need to be flexible and fluid when it comes to criteria and rules. I like to ‘think outside the box’ and go where individuals are interested in going….to me, the skies the limit as the expression goes.

If you are in the Montreal, Canada area and are interested in attending a Food for Thought Discussion group please contact me!

I am looking to start a group in January of 2018. Donation suggested of $5. Seeking space to hold a Food For Thought discussion group locally. or 514-891-0725.


Victoria Brewster

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