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Talking About Death with Family

cafe

Last week, I wrote about the recent trend of Death Cafes. As a reminder, a “Death Cafe” is a place for people to gather and discuss death with others, often strangers, over tea and cake. The goal of the Death Cafe is provide a space for people to speak about death, which is a taboo subject for many. Because of this taboo, people often avoid speaking about their own death to their friends and family. This reluctance to think about and speak forthrightly on the subject of death might prevent people from creating an effective estate plan. The Death Cafe can act as a forum for individuals to get more comfortable with the concept of dying and planning for the distribution of their assets upon death.

The current trend is to host Death Cafes among strangers, but it is worth thinking about holding a death cafe with loved ones. One major problem in succession and estate planning is communication. As mentioned in The Family War, a major point of tension between families in an estate battle is that they did not communicate and gauge their family member’s intentions prior to their death. Holding a family Death Cafe would provide an opportunity for families to avoid a large amount of fighting and grief in the future.

The Death Cafe website has some helpful information about how to hold a death cafe. They suggest avoiding an overly structured session, instead allowing the conversation to find its direction by allowing everyone to say what they want to say first. After this free-form conversation, whoever is facilitating the death cafe might introduce some specific questions. This would be a good time to address specific expectations and wishes regarding the will or funeral arrangements. In hosting a death cafe among family members, some topics to touch on might include what to expect after losing a family member, how to prepare for loss, possible sources of support and guidance, and avenues of communication for close and more distant family members. By creating an open platform and place for communication, some family turmoil might be avoided.

The Death Cafe website has helpful resources including checklists, conversation topics, and a blog.

Thank you for reading.

Suzana Popovic-Montag