Death anxiety and death cafes



Following the recent and sudden death of Jon Underwood, I wanted to write something on a personal level about Death Cafe and it's life changing importance. Please feel free to share. (NB : the young woman mentioned in the piece gave me her express permission to publish this) :

It was September 2011 when I noticed a tiny ad in my local paper, Hackney Gazette, for the very first Death Cafe which was to take place in Jon Underwood’s house facilitated by his mum. I was excited and intrigued by this curious new thing... this *death cafe* , I immediately emailed a friend, also with an interest in death, to share this news. It was almost a year later however that I actually made it to my first death cafe, facilitated by Jon, and I became totally hooked.

Having suffered from pathological death anxiety (I choose the word pathological specifically, as this fear impacted me in a very negative way for the first half of my life) and that first pop up Death Cafe was a coming home for me. Finally...  real people talking about Death in a real way ! I immediately became an active participant in the death cafe scene, eventually running my own Death Cafe in Finsbury Park.

Recently I met a young woman at my death cafe..it was her first DC experience, and she too was suffering from pathological death anxiety, to the point (she confided later) that she had almost not made it through the door.

We were introduced during the break, as she had been sitting on a separate table to me, and many tears were shed as she shared her fears with me. 

For both of us, meeting each other was like meeting ourselves...for me, the terrified girl that was now in my past, and for her ... a possible older self in a potentially more livable future. It was a very intense meeting for both of us. It is an amazing thing when you meet another that resonates with a very deep hidden part of yourself. Here was I now - the person that I really needed back then. 

Could this have happened outside of the death cafe ? ...probably but it probably would have taken so much longer. I am 58 years old and she was the first person I have met that seemed to be suffering as terribly as I had, at the same age. She is now coming back to the Death cafe each month, in a gradually more empowered and curious state of mind, which is incredible. She continues to amaze me. To turn and face one’s darkest fear is one of the bravest things a person can do.

Although I have been talking about death for many years, to anyone that will engage on such a taboo topic, I have recently started to talk more specifically about what I used to refer to as *my death phobia* or *my demons* , and interestingly, as I disclose my own past fears around death, I am finding that people I meet start to own their own extreme fears around death. I believe there are many many of us out there.

The Death cafe movement has been a long time coming, and it’s healing ripples are being felt everywhere as people open up in truth and authenticity. I have yet to meet a person who is inauthentic when talking about their feelings around death. Death cafes are places of truth, which is why I love them so much.

A deep bow to the spirit of Jon Underwood for creating such a valuable movement, and teaching us how to talk about death.


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