It was the lack of opportunity for people to talk about death in modern western society that led Jon Underwood to create death cafes — places where people are encouraged to talk about every aspect of death and dying.
His theory is that by creating space for people to consider their demise, they will be encouraged to make the most of life. ‘It’s not aimed at people who are going through the fire with death, but at the vast majority who are just afraid of it,’ he says. ‘The best way to counter fear of death is to have a great life, and that’s what this brings into focus.’
Underwood held the first death cafe at his home in Hackney, east London, back in 2011. Since then, the idea has taken off around the world and there have been more than 3,000 death cafe events in 35 countries. ‘Anyone who wants to do it can do it,’ he says. ‘There’s no money involved. It’s just about providing a room for people who want to come together and talk about death
People can swap information and explore personal beliefs, and many find that sharing their fears helps them to move past them.
‘People tell us they welcome the opportunity to talk about death,’ Underwood says. ‘Nothing makes you feel more alive.’