Death Café: Talking Death Over Coffee and Cake

Categories: Community Engagement.

Despite its ominous title, the evening event is not only talking about death and dying but an intimate chat about the difficult topics we often avoid facing in our day to day lives. In a quiet café, over cake and coffee, it includes an opportunity to discuss grief and loss, death and dying but also life and living. The vision behind the death café model is to increase discussion about death and normalize dialogue around a milestone in life that we will all eventually reach. Their objective is “to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives.” For close to five years, Death Cafés have been popping up all over the world. The Death Café model was first developed by Jon Underwood and Sue Barsky Reid in 2011, with the first café held in Jon’s house in Hackney, East London, UK. Death Café is a social franchise. This means that people who sign up to use their guide and principles can use the name Death Café, post events to the website and talk to the press as an affiliate of Death Café.

Each Death Café Ottawa event gathers a variety of people from all walks of life – young and old – and each person brings their own unique experiences to the discussion. In small tables of four or five people, they share, listen, and connect with openness and compassion and without judgement. Participants discuss a range of topics from their own mortality to the loss of loved ones, from suicide to thoughts of the afterlife, and funeral ceremonies to celebrations of life.  All in hopes of erasing the taboo around death and end of life and continuing conversations like these outside of the cafés. 

In attendance last week, were two representatives from the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association that shared in the discussions and also provided some valuable information about Advance Care Planning and how to start the conversation about end-of-life care.

For more information about Death Café or to host your own café, visit their website, For more information about Advance Care Planning in Canada, visit

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