Death has been a taboo subject for many societies for a long time; without going too far, just think of today’s society. Furthermore, death is dealt with differently depending on whether it touches us from near or far, whether it is real or fictitious.
How many deaths do they manage to show in Hollywood movies? Sometimes an endless series of characters are killed on the big screen, and sometimes it’s the protagonist himself who brags about it. However, when we have to face mourning or would like to talk about death in real life, very often we receive only deep silences in response.
A comment from an Argentine psychiatrist on the subject recently appeared on an online forum. He said that more and more people come to his office who have not been able to overcome the death of a loved one. The psychoanalyst was surprised: once these situations were faced openly by family or friends. Now, people increasingly have to seek medical attention to find someone willing to listen to them when they want to talk about a loss.
As disconcerting as it may seem, there seems to be no place or real propensity to talk about something as real as death. Many people are condemned to grieve in solitude. If they bring up the subject, they are told not to think about it or a way to “distract” them is sought to help them overcome their pain.
Even if we live daily with death, it is still a distant subject, as if it were the cursed page of the book of life that should not be read or touched upon. For this reason, when it comes close to us, it takes us as an absurd and strange surprise. It is always for this reason that we have very little resources to adequately overcome the pain of permanent loss. It was all this that led to the opening of the so-called “death cafes”.
The cafes of death, a sensible idea
It all started with the idea of the Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz, professor in 1989 at the University of Geneva. The man organized an exhibition called “last sigh” and the response was enthusiastic. The first fact that emerged after the event is that there were a very high number of young people who wanted to talk about death, but who did not have the possibility to do so.
For this reason, in 2004 Crettaz himself held a first meeting which he called “Cafè Mortel”. The purpose was precisely to open a space to chat about death. 250 people attended. It began with a welcome drink and then started the conversation, which lasted for more than two. Soon after, there was an exchange of ideas. The only rules were to speak truthfully and respect the opinion of others.
The idea was so interesting and successful that it was immediately replicated in different parts of the world. Today there are a total of 4,403 death cafes present in 48 countries on all continents.
Why talk about death?
Many people believe that talking about death is a way to embitter one’s life for no reason. This point of view, rather than representing a truth, demonstrates a hidden fear and anguish that, instead of being faced, one tries to hide under the rug. There is nothing more real in life than death. As well as nothing more inevitable. All of us humans will go through that phase and see loved ones leave in the dark.
Talking about death can generate a certain anxiety at the beginning, given that we feel with words a terrain that we are not used to walking. However, by opening your mind to the subject and resisting fear, over time the subject will become part of the norm. For those who have to deal with an illness or are living with a sick person, addressing the subject directly has the effect of a balm. It helps to nourish serenity and strength in the face of facts.
Even those who are healthy and live death from afar can benefit from the topic. First of all, the taboo aspect of the theme. Learning to accept the idea that death exists without fear. This will then turn into a very important resource when one’s life or that of a loved one enters its final phase. Talking about this, instead of generating pain, eludes him. And it also serves to give a greater value and meaning to life itself.
Emma Kenny, a renowned British psychologist, says something that fits perfectly: “We spend a lot of our time distancing ourselves from death and thinking that it is something that happens to others. One of the most difficult things for people is to recognize the vulnerability of life ”. Paradoxically, it is in that vulnerability that an enriching perspective is found that allows us to see much of the beauty contained in life itself and which we lose by symbolically distancing ourselves from death.