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Breaking taboos in Death Cafes

No longer a matter of grave concern, cafes in South Wales are opening up their doors to allow people to talk about death.

Death Cafes have been popping up all over the world, including Cardiff. They’re designed to be a safe space for people to talk about death and mortality within a friendly environment over coffee and cake.

Discussing death over a nice coffee can make everything easier

Discussing death over a nice coffee can make everything easier

Ran on a volunteer basis, Death Cafes aim to increase awareness of death as something not to be ignored but discussed. Since 2011 there have been 3845 Death Cafes set up in 40 countries around the world, proving that people believe death should be talked about.

Liam Watson hosted Cardiff’s last Death Cafe November 13, at the Chapter Arts Centre. He said it was the first time he had hosted a Death Cafe, but felt it was important that people could discuss their thoughts and feelings freely, without fear of reproach or judgement. Having suffered loss within his own personal life, Liam understood the importance of being able to talk about death as a way to make sense of his own suffering and that keeping these thoughts to yourself only exacerbates the issue. “To make the most of life,” says Liam, “we need to talk about death. It’s as though by not talking about it, people feel they’re staving off the death process.”

Talking about death could actually make you feel more alive

Talking about death could actually make you feel more alive

Professor Jenny Kitzinger, based in Cardiff University, also believes that death needs to be discussed openly if people are ever to understand it, especially when making difficult medical decisions. She said her own interest in Death Cafes was driven by her research in catastrophic brain injuries. “My research brought home to me,” she explains, “that breaking through the taboos around talking about death and dying is increasingly important where modern medical technologies can keep people’s bodies alive long after they have lost capacity to make their own decisions.”

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