'Death cafes' breaking taboos

Witney Gazette: ‘Not morbid’: Laura Freeth, of the befriending charity OxBEL Buy this photo ‘Not morbid’: Laura Freeth, of the befriending charity OxBEL

A NATIONWIDE movement of “death cafés” that aims to break taboos about the subject of dying is to hold events to Oxfordshire.

The death café movement started in London in 2011 and has since inspired 588 events around the world.

People gather at cafés to enjoy tea and cake while sharing their thoughts, feelings and fears about death.

They are particularly aimed at encouraging people to talk to their relatives about their wills and funeral wishes.

Charity Befriending for Life (OxBEL), which works with people with life-limiting illnesses, will host cafés in Eynsham, Oxford, Abingdon, Chipping Norton, Faringdon, Banbury and Thame, Joan Gardner, OxBEL co-ordinator for north and west Oxfordshire, said: “OxBEL held its first death café in May 2013 and the response was overwhelming.

“We’ve since had hundreds of conversations with individuals and groups about the value of talking about what can be a very difficult, frightening subject.

“Society doesn’t really allow people to talk about this taboo subject.

“So this is what a death café does. It offers us all a rare opportunity to share our feelings and experiences of death.”

Facilitator Laura Freeth said: “The events last year attracted people of all ages, including people in their 40s and 50s who wanted to broach the subject of their death, sensitively, with their children.

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“The cafés are not at all morbid.In fact, there is often laughter and we heard many uplifting stories.

“We have also been encouraged that people who attended last year have signed up this year.”

The Eynsham event is on Tuesday from 7-9pm at The White Hart, Newland Street, Eynsham. To book call 01235 849427.

The next is at 5 White Lion Walk, Banbury on Thursday, March 27, from 11am to 1pm. To book, call 01295 278040.

An Abingdon event will be held on Saturday May 17 from 10am to noon at St Edmund House, 39 West St Helen Street, Abingdon.

To book call 01235 849427. For more details visit oxbel.org.uk

Death cafés were pioneered by Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz in 2004.

They were introduced to the UK by Jon Underwood, founder of the social enterprise Impermanence in 2011.

Visit the site deathcafe.com

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