fbpx

About Psychic Matters Podcasts

Ann Théato, International Psychic Medium and Spiritual Tutor, investigates psychic development, mediumship techniques, and paranormal science, so that you can come to understand your own innate psychic ability and expand your knowledge, whilst learning to develop a curious mind.

PROUD TO BE A TOP PSYCHIC PODCAST!

TOP 45 PSYCHIC PODCASTS YOU MUST FOLLOW IN 2022!

 

This Week’s Episode

“It’s not always gloomy or sorrowful, there’s lots of laughter.  There are funny things that happen around death & dying that people bring to the Death Café, so you may have a group that laughs a lot, rather than weeps, or you can do both within the space of time.  The feedback is overwhelmingly positive.  There’ve been over 14,000 Death Café’s in 82 different countries, it’s incredible and I think that’s testament to what a good idea it is.” – Susan Barsky Reid

 

 

 

PM 074
WHAT IS A DEATH CAFE?

My wonderful guest today is Susan Barsky Reid, who modelled an enterprise called The Death Café, which she founded in 2011, alongside her wonderful son, Jon Underwood.
The objective of Death Café is to help us all make the most of our finite lives. Death is one of the great social taboos of our time and Death Café gatherings tend to be joyful occasions. 
Jon & Susan’s work has brought huge comfort to tens of thousands of people across the world, assisting us all in being courageous and in knowing it’s okay to discuss our feelings and emotions around death and dying, however they may manifest for us.

 

You’ll Learn

 

  • What happens at a Death Café?

  • What is its purpose?

  • Who goes to a Death Café?

  • How often is a Death Café held?

  • How to attend a Death Café.

  • Why we should have honest conversations around death.

  • Why death is one of the great social taboos of our time.

  • How society could engage more positively with death.

  • The Facilitator’s role in grief discussion.

Thank you for listening!

Why not share it now

Or ask a question over on Psychic Matters! Podcast Facebook page

Episode 74 Resources

Here are some resources referred to in Episode 74, which you may find helpful.

Death Café website

Jon Underwood – YouTube

Bernard Crettaz

Life At Death’s Door written and narrated by Ann Théato & Steve Spence

Thanks for listening.

Why not share it now?

Or ask a question over on Psychic Matters! Podcast Facebook page

TRANSCRIPT

Ann

Hello everybody my name is Ann Théato and welcome to Episode 74 of the Psychic Matters podcast!  

I’m sure you are all wondering how did you do in the People’s Choice Podcast Awards?  Well, we didn’t win this year.  BUT we were in the final ten, so for that I am eternally grateful, and it does mean we qualify for a trophy this year, which is lovely.  Slightly pricey so I might not buy it but never mind, I don’t need a trophy.  All nominees in the final slate were asked to make a video of an acceptance speech in case we did win, so I am going to post that on our Psychic Matters FB group page, even though we haven’t won the award, just so that you can see what I would have said if we did win – so go over to Facebook and join the Psychic Matters FB group!  And of course, we’ll all try again next year. 

Meanwhile, I’ve got this beautiful Begonia plant in my green house.  As you know, if you’ve listened to this podcast regularly, I’ve broken my leg and so trips to the greenhouse, which is right at the end of my garden, have not been frequent because frankly, I can’t walk, it’s rather hard! But I was up there a couple of days ago and there is an incredibly, bright red Begonia in a pot – it is stunning – the colour of it would take your breath away.  It is this beautiful scarlet, scarlet red, it’s stunning.  It’s blooming away and here’s the thing, there is no-one is there to admire it. No-one will ever see it.  Only me, if I’m able to hobble to the greenhouse.  The fact that no-one admires it, is immaterial to that little Begonia.  It is blooming anyway.  It is fulfilling its purpose anyway.  Admiration is not part of its life purpose.  It doesn’t feel less than if someone doesn’t admire it.  And it really reminded me the other day, not just of this podcast award, I suppose, but of each of our individual soul journeys.  We’re not here to impress other people, to be admired or to feel accepted or less than if someone doesn’t approve of how we are fulfilling our life’s purpose.  We just are. We are here to fulfil our own unique soul promise and other people’s admiration or lack of it, should NEVER be a reason that we stunt our own progress.

So Psychic Matters will continue along its path, and I will continue along mine, and you will continue along yours, because that is what we are all here to do, regardless.

