We have all heard the well-intentioned but limited words “I’m sorry for your loss.” They are said awkwardly and softly, like trying not to spook an animal. They don’t even necessarily make sense. That being said, we cannot fault the speakers of these words for their limitations when we have all been taught by society that death, although part of everyone’s life experience, is a taboo topic. In an attempt to sympathize (the ability to feel for someone) and say “I can’t imagine what you’re going through,” empathy (the ability to relate to someone) no longer becomes an option. And when you decide empathy is no longer possible, you begin to see that person as someone completely different from you or a different kind of person. This idea, of course, is the basis of our zebra theme here at The Christi Center. This is an immense cultural fault, potentially and frequently leaving those affected by loss feeling alone and isolated, but it is possible to fix and worth doing so.
We are not the only ones talking about this and passionate about changing it. In 2011, a man named Jon Underwood held the first Death Cafe, an idea inspired by the Swiss Cafe Mortel movement. To explain, a Death Cafe is simply a gathering in which people come together to speak openly about death. It is for anyone and everyone, religious or not, and is not meant to act as a grief support group, just an open discussion as what’s now grown into a community likes to emphasize. The idea has caught on like wildfire, with Death Cafes appearing all over the nation. Without a doubt, Death Cafes seem to be a step forward in the direction of grief becoming more acknowledged and understood. Instead of “I can’t imagine what you’re going through,” perhaps we will see more of an understanding that grief is complex and different for every individual. It is a unique journey, but not one meant to be taken alone.
To read further on Death Cafes, follow the link: http://www.deathcafe.comLucky for us, the first Austin Death Cafe was held this month!
To find “Austin Death Cafe” on Facebook, follow this link: https://www.facebook.com/DeathCafeAustin
About me: My name is Lana Baumgartner, and I am currently an intern at The Christi Center. I study at UT Austin pursuing a degree in Arabic and Business Foundations. I am passionate about working at TCC, because it opens me up to understanding the complexities that lie within death and grieving, a truly life-enrching experience.