- Griffin Swartzell
Dying is inevitable. We'll all do it, eventually. Yet expressing that reality is considered morbid in American society at large, inappropriate for public discussion, outright forbidden around children.
"Americans are very death-phobic," says Susan Coffey. "It's as if we don't talk about it and it's not going to happen. But it happens every day. And if we don't talk about it, we're less prepared when it happens."
She sponsors the Colorado Springs Death Café. It's not a physical space, but a free and open discussion group. They meet monthly at the Evergreen Cemetery chapel to "eat cake, drink tea and discuss death," according to the Death Café national website. Ideally, it helps people make the most of what life they have. Each session has an agenda, but the discussion is ultimately group-led, so talk goes where it needs to. But the emphasis is always on normalizing, discussing and demystifying death.
Coffey says the group covers a wide range of topics, too, like end-of-life care, after-death options, mourning versus grieving, and more. Coffey herself is a certified death midwife — a field that includes vigils for the dying, advocacy and funeral planning — so she can speak to a range of options for funerary rites and after-death disposition beyond ground burial and cremation.
That said, it's conversation, not therapy, though the group will recommend resources and professionals if they're needed. And while respect and dignity are expected, the group is intended for a wide audience. Curiosity's a perfectly justifiable reason to attend.
"We've had a few people show up nervous because it's a weird thing to be doing," she says. "But they find out it's not scary. Death itself is only scary because we don't know."