On to this week’s episode where I’m exploring having conversations around death and dying.  My wonderful guest today is Susan Barsky Reid, who modelled an enterprise called The Death Café, which she founded in 2011 alongside her wonderful son, Jon Underwood.  As of today, there have been 14,732 Death Café’s held in 82 different countries.   It seems people across the world are very keen to talk about death and many have been passionate enough to organize their own Death Café.

Susan’s son Jon, died suddenly on 27 June 2017 and the Death Café is now run by Susan Barsky Reid, Jon’s mother and his sister, Jools Barsky, assisted by two very talented individuals, Lizzy Miles who ran the first Death Café in the US and Megan Mooney, who runs the Death Café Facebook page.

I had the great good fortune to meet Susan’s incredible son Jon, many years ago when I interviewed him for my award-winning documentary series, Life at Death’s Door which was narrated by celebrated British actor Brian Blessed OBE and BAFTA award winner, Jo Brand.  Life At Death’s Door was a series that I wrote to explore some of the incredible ways we can commemorate our dead and find out how we can conduct our own unique funeral celebrations, to better reflect the lives our loved ones have lived.  I’ll include a link to it in the show notes for this episode on my website under the podcast tab if you would like to listen to it; and Susan has very kindly given me permission to include some of Jon’s words from that original interview later in this podcast episode.

So, settle back in your chairs, reach for a comfortable pillow to put behind your head or the small of your back and I really hope you enjoy the insights that this episode may bring you.

Read More...

Ann 

We have a wonderful guest in the studio this week who is here to support and encourage us to have honest conversations around death and dying. Susan Barsky Reid, welcome to Psychic Matters.

Susan 

Thank you. Very nice to be here.

Ann 

It’s lovely to have you here today, Susan, and thank you for making the time to talk to everybody today. And I know that you set up and founded, along with your son, Jon, an organization called The Death Cafe. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about how that came to be and what happens at a Death Café.

Susan 

Of course, Jon, my son was a devout Buddhist. And apparently, if you’re a devout Buddhist, you have to contemplate death every day. So, this led him to decide that he needed to do some work around death and dying. He was working in the town planning department of Tower Hamlets Council, he had, you know, quite a good, well-paid job. My husband Alistair found an article in The Independent newspaper about a man called Bernard Cretaz, who was a Swiss sociologist, who had started something called Cafe Mortal, which was a discussion in pubs or bars in Switzerland, around death and dying. And Alistair cut this out and sent it to Jon, and Jon decided that’s what I want to do. So, he patented the name, Death Cafe, eventually left his job and concentrated on developing Death Cafe. Death Cafe is a group of people who meet and talk about death and dying, that there’s no agenda, the agenda comes from whatever the group wants to talk about. When we first started, I facilitated the first Death Cafe for him in September 2011, in his kitchen in Hackney.  We did have an agenda, Jon had worked out a very strict agenda, that it was going to last for two hours, he was the the waiter, he made the food and distributed the food. And I did the talking. And he had a series of tasks that we were going to ask people to do. And I can’t remember anymore what these tasks were unfortunately. But there, it was a very strict group of things that people were were asked to do.  I can remember, we asked people, we had an open fire, we asked people to burn these pieces of paper, maybe with things that they didn’t like, I can’t actually remember.  After we’d done a couple of Death Cafes, we decided there was no need at all, for any of these things. Because people were very keen to actually talk about death and dying. Once they got started, all you need to do at the Death Cafe is ask people, why they’ve come, who they are and why they’ve come. And it goes on from there.

Ann 

And what sort of people come to these events, Susan?

Susan 

Females, it must be at least 75% females come of all ages, and types, I don’t think you can really specify.  We have some Deaf Cafes nowadays that are targeted for different groups of people. We’ve had some for people who want to talk about the death of an animal. We’ve had Death Cafes that are for LGBTQ plus people. I think we’ve had one for people who have changed their gender.  We’ve had once for homeless people. But mostly, they’re just put on the Death Cafe website. And people have a look at there being one in their area and they decide to come along for whatever reason.

Ann 

And what, what sort of things do they bring with them? When they arrive, what sort of topics do they want to talk about or have been spoken about that you can remember or stick in your mind?

