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Death Cafe Movement Grows In San Diego

Death Cafe Movement Grows In San Diego

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Death — we fear it, tell jokes about it, work to stay healthy to postpone it and see it on TV nearly every day. But we usually don't discuss it and certainly not with a group of strangers.

That's why Death Cafes break most of the rules of polite society when they urge people to talk about death, dying and what might lie beyond.

The cafes are an idea that started in England several years ago as a way "to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives," according to the website.

Now there are death cafes around the globe including here in San Diego.

Karen Van Dyke started a death cafe in San Diego in May 2013 because she thought it would be helpful to participants. They are informal gatherings held in various locations.

“Talking about dying helps people to prepare for their own or other family members’ passing so that they live life more fully,” Van Dyke said. “The Death Cafe breathes life into the topic of death.”

Van Dyke said the majority of the participants are between the ages of 45 and 60, and each death cafe typically attracts about 25 people. The 25 or so people then break into smaller groups to answer questions like, "Where do you want your remains to go?" or "How do you want to be buried?"

"It's simply a place where intelligent people come together to talk about death over tea and cake," Van Dyke told KPBS Midday Edition on Monday.

Scott Masters, who has attended the death cafes, said the group attracted him because he wanted to stop living in denial against the idea of death.

"It's been a real need because, in my family, we didn't talk about this," Masters said. "Society doesn't talk about this. For me, it's real intimate because we are all going there."

"Death is a topic we should not be afraid to talk about because it truly is a part of life," said Alexis Pearce, a board certified chaplain and grief counselor with Silverado Hospice. "Our hope is that people will leave the discussion with a positive outlook on life by sharing their personal feelings and experiences."

Van Dyke said there are now more than 1,000 Death Cafes in 23 different countries.


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