The Current

Death cafes serve up life and death conversations

A death cafe is a place for lively conversations that confront fears of dying. What began in a basement in the U.K. is now an international movement in 35 countries, with meetings across Canada. The Current explores the slightly darker take on cafe culture.
More than 200 death cafe events have taken place across Canada. (Ken Yamaguchi/flickr cc)

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Over a cup of coffee, a little cake — and sometimes beer — people meet to talk about death and fear of dying in the death cafe.

"Death and grief should not be something that's shoved under the rug," says Mindy, an artist who attended a death cafe in Toronto. 

The Bell Jar in Toronto recently hosted their sixth death cafe. (Ines Colabrese/CBC)
 "I thought it would be refreshing to come to a place where people are clearly not scared of the topic."

Death cafes started in England and has spread to 35 countries, including Canada. 

More than 200 of these events have been held across this country. 

Jon Underwood, who started the death cafe movement, says the world would be a better place if people dealt with their fear of dying. 

"Life and death are interdependent…The best preparation for death is to have a great life, " says Underwood.

Back in the Toronto death cafe gathering, one of the attendees, Amy, reveals when she lost her fear of death — beside her dying grandfather.

"I just felt so peaceful and so calm and present. And I just thought there's nothing here to be afraid of. It definitely changed me…It was no chaos, no desperation, no fear, just a man breathing in and out."

For Underwood, death cafes have had a personal impact. "People are so precious…Working with death has helped me see people as more special when they're alive and I think that's the main gift I got out of it."

This segment was produced by The Current's Ines Colabrese.