Susan 

Just so many different things. People’s experience of the death of a loved one or the dying of a loved one. Advanced Directive planning for death. So that’s something that comes up quite often. Euthanasia comes up, suicide can come up. And what’s so interesting is that it’s not always gloomy or sorrowful. There’s lots of laughter.  There are funny things that happen around Death and Dying that people bring to Death Cafe. So, you may very well have a group that laughs a lot, rather than the weeps, or you can do both within the space of time, it’s usually an hour and a half to two hours, occasionally shorter.

Ann 

Yeah, I think that’s ever so interesting the fact that they can be light-hearted, and that people can enjoy this experience as well. It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, like you say.

Susan 

It feels after a Death Cafe, I’ve usually felt uplifted. It’s just a wonderful experience something that for that short time, people can become really intimate, even though they’re strangers, and talk about things that you’ve never talked to a stranger about, or to people that you’re close to.

Ann 

And so, if somebody was coming, and they were talking about suicide or contemplating suicide, they might voice, they might voice and vocalise those thoughts, those feelings, and then how does that get held within the space of people?

Susan 

That’s a hard question to answer.  I think people are just, one of the things we do at the beginning is ask people to respect other people’s views, even though they may be different to their own. And the death cafes that I’ve been to, that certainly always happened. It doesn’t always happen. There are some people who, I can’t remember the technical name who will come into Zooms, particularly when they were they were all on Zoom during lockdown. And they called Zoom Bombers or something, who will come in and and be be rude. Yes. And that can happen. But I’m glad to say it hasn’t happened to me.

Ann 

Yeah, I understand that, as that’s happened to me on one of my mediumship powers where somebody came in that was, it was quite disconcerting, but we got rid of them very quickly. So, it provides a space then Susan, so if somebody was to come with a deep feeling, I mean, I’ve chosen suicide out of all the wonderful things that you you said people come for, I’ve just, I’ve just chosen suicide out the air. But so, if they did, they vocalise their feelings, and it’s, I guess it’s just a space for your own feelings and opinions to be expressed, and then invite other people to comment on, I guess, where there is nothing like that.  We can’t really talk in that way with our friends and family, can we?

Susan 

It’s not common to have, the ones where I have facilitated, suicide has come up. Not as people being suicidal, but people having experienced the suicide of a loved one. So, you know, and one person at a Death Cafe once was a Samaritan volunteer and listened to people who were talking about suicide. There is, there are some Death Cafes that say we will not discuss suicide at this Death Cafe.

Ann 

I think that was very interesting as well. So, I’m just thinking, if I went, I’ve never been to a Death Cafe, I can’t believe I’ve never actually been to one and I’m sure that I would really, really enjoy it. But I also feel if I went, people that listen to this podcast know that I lost my brother, about 18 months ago. And it was very difficult. He had a brain tumour and we watched him decline over the course of 12 months, it was a brutal, brutal illness. And if I went to a Death Cafe, maybe I’d like to speak about my experience of death. But even just talking to you here on this podcast, I can feel the emotion beginning to well up in me, behind my eyes, almost like, oh, I can feel it now that my throat is choking. How can I get over that? If I go to a Death Cafe? How can I then speak? How is that possible? I think I would find it very hard.

Susan 

Well, I think the way that I do it, because as you know, Jon died five years ago. And when I speak about him, I can feel the same as you feel about your brother. And you think I’m feeling sad? And of course, I am. Because somebody I love very much died. And I can, I can talk about it. It’s, I think it’s accepting that that, that it’s natural, isn’t it for us to be sad when somebody we love dies?

Ann 

It is and it’s nice to have a space because even though I would feel like that, I know once I started talking, there would be a certain relief, because I think in life and I don’t know if you found this, Susan, with the death of your son, Jon, that there seems to be we don’t talk about it after a while, it’s done. They’re buried. They’re done. And we no longer speak of it. And yet we carry it so strongly in our hearts all the time.

Susan 

Yeah.

Ann 

And so how beautiful that you’ve created a space that people can go and express their feelings in this way and be held by other people. And just and just have a space to talk. I think it’s beautiful.

Susan 

Thank you.

Ann 

So, is there a venue called the Death Cafe, or where is the Death Cafe held?

Susan 

Well, Jon was hoping that there was going to be a venue called the Death Cafe. And he was hoping to open the real Death Cafe and tried to get enough money for that to happen, but didn’t succeed, sadly, just a couple of months before he died. So, Death Cafe can be anywhere, it can be in a Zoom Room, it can be in a cafe, it can be in your home. The last one I did was in my synagogue, in the library of the of the synagogue, it can be any, and lots of libraries actually seem to be holding them, which is a really good idea, a really good use of the library.

