Topics at events

Posted by Columbus Death Cafe/Lizzy Miles on March 13, 2014, 3:45 a.m. 4 comments

The Death Cafe model is unique.  One key aspect is the unstructured/anything goes format.  Some well-meaning practitioners have put together events with structure and topics in attempt to meet their perceived needs of their community.  When these events are called Death Cafes, it is frustrating to purists who want to keep Death Cafe true to its original design.  Death Cafes by definition do not have topics!  There is a win-win solution.  If you want to have topics/videos/reading assignments the Death Over Dinner model is more appropriate for you.  Both organizations have models that further death discussion and they each have their own style.  Pick the model that suits your tastes rather than trying to change the model.


As a "purist" I have to say that it is difficult to explain what a Death Cafe is to people if every Death Cafe is formatted so differently. The participants make each cafe unique enough.

I also think that when we start over-managing the events, we infuse bias. I think Lizzy hits it on the head when she wrote "perceived needs of the community" because that perception is going to be biased. By allowing the format to remain open and free, we are allowing them to be driven by the participants and what their unique needs are at that time. Furthermore, I think there is a risk of abuse when people start pushing an agenda by providing literature, bringing in speakers, etc. We also do not want to exclude any particular group and managing topics can do exactly that. We are "facilitators" not "dictators" and maybe that sounds harsh, but our role is not to dictate what people think about or discuss. I think that our role is to provide the environment to facilitate sharing.

Posted by Ashley Gage

Thanks Ashley!

So well put. What I have always loved about the Death Cafe is the uniqueness of not having an agenda because THOSE events exist all over the place. The magic of the Death Cafe is it is a totally new concept. I really don't understand why people would take something fresh and try to make it stale...

Posted by Columbus Death Cafe/Lizzy Miles

Food for thought

Lizzy, I agree, that the basic model of Death Cafe is very good. The facilitator holds the space, the ground rules are simple and everyone coming brings what they bring and together each evening a unique experience is created. Sitting around tables and sharing tea and cake. I find this is very powerful in a very gentle way.

I do death education. I host death education workshops, study days and discussion salons, and they are not stale. They are life-affirming, equally powerful and unique events, they are not pushing an agenda, they are providing a space for exploration. But these are not Death Cafes.

I do agree that it is best to keep Death Cafes as Death Cafes.

Posted by Josefine Speyer

Don't Mess with the Recipe

I have completed eight Death Cafes over the past year and continue to host as well as mentor others to be hosts in San Diego. The mentoring part is to help the hosts keep the simplicity and the model in tact as much as I can teach them too. The simplicity of the model of the Death Cafe is what makes it so appealing. I have been asked to promote certain books, topics, movies and have suggested that they create a separate event for that. I like the idea of suggesting the Death over Dinner model. The one challenge I do have is that at each DC people ask me for things like POA, POLST, DNR, etc. Usually someone will be attending that is an expert and can speak to it. It's the resourcing that folks are looking for. Have you been asked for resources and what have you done? Thanks for the clarification Lizzy on DOD and DC. Helpful.

Posted by deathcafesandiego

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