When was the last time you caught up with friends in a local cafe? What did you chat about? Did you come away with new ideas, insights or leads to follow-up on?

More often than not when we’ve sat around with friends or associates in an informal setting we have been inspired to think about something new, been referred to a new source for ideas or simply had an ‘aha’ moment.

So it’s fair to say we all love a cup of coffee and chatting with friends for these reasons and more – but have we ever sat around and talked about our own mortality or more precisely the topic of ‘death’. The answer is probably not – one movement is emerging which is encouraging such discussions in the unlikely environment of cafe and that is the ‘death cafes’ movement. What and how do Death Cafe’s work?

How Death Cafe’s help us talk about death

I’ve been following the emergence of debate on the internet about ‘Death Cafe’ a pop up phenomena originating from the UK.

The premise of these pop ups is to provide a chance for people to connect and discuss the topic of death and all that it evokes.

The death cafe movement is inspired by the objective of

“to increase awareness of guests with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives”.

Like everything in life there is of course of some rules to guide a pop-up death cafe these are

  1. they are operated on a not-for-profit basis,
  2. they are open spaces where discussion is confidential and respectful to participants
  3. there is no goal, and point or predetermined outcome expected from any discussions, and
  4. most importantly participants should enjoy a and have found at this pop-ups. (source http://deathcafe.com/what/)

Death Cafe’s are operated as part of a “social franchise”. Social franchises are similar to commercial franchises where there is an independent coordinating organisation to which you affiliate/join and adhere to their principles and an agreed approach. The significant difference between a commercial and social franchise is of course that a social franchise operates as a not-for-profit.

In this respect Death Cafe asks that when you sign up to their guide and principles you can use the term Death Cafe and share and post events on their website and can additionally “talk to the press as an affiliate of Death Cafe.”

Death cafes in aged care

So what would motivate you to initiate or join a Death Cafe?

Kate Brassington talks about her reasons for participating in a Death Cafe in this short video.


There are many reasons why someone might want to initiate or join a Death Café and they span the simple to the sublime. It could be as simple as questions satisfy the curiosity about elements of death or dying of a serious conversation about how to have a satisfactory death.

As a general rule all Death Café meetings start with some icebreaker topics that are easy to discuss and non-confrontational but still might pique your interest and generate further debate. For example, some initial discussion or icebreaker topics could be

  • what brought you here today
  • cremation versus burial
  • preferred location the time of death
  • what will be your legacy all what does it mean for you to leave a legacy
  • what songs would you like a funeral?

Once everyone is comfortable about the discussion topic and has got to know all participants then down to some serious issues around death and dying that participants want to explore. The format is open and driven by participants not the facilitator. The purpose of the icebreakers as starter questions are really just to assist if and when “getting started” appears to be difficult for the group, who after all are complete strangers.

So you want to attend a Death Cafe event?

A full list of forthcoming Death Café events can be found at their website but here is a link to the Australian forthcoming events

Death Cafe in the press

The first four articles are courtesy of the Death Cafe website

Some additional stories

Teaset image courtesy of AngiolettiDesigns on Etsy