Ann 

It’s a beautiful use of the library. And so, is there a facilitator at each Death Cafe Susan?

Susan 

Yeah, there’s a facilitator at each Death Cafe. And their job is just to help people to keep on topic, try and stop people dominating a conversation if they can, it’s not always an easy thing to do. Because some people really need to just speak. And to just be there to help people. It’s not to bring up topics, there is a misconception amongst quite a few people that the facilitator should have a list of things that they think people should talk about. And in fact, that’s entirely not right. What is right, is that the topics come from the people who are attending the Deaf Cafe, the participants, and the facilitators should be helping the participants to bring forward their thoughts and feelings.

Ann 

And so, the facilitator, if they came to me, say, for instance, and I’m at the Death Cafe with my feelings on my brother, they may encourage me to have a space to talk if I wanted to? Invited but not forced?

Susan 

Yes, well, it’s it’s interesting that because I looked through all the Deaf Cafes listed on the site, one of the things I do is to go through them and make sure they follow the guidelines. And quite a few people say it’s fine to attend, and not to speak. I think Jon actually thought that he wouldn’t, he was quite good at encouraging people to speak. And if they were silent, he would get them to speak. Whereas I will be happy for people to remain silent if they wanted to.

Ann 

See I like that, I like the ability to go, to know that you may just be an observer of that which goes on, at that particular time in that particular Death Cafe. That’s a lovely option for people as well, I feel.

Susan 

Yeah, I absolutely agree. As a psychotherapist, I’ve run groups, and if people, people can participate without speaking.

Ann 

Yeah, absolutely. And what’s the feedback like from people who have attended Death Cafes over the years since they’ve been going? What are people saying about their experience of going?

Susan 

How surprised they were, it could be lighthearted, how they enjoyed it and felt so much better when they left than when they, when they arrived. The feedback is overwhelmingly positive. I mean, they’ve, it continues to grow. There’ve been 14,000, over 14,000 Death Cafes in 82 different countries. It’s incredible. And I think that’s a testament to what a good idea it is.

Ann 

That is absolutely incredible. And that is since 2011, when it started? What an incredible achievement, you must feel very proud of that, because you were there at the very first one, of course, and it was your, was it your son who decided to set this up? Or was it both of you together?

Susan 

It was Jon who decided to set it up and I wanted to be in on it, so I said can I facilitate? And he was very happy for me to do that. And we did quite a few together, which was such a lovely experience.

Ann 

It’s incredible and what sort of ages go.  Did children go to these? Do people bring their children along? Are there …is there a wide age range of people?

Susan 

I’ve not ever been to one where there’s been children.  I think probably there could be mileage in having the children, but I don’t think anybody’s ever done that. Some facilitators say for over eighteens. I don’t think I would do that. But so far no, no children have ever come But I think it’s a good idea for children to appreciate that we die and that that’s, and that’s okay. That’s what happened. Because the taboo about talking about death and dying can be very frightening, I think, children rather than having it out in the open, right, so it should be accepted, shouldn’t it?

Ann 

Yes, yeah.

Ann 

And it happens to all of us.

Ann 

Because years ago, death was very present in societies. You know, if you lived in a village and somebody died, you’d file into their house, you’d view the body, you’d, you’d be part of that death process. Whereas now it’s very sanitary. People are dying behind closed doors, the body’s gone. Nobody goes to view the body, blah, blah, blah. It’s quite, so death has been removed from society in one sense, I feel.

Susan 

Yeah, I think you’re absolutely. I know that my parents would protect me, you know, I didn’t go to the funerals of my grandparents. Because children didn’t do that. And I can remember going to a funeral when I was an adult. It was my aunt died, and she had grandchildren. And there were children there. Who were, who were sad. And my parents say they shouldn’t be here. And I was thinking, of course they should and of course, they’re, they’re sad, because because their grandma’s died. And that’s actually okay, alright.

Ann 

Yeah. Yeah. I love that story. So how often would Death Cafes be held, Susan? Is it a regular monthly thing? Or is it on occasion? How does that work?

