Death Café Gaining Popularity

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FAIRLAWN, OH -- When you think of new and trendy “meet-ups” and “hotspots” for conversation, funeral homes next to cemeteries most likely don’t come to mind.

But a daring new concept that has been sweeping several European countries for the past decade arrived in the United States about a year ago and has now come to Ohio and the Akron area.

It’s called a Death Café and people of all ages are participating.

“I think that the Death Café is a unique idea. People have all these misconceptions about death and dying,” said Funeral Director George Catavolos.

Catavolos Funeral Home on West Market Street in Fairlawn hosted the Death Café along with Crossroads Hospice of Green Thursday night.

“We saw really a need for it here. People were really buying into the philosophy in larger cities like Atlanta and New York City,” said Bob Pontius of Crossroads Hospice.

The idea is simple, to allow people of all ages a place to explore, explain and examine all of the aspects of death from the biological realities to spiritual realms.

Basically, people can finally talk about the often taboo subject of death.

“We all talk about our taxes all the time, one of the most unavoidable things in life. But a lot of people don’t want to talk about death,” said Pontius.

The one thing the Death Café isn’t is a bereavement meeting or grief counseling session.

People who have lost a loved one are welcome at the groups, but the discussions are really about helping everyone feel more comfortable with their own mortality and eventual death.

“It’s an open space with no discrimination to talk about death,” said Pontius.

More than 20 people participated in the first forum.

Eileen Schonfeld said she got a strong reaction from some friends when she told them she would be attending.

“Somebody called me today and said that is spooky,” said Schonfeld.

But Eileen feels differently about death and actually is comforted by the subject and even counsels others. She hopes others will join in the confidential conversations at future Death Cafés, which are already being planned in the Akron area.

After all, she said, we all have to do it - might as well discuss it.

“There’s no other way out, so I think it’s important for people to be able to share their fears of leaving,” said Schonfeld.“It’s the greatest mystery.”

The next Death Café is scheduled for July 30 at 6 p.m. in the community room at Buehlers Fresh Foods, 3688 Center Road in Brunswick.

For additional information contact Crossroads Hospice of Green at (330) 899-9100.