The Okanagan Death Café is back.
Alison Moore, a life-cycle celebrant and sacred passages doula, Sue Berlie, shamanic coach, death walker and psychopomp and Claudette Bouchard, end of life doula and life energy coach scheduled four cafes through the Okanagan and held the first of the year in KelownaJan. 20.
Death Cafés were created in 2004 and have grown in popularity. The events offer opportunities for conversations about death, the dying process and preparations to be had. Through guided in-depth conversations with each other, participants find solace and a new understanding of a usually taboo subject. Currently, 7,598 Death Cafes have been hosted in 64 countries since its creation.
Berlie and Moore were drawn to the worldwide Death Cafes because of their grassroots nature, and the high demand for people wanting to get more involved with the death and caring of their friends and family. They were also getting sick of the current “business” of dying.
Ana Luyben attended looking to promote green burial in the Okanagan and was looking to meet other people that may be able to help her work toward her goal.
“To be honest I have been following the death positivity movement for a year, it’s a growing movement in western society, mostly because people have been getting stuck with huge funeral costs,” said Luyben. “A lot of people find it hard to talk about dying, it’s a very taboo subject. We feel isolated a lot and it’s really something that the community needs to embrace.”
Funerals cost somewhere between $1,000 to $12,000 according to Canadian Death Services Online, and B.C. currently has the highest rates for cremation in Canada.
The Green Burial Society of Canada lists the five principals of green burials as: no embalming, direct earth burials, ecological restoration and conservation, communal memorialization, optimize land use and the re-use of graves.
Direct earth burials are encouraged by the society where a body is wrapped in a shroud made of natural, biodegradable fibers and buried, caskets or containers may be used as long as it’s made of fully biodegradable materials. Grave markers must be made of naturally sourced material and the grave will be surrounded by indigenous plant material.
Louise Moore found she was able to have a conversation about death and dying without her friends or family diverting the conversation.
“The topic is an uncomfortable one and sometimes you don’t have anyone to talk about it with. Your family doesn’t want to talk about you dying and friends might think that’s morbid or they might just make jokes about it so it’s an opportunity to talk about it,” said Louise Moore, who found that everyone she spoke with were worried about a common component of death.
“It’s the uncertainty. We are all going to die, we just don’t know when or how.”
As facilitators, Alison Moore, Berlie and Bouchard host, guide participants and float around the different groups to keep them on topic and help them explore their feelings. More than 30 people attended the event Sunday afternoon.
“From what I heard there were some really interesting conversations that flowed quite well and covered a lot of different topics. One group I went into was talking about de-cluttering because people don’t want to do it,” said Berlie.
Moore find that with each Death Café they hold more and more people want to discuss home funerals and medical assisted dying.
“People want to talk about it, they want to talk about what they want, they want to contemplate what they should do if they are in that position or if a loved one is looking to enact it. They want to know what their role is and what is really involved,” said Moore.
“It’s not a conversation one picks up with a friend,” said Bouchard.
Seventy per cent of North Americans prefer to die at home, and only seven per cent said they wanted to die in a hospice or palliative care home, in a survey conducted by Donna Wilson, at the University of Alberta. Wilson also teaches nursing and researches dying in Canada and the survey also found 60 per cent of Canadians actually die in hospital and 10 per cent die in nursing homes.
The Okanagan Death Café will tour the Okanagan, making its next stop in Vernon Feb. 24 and again May 18, it will be held in Summerland March 24 and will return to Kelowna April 27.
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