Beyond Death Cafés: Food for Thought Discussion Groups
My goal and my mission as NorthernMSW:
- Raise awareness about death and dying
- Provide training and educational opportunities for professionals and non-professionals.
- Facilitate BEYOND Death Cafés or what can be termed as Food for Thought Discussion Groups
- Work 1:1 with individuals
- Support to the dying individual, caregivers or family and this can include organization of one’s personal belongings, assistance with writing an advance care directive and will. Both will still require a notary to finalize.
- Some individuals may want a video or letters to be shared with family and friends after they die.
- Assist with memoir, life, and legacy writing.
There are Death Cafés around the world and the concept has been around for years, thanks to Jon Underwood. At a Death Café people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea, and discuss death.
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 Café or for those more familiar with the term Death Café-BEYOND Death Cafés!
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. It can be what the participants want it to be!
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.
The benefit of changing the terminology and name of the group is one is not locked into the rules and guidelines of using 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.
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 BEYOND Death Cafés: please contact me! I am looking to start a group in 2018.
Seeking space to hold BEYOND Death Cafés in the Montreal area. If one knows of a location please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org or 514-891-0725.
Victoria Brewster, MSW