Gail Rubin is the owner of Death Cafe and author of the book A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die. “My motto is, ‘talking about sex won’t make you pregnant and talking about funerals won’t make you dead’,” she says, which is why she specializes on using a light touch and tone even on serious subjects. She loves using humor, because laughing causes the body to release endorphins, which helps us relax. That’s exactly the state a person should be in when making such serious decisions like funeral and death planning. She recently spoke with Dr. Heidi Horsley of the Open to Hope Foundation during the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling conference about what her approach to death planning encompasses.
Death planning is something everyone will have to deal with—or risk leaving their loved ones to deal with. Planning ahead can drastically reduce this stress. It helps everyone move through grief towards hope, she says. The Death Cafe is a place to discuss mortality issues “without having death staring you in the face,” she says. Today, there are hundreds or thousands of Death Cafes around the country. Rubin was only the second to hold a Death Cafe and is proud to be a leader in this movement.
What is a Death Cafe?
Normalizing death and dying topics is key. A Death Cafe is an event where people get together and talk from their heart. There’s no agenda, no speakers, but instead it’s a simple get together managed by a pro like Rubin. Everyone talks about why they want to attend the Death Cafe on that particular café. It helps people ponder and talk, she says, and oftentimes very little prompting is needed.
They can be very uplifting and energizing, explains Rubin. Attendees share humorous stories, anniversaries, concerns, but she finds a natural humor that emerges with the right environment. Everyone grieves differently, especially considering culture, but Rubin says the important thing in Death Cafes is to recognize that we need each other.