Susan 

However, you want it to. Some facilitators, run them, I don’t know, the first Tuesday of every month, or every every other month. I do occasional ones; I haven’t ever got into the habit of doing them regularly. But some people seem to have a group who will go to everyone. A group who will go to, you know, to every Death Cafe once a month. I’ve never, I’ve never felt the need to do that personally. But some facilitators really like, like to do it.

Ann 

Yeah. Interesting. It just depends on the person’s need or the need of the people, doesn’t it? I think it’s fascinating.

Ann 

And how does the Death Cafe close? Once everybody’s had their discussion, they’ve had their tea, they’ve enjoyed their cake, how do we bring it to a conclusion and a close?

Susan 

Well, Jon used to play a piece of music, a piece of Japanese music. I haven’t done that since he died because every time, I used to run a Death Cafe I used to text him and say, can you send me that piece of music, please? And I don’t know where it is. I could look through and maybe see it.  Just sometimes with a contemplation and thoughts about how we’re going to make the most of our lives. Because we’re all going to die.

Ann 

I think that’s really uplifting, isn’t it? What are we going to do as we step out of this Death Cafe and we step forward into the present moment, which is all we ever have, how can we make the most of that? I think that is really powerful. Thank you.  And if somebody who’s listening to this podcast, Susan wants to attend a Death Cafe, where would they find out if there’s one in their area?

Susan 

Go to www.deathcafe.com. And find a Death Cafe near them. And there’s always now the the option of going to one on, online. That has been the benefit. One of the few benefits of lockdown is that all the Death Cafes are online. And you found that instead of just having local people at your Death Cafe, you had people, an international group of people, which was quite quite exciting and brought a whole new dimension to it. They’ve mostly gone back to face-to-face Death Cafes now, local ones, but there are still quite a few that are online. So, you shouldn’t be worried if there isn’t one near you.

Ann 

That’s so brilliant. So, anyone with an Internet connection anywhere in the world can bring their own cup of tea and their own slice of cake, and sit in front of a computer, with people from across the globe, to speak about death, dying, and how to make, I think one of your objectives is, how to or to encourage people to make the most of their finite lifetime.

Susan 

Those are Jon’s words.

Ann 

Right.  Yeah. Wonderful.

Susan 

Yeah. You can see Jon talking quite a lot about Death Cafe on YouTube, if people are interested.

Ann 

Do you have a YouTube channel for that specifically, Susan?

Susan 

I don’t think so. I’m not very techy, so …

Ann 

That’s alright. I’m sure if we all go to YouTube and type in John – J. O N. Underwood. Then we will find Jon Underwood Death Café, then we’ll see Jon talking about his, his legacy really? Did he speak, when he was passing away, Susan did he speak of his work at the Death Cafe, was he, was it mentioned?

Susan 

No, he had a brain haemorrhage.

Ann 

I’m so sorry.

Susan 

So, he, one minute he was there. And then he wasn’t…

Ann 

Right. Did he ever speak about his upcoming forthcoming death? Did he foresee it in any way?

Susan 

No, but he did leave instructions about what was to happen.  He was very keen because he was a Buddhist. And there’s a Buddhist tradition, or I don’t know what the exact word is that when somebody dies, you touch their head or pull their hair. And he had told me that when he died, or if he died before me, I was to do this. And he told me about three times, and I said, don’t be ridiculous, I’m going to die before you. But he said, he said it quite a few times.

Ann 

That’s amazing, isn’t it. And he’s left such a beautiful legacy and helped 10s of 1000s of people all over the world and continues to do so.

Susan 

It’s just a wonderful thing to do.

Ann 

It really, really is an absolutely beautiful, beautiful legacy to leave behind for the world, for everybody to benefit from his foundation, and to take the work forward. Where do you see it going in the future, Susan?

Susan 

Just continuing to grow. Maybe John’s children might take over doing part of the admin and things that I and, Jules, my daughter, Jon’s sister, do.   Jon had asked Jules to take over Death Cafe if anything happened. And she now, since Jon’s death, has changed her career path completely. She was working in a sort of marketing office space job, having done a marketing degree and has gone back to university to study medicine, I think.  She decided to make the most of her finite life when Jon died, which has been brilliant for her.

Ann 

How absolutely wonderful and how are you making the most of your finite life, Susan?

Susan 

Well, I’m still working. I work as a psychotherapist. I have started piano lessons again.

Ann 

Wow. That’s brilliant.

Susan 

I stopped when I was about 15. And decided, I so love it. I sing in a choir. Yeah. I have a nice life.  I am going on holiday on Friday.

Susan 

Where are you going? Where are you heading off to?

Ann 

Madeira

Ann 

Oh, how wonderful.

Susan 

I haven’t ever been before. Have you been?

Ann 

I did go to Madeira. And I had a beautiful holiday there. It’s a lovely island. Yeah, you’ll have a wonderful, wonderful time. I wish you very well there on your holiday. Just before we finish then, tell us, if somebody’s listening to this podcast. And they’re thinking, gosh, you know, I would love to host a Death Cafe because people could, I’m imagining, could just hold one or two, they don’t have to commit, do they have to commit to a year’s worth or anything?

Susan 

Nothing like that. There is a whole section on how to host Death Café on the Death Café website, that will help you and you can always email Jules or email me. And we will help you, we’ll talk to you about it if we can, we are very happy to help people.

Ann 

Because you can, I’ve had a look on the website, you can download a short guide to, how to host.

Susan 

Yes, you can.

Ann 

Yeah, absolutely fantastic. I just think it’s one of the most beautiful things that I’ve heard about. And I heard about Jon Underwood, many, many years ago, he was part of a documentary I did years ago with another theatre company, and I met your son.  He was gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous, a beautiful, noble, generous, kind- hearted man and passionate about talking and bringing to life, the subject of death, actually, yeah.

Susan 

Yes, it’s very inspiring when you watch the YouTube videos of him.

Ann

I have some pre-recorded audio of my interview many years ago, with Jon Underwood, Susan’s son, who talks passionately    about his work with the Death Café and Susan has very kindly given me permission to include some of his words from that interview here, so that you can all benefit from his inspiration too.  In his own words, here is Jon Underwood, founder of the Death Café:

Jon 

I think we chose not to think about death and dying. So, it wasn’t a conscious choice. But you know, death has become increasingly behind closed doors. And we’ve given over a lot of responsibility to professionals, like people used to die in their home. And people used to sort of have their dead people in the house with them. And you know, mortality, infant mortality was higher. So, death was more a part of life. But over the past sort of 50 years, we’ve been more to the funeral directors, and now more and more people die in hospital. So, there was a kind of conscious choice, and a sort of disempowerment of people and people gave death away to a certain extent. And now think people are taking it back. And think really the generation that’s driving that change, the baby boomers, throughout their time, they’ve changed things, they’ve demanded the best of everything, they’ve not settled for second-best, they’re the most individualistic generation the worlds ever produced, and they are not settling for second best in terms of, in terms of their care as they get old. And, and the way they die, and the way their funeral happens. So, you know, there’s there’s now a rush to kind of take that ownership back. I think there’s growing recognition that death is, is special, is important, death is is is, for want of a better word, sacred to people. And I think there’s a growing recognition of that and demand for improvement. And you know, I’m really happy to sort of facilitate that. Obviously, I think there’s a lot of benefits from reflecting on death and integrating awareness of death into one’s daily life. I think it’s really, personally, I think it’s crucial at this time, that we as society, as a planet, do that a bit more.

Ann 

What is the Death Cafe for people that are listening who don’t know what it is?

