Death Cafe Attracts a Crowd

Our Center hosted a “Death Cafe” on Saturday, December 15, 2018. This afternoon event, arranged and coordinated by Karen Marder and facilitated by Karen and myself, was amazingly well-attended. We expected perhaps 12 participants, but people kept coming through the door—22 in all, including a reporter from the Tampa Bay Times.

Unlike workshops or other venues for death and dying, Death Cafe has no set topics, exercises, or guest speakers. And there are “no hierarchies,” meaning that all professional identities are left at the door. The idea is that death belongs to everybody, and we are meeting simply as people who are going to die. Facilitators do not try to lead participants to any conclusions, and no particular views or beliefs or products are promoted. The general objective is to “increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives.”

The heart of the Death Cafe concept is that the agenda emerges from the group that assembles itself at the time. People are simply invited to come together to talk about death, “to explore the one subject none of us can avoid.” Importantly, this opportunity is offered along with food, notably cake and coffee or tea. (We also had cookies, cheese, crackers and grapes.)

Facilitators can give prompts if the group seems to need it. We did not need this, however; the discussion was rich, varied, and lively, and could have easily gone on beyond our 2-hour time. We were asked when we were scheduling the next Cafe! Participants ranged from professionals very familiar with death and dying to people with little experience with death. Only a little over half of the participants were attenders of our Shambhala Center.

Death Cafes in this form started in London in 2011, and thousands of them have been held world wide since. Go to for more information.