Colliers Wood Death Cafe online meeting 29 March 2020
There were 27 of us present for most of our first virtual Death Café hosted on Zoom!
Many of us had not attended a Death Café before. Some had been meaning to for a long time, but found that timings and journeys were hard to manage alongside ‘normal’ life. The extraordinary circumstances created by Covid-19 brought us together…
I began the meeting by giving a brief history of the Death Café movement, and outlining the proposed format for the discussion before we all checked-in. We were joined by people calling from the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Hungary, Washington DC, and Orlando FL.
On the call were several End of Life Doulas, therapists, GPs, hospice staff and volunteers, a funeral director and a humanist celebrant.
Themes to emerge from our discussion:
The prevalent feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. How can we best look after ourselves and others during these extremely challenging times? How essential it is to first put on our own oxygen masks before seeking to assist others.
The reality of the anxiety and trauma we are all, as a collective, vulnerable to at the moment.
The value of emotional expression. The importance of finding places, spaces, and people where it feels possible and safe to talk honestly and openly.
The benefits of simple daily mindfulness and gratitude practices: finding one achievement, enjoyment, and connection each day.
The creativity the current crisis is calling on us to find: developing or reconnecting with rituals to help us support ourselves and those we may be supporting at the end of their life. Funerals and memorials moving online. Getting to creative to support ourselves and those we care about to grieve and mourn. Meeting the specific needs of neurodiverse individuals and families.
A beautiful dog made a brief appearance for part of the call reminding us of the role pets can play in bringing comfort to many who would otherwise feel isolated and alone.
Maintaining and developing contact and connection whilst socially distancing or in self isolation. Writing letters to loved ones whilst they are in hospital/nursing care homes/hospice if visits are not permitted or are limited. Recording voice notes, or letters, and maybe exchanging these with those who are receiving care. The value of having one’s phone (and its charger) whilst in hospital/at hospice.
Using somatic grounding exercises to manage anxiety: noticing and using the senses to locate how the body is responding.
Recognising spiralling thoughts, and ‘What if’ thinking… Interrupting unhelpful patterns of mind, and distracting.
The importance of recognising and validating feelings – our own, and others’.
The variety of responses to Covid-19:
Those nearing the end of their life maybe welcoming it; not wanting to take up precious bed spaces; feeling themselves to be a burden, or in the way.
Those who remain complacent about the virus and the guidelines we have been given to stay home and keep travel to a minimum.
The relevance of our conversation and weaving our parachutes before we need to jump! Thinking about how to support those who may feel less comfortable talking about death to come along to a Death Café.
I extended the scheduled time by 30 minutes to allow all those who wanted to the opportunity to contribute to the discussion.
I will post future meeting dates on the Facebook page and deathcafe.com website shortly.
With many thanks to all who took part.
Resources highlighted during our meeting:
With The End in Mind: Dying, Death and Wisdom in an Age of Denial, by Katherine Mannix.
Psychology Tools’ Guide to Living with Worry and Anxiety amidst Global Uncertainty, by Dr. Matthew Whalley & Dr. Hardeep Kaur:
(A mixture of psychoeducation about normal and excessive worry, lots of normalization, and a selection of practical exercises that anyone can use to manage worry and maintain well-being in these uncertain times.)
Jon Kabat-Zinn’s work and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
Support from End of Life Doula UK, including telephone helpline:
Hello Cecilia, my name is Michael Singer and I’d like to attend the next online colliers wood desk café next week.
Please can you tell me the meeting ID and if applicable, password?
With thanks and kind regards,
Posted by Michael Singer