Death of Bernard Crettaz

Hello Death Cafe community,


Today, I feel a deep need to share something profoundly personal and significant with you all. I have been reflecting on the legacy of Bernard Crettaz, born 29 May 1938, who died on 28 November 2022 aged 84. Bernard, a visionary Swiss sociologist, founded the Café Mortels—a concept that revolutionised how we speak about death and dying.


It was an article in the Independent about Bernard's Café Mortel in Paris that inspired Jon to create something similar. That was the seed from which Death Cafe grew—a space for individuals to openly discuss death and dying in a safe and welcoming environment.


Over a year has passed since Bernard left us, and his absence is keenly felt. I've wanted to write about his death since late 2022 but perhaps struggled to find the right words. However, it feels crucial to acknowledge Bernard's death, not only because of his influence on the Death Cafe movement but also because of the deep respect Jon held for him.


Jon's journey to Switzerland to meet Bernard wasn't just a meeting; it was a pilgrimage to connect with the mind that inspired the Death Cafe concept. Jon often recalled Bernard’s warmth and his encouraging words about the idea to establish a 'real' Death Cafe in London. Bernard and his wife Elisabeth even offered to buy shares, with Bernard being part of the board for our community share project, a gesture that profoundly inspired us.


Though I regret the delay in sharing this news, today, I want to honour Bernard's memory. I’ve included some photographs from Jon's visit to Switzerland, capturing moments with Bernard, Marianne Hartley, who helped with translation, and Mdhamiri, who filmed their meeting.


Bernard's approach to death and dying, advocating for open, honest dialogue, has become the cornerstone of every Death Cafe. His vision has fostered a global movement, inspiring us to face mortality with openness and curiosity.


As we move forward in 2024, Bernard's spirit continues to infuse every Death Cafe gathering. We actually ask all Death Cafe hosts to mention that Jon was inspired by Bernard, ensuring his influence is recognised at each and every Death Cafe. Bernard’s ideas and his approach to life and death inspire us to keep these essential conversations going. His legacy lives on in our shared stories, discussions, and the tea and cake that accompany them.


In closing, I extend heartfelt gratitude to Bernard Crettaz. Without his pioneering work, the global network of Death Cafes might not exist. We are here because of his vision, and in his memory, we continue to break down the taboos surrounding death, one conversation at a time.


You can read about Jon's meeting with Bernard in a blog he wrote here: