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Lively café conversations center around death

Group in Halifax gathers monthly to discuss end of life issues

3 min read
caption Deborah Luscomb facilitates open discussions about death culture at Death Café. (Photo courtesy of Deborah Luscomb)
caption Deborah Luscomb facilitates open discussions about death culture at Death Café.
(Photo courtesy of Deborah Luscomb)

Death and what surrounds it is often a taboo subject to discuss, but Deborah Luscomb is hoping to change that over a cup of coffee.

Every month in Halifax, a group joins together for Death Café at Just Us! Coffeehouse. They participate in lively, open discussions about death. There’s no sombre mood in the air; in fact, the crowd is full of smiling faces.

“Death Café is an open conversation about pretty much anything related to end-of-life,” Luscomb says.

She acts as a facilitator for the conversations and makes sure the café’s dialogue remains open and respectful. Death Café is run alongside Luscomb’s business Death Matters, a service which hosts discussions and workshops for planning end-of-life practices.

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‘Taboo subject’

Over a lunch hour, guests have the floor at Death Café to discuss topics, ask questions, and provide feedback as long as the conversation revolves around death. Topics such as funeral stories, near-death experiences and mourning loved ones were discussed at the October meeting.

Death Cafés take place around the world. The café in Halifax had its start in March 2015. It started small, with about eight patrons coming to the first session.

“It was pretty exciting, actually,” Luscomb says. “Which is, in my experience, always been the case. People are excited about the opportunity to talk about this taboo subject.”

Core demographic groups at Death Café include more women than men, and those in their 60’s and 70’s, though it is open to anyone. Health-care professionals and retirees also commonly attend.

“We have a look about us, you know?” Dawn Carson says. She is the co-host of Death Café and facilitates conversations alongside Luscomb at each meeting.

“Well, the ones who are still alive,” she continued lightheartedly.

Keeping it light

The hour and half goes by quickly and pauses in discussion are rare. Luscomb and Carson are there to help with any questions and provide support. There’s even a moment where everyone erupts in laughter about the absurd group.

“You put a bunch of people in a room [to talk about death] and, oh boy, all the crap comes out,” Carson says.

Luscomb thinks those who are curious have nothing to be afraid of. “It might be beneficial to face that fear now, rather than at the time of death,” she says.

What’s waiting beyond is unknown, but talking about it with like-minds is popular enough that Death Café keeps returning. The meetings are held on the first Thursday of every month from 12 to 1:30 p.m. at the Just Us! Coffeehouse on Spring Garden Road.

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