Jon 

Okay, well, it’s an idea that comes from continental Europe. And there, there’s a tradition of meeting in public places to talk about stuff. And so, there’s a cafe Philo, which is a philosophical Cafe, and a cafe scientifique, which is obviously a scientific cafe. And both of those have spread around the world. And people do them quite regularly. But there was a guy in Switzerland, a Swiss sociologist called Bernard Cretaz. And he came up with the idea of a cafe mortel. And that was a space where people would gather together to talk about death and dying. And he did these for a number of years in Switzerland. And then he did the first one in Paris. And there was a small piece in The Independent newspaper around November 2010. And I read it and I was kind of electrified with excitement, I’d already wanted to do some work around death, and specifically something about talking about death. And as soon as I saw it, I knew that was what I wanted to do. So, I committed to doing a Death Cafe myself. And it took me a long time to actually get around to doing it. I spoke to a local cafe kind of sheepishly and said, I wanted to do a Death Cafe there and they looked at me kind of confused, and maybe a little bit concerned. I was knocked back by that. But then someone mentioned pop-up cafes, which is something that happens more and more, people taking a space, which isn’t sort of dedicated for serving food and drink and using it for that. And they suggested that I did that with Death Cafe. And I thought, that’s perfect. So, I did the first Death Cafe here in my house, in the basement. And it took me almost a year to get from reading the article to doing that. And so, at the Death Cafe, people just come together and talk about death and, and dying in a safe and comfortable environment. And we’ve got kind of four guiding principles. So, for us, the Death Cafe is conversation about death, and it’s not done for profit, we’re not trying to make money out of it, were a very open space. And so, we’re committed to not leading people to any sort of product or particular conclusion, or particular course of action. So, some people will say, oh, you should fill in a will or make your funeral plan. And we don’t do that, we start where people are at, and we just let people talk about where they’re at, and say what they want, and just dedicate some time to exploring that subject. So, our third principle is that we’re always respectful to everybody’s views. You know, we don’t mind if you’re Christian or agnostic or atheist, everyone is welcome. As long as they don’t force their views on other people. We’ve got a strong aversion to proselytising. We won’t tolerate that. And our fourth principle is that there’s always tea and cake. And so, people come together in that space. We have a facilitator. And generally, we’ll sort of explain what Death Cafe is, explain these principles, talk about Bernard Cretaz, and sort of where it came from. And then we’ll go around the table and people will say about what brought them to Death Cafe, where they’re at. And some people will talk about people they’ve lost, or some people will talk about their own attitude to death and dying, or some people will say, the variation is incredible. But after that, for us, it’s a very group-directed session. And we just let people talk. And that’s it. And what has motivated me and other people to continue doing them, is the quality of the dialogue. I mean, English people in particular are quite reserved, and you know, shy, but when death is talked about, that kind of mask tends to slip away. And as Bernard Cretaz put it, people are born in authenticity. So, they say the most beautiful and moving things, things that I personally feel sort of privileged to be in the presence of. And so, it’s that quality of dialogue and the feeling that people get a lot from it. And some people might consider it quite a morbid activity, or that is quite heavy. It’s not the dialogue is really fun, lively, there’s a lot of laughter. And generally, it has the feeling of a family gathering where everyone’s relaxed, and they’re just telling stories. And people just tell it as it is. And it’s just wonderful. For me personally, thinking about death is important. So, it’s important for me, in that recognising that my life is finite, makes me value it more. I mean, it’s the law of the market, really, you know, if there’s less gold, then the price of gold goes up. So, the same as it is with life. So, as I was telling, you have got two small kids. And so I’m aware, when I spend time with them, that I don’t know how long we’ve got together, definitely that our time will come when we’re parted. And so, but but right now we’re here together, and that makes me sort of try harder, when I hold their hand, I feel their hand and try and cherish that. And the same when I read them a story. And I try to try to cherish that. So, for me, it helps me make the most of my life and helps me sort of prioritise what’s important. But I’m also motivated by a trend to bring about social change, I think thinking about death has a lot to offer us as a society.  We live in a very unsustainable way, our economic system is unsustainable, there’s lot of inequality in the world. We’re facing massive environmental challenges. And you know, I truly believe that thinking about death can give us the resilience to approach some of these challenges, positively, begin to live in a different and more sustainable way. There’s a worry that sometimes people express that by kind of talking about death, you’re opening Pandora’s box, and what’s going to happen? Are people going to get really upset? Are people going to start freaking about it, freaking out? Is someone actually going to keel over and die from a heart attack because of the stress and strain of talking about it? But no, I think that’s that’s kind of, death knell in action. I think that’s, that’s an indication of the barriers that society places to actually talking about death. So, I mean, the name, Death Cafe is fairly in your face. So, you know, when people come along to a Death Cafe, they kind of know what they’re going to get to its kind of quite filtering, in that sense but the people who come, they’ve got a lot to say, naturally, I think, probably everyone thinks about death to a certain degree. In our society, we don’t have the time, we don’t create the space for people to talk to each other about it. I think society’s got a lot to learn from engaging more positively with death, but we’re not kind of forcing that on anyone. So, you know, I’m not even, I don’t even believe that necessarily, Death Cafe is the right thing for everyone. I’m not saying everyone should go. It’s just, we will make it available for those people who want it, and it is a Group Directed session, the facilitation is very light. So really, the facilitator, a lot of it is about creating a safe space. So, we try and have a nice environment, you know, we’ll have candles or maybe some like music or, you know, it’ll kind of smell nice and be tidy and all that kind of thing. And then you’ve got the food and drink. So sometimes we’ll produce a menu, and we’ll have, you know, nice coffee and homemade cakes and what not. And it’s quite interesting because any caterer will tell you, that people eat a lot more at any, at a funeral, than at a wedding. So that’s, that’s about creating safety. And then you’ve got a facilitator who’s someone who is skilled at leading groups and also is comfortable to talk about death and dying, and comfortable being open to people’s different perspectives. And then we just allow people to talk. So mainly the exchange is directed for them. So, we create this safe container. And our principles help with that as well. And then it’s just about allowing people to have the discussion that they want to have there. And then I interact with lots of people around this subject matter and talk about death all day long. And never get bored of it. But I mean, I just feel that it’s life enhancing stuff.  I feel that is part of my personal journey. And I think I’m not afraid of death in the same way, when, I’m still afraid of death, I’m afraid of dying. And of course, my worst fears are deaths of my children, or death or my wife or you know, someone close or something horrific, like that happening, and I still have that fear, that fear hasn’t gone away. And you know, when I visualise myself sitting on my deathbed, you know, the moments finally come, this is it, there’s a feeling of fear. And, you know, that’s always been there. But I mean, previously, there’s more of a panic, like, I couldn’t even necessarily bear to think about those things. I’ve just kind of shut it away. But now it’s not like that. And, and I feel that I could cope with it all. And even with my own death, there’s sense of looking forward to it sometimes, not, in a sense, like, I want life to end I don’t, I want to live as long as possible. But you know, the moment of death, like people say, it’s a great adventure, who knows what’s on the other side. And I’ve experienced death myself. I’ve been there when someone’s died. And I’ve done hospice visiting, and I think death can be so potent, such a moment of discovery and healing and transformation. And, you know, and very beautiful. And so, there’s part of me which, which recognises that about it and doesn’t dread it in perhaps the way that I might have a decade ago.

Ann

Some wonderful words there by Jon Underwood.  Susan, thank you so much for coming and explaining the workings of a Death Cafe, how it works. I very much hope that people that are listening will be very inspired to discuss death and dying because it is such a part of life. It’s such a part of everyday life, especially I finding as I get older, and we’re losing friends and people are getting sick with these terminal illnesses and all the rest of it. It’s lovely to know that there is a space that we can go to, where we can be given a space to talk about these things that are so important to us, to help us to come to terms with what is happening to those that we love. And to help us to live the best life possible, which is what Jon wanted us to do, is it not?

Susan 

And what he did.

Ann 

And well done you, Susan for continuing his work so bravely and so passionately as well. It’s fantastic.

Susan 

Thank you. Thank you for joining us today, Susan. Thank you.

Ann

I really hope you enjoyed that episode with Susan Barsky Reid and her beautiful and inspiring son, Jon Underwood, whose foundational work with the Death Cafe continues in the world today, bringing huge comfort to many thousands of people across the world, and assisting us all in being courageous in knowing it’s okay to discuss feelings, and experience our emotions around death and dying, however they may manifest for us.

I’ll be back next week with another fascinating episode for you, which I know you are going to love.  Meanwhile if you want to have a look at some of the courses I’m teaching, please do go to my website, anntheato.com and take a look under EVENTS.  I’m currently fascinated with the psychic mind and the way that we can pick up information from the matrix.  I love the fact that every day, science is now proving more and more what we have all known for ages – that time is not fixed and that possibilities are boundless and infinite and therefore so are we!  If you would like to learn with me, I’m teaching a fascinating 6-month mentorship programme in Remote Viewing – using our psychic mind to explore the infinite universe – it would lovely to see you in class and details are on my website under events.

As usual show notes are available for this podcast episode on my website too, under podcasts, including a full transcription.  Don’t forget to like and subscribe, as they say, and I’ll be back next week.

Have a wonderful couple of weeks everyone.  Don’t forget also, to investigate the possibility of hiring a café near you or hosting on Zoom (with tea and cake of course), your very own Death Café.

My name is Ann Théato and thank you for listening to Psychic Matters.

CREDITS

Reach by Christopher Lloyd Clarke. Licensed by Enlightened Audio.

 

Pin It on Pinterest