Coronavirus: Virtual “Death Cafes” Flooded With Lockdown As People Plan To Die

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Before the lockdown, “death cafes” were a unique space offering complete strangers the opportunity to meet and talk openly about the often delicate subject of death.

A subject that many people find uncomfortable, these centers provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere for those who want to discuss death in a relaxed setting, usually over tea and cake.

With coronavirus spreading, they were overwhelmed by more people than ever trying to come to terms with the idea of ​​dying – but had to fire people because of the lockdown.

Nicole Stanfield, who runs Taunton's death cafe
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Nicole Stanfield runs Taunton’s death cafe in Somerset

So they moved online, offering their services virtually.

Nicole Stanfield, who runs the Taunton Death Café in Somerset, uses Zoom and leads lives on Facebook to organize her meetings.

She says she has seen a huge increase in interest since the COVID-19 epidemic.

Participants want to talk about how the grieving process has changed and how to plan for the end of life, she said.

“I feel like people have a heightened sense of urgency now, and death seems less abstract when we hear about the number of deaths every day in the news.

“People realize that they should talk about and plan for death while it is still possible. “

Finsbury Park Death Café Facebook Page
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Finsbury Park group online meetings grow, organizer Caroline Dent says

Caroline Dent, who runs the death cafe in Finsbury Park in north London, says online meetings are gaining ground.

“They’re full and booked with a reservation list for each cafe,” she says.

Dent says people want to discuss their concerns about death itself and also the business of dying.

“There is a lot of anxiety because death was” there “until this pandemic. Now it’s “here” – it’s all around us and it doesn’t discriminate. “

The rules on social distancing mean that the funeral has also changed significantly, with some also moving online.

Rabbi Miriam Berger holding his grandfather's funeral on Zoom
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Rabbi Miriam Berger organized the funeral of his grandfather on Zoom

Rabbi Miriam Berger, who lost his grandfather to a coronavirus in March, officiated himself via Zoom, with family members from around the world.

“By having all these faces on the screen, and knowing that we could see each other through these camera screens, it actually created an intimacy that you don’t think of in a virtual world, created a real feeling of unity, ”she said.

“You can go through the screen after screen pages of family and friends who joined us – we had over 200 people with us – and in fact it makes a difference because we felt supported and we felt had family and friends around us, we were not physically together at the cemetery. “

Conducting the funeral via Zoom actually made it easier for her 96-year-old grandmother, she says, because she didn’t need to go to the grave, but she could still see many of her friends and from his family.

“His words were,” I can really feel love on this screen, I can really hear all your love “- and I think it was powerful for all of us, because it gave an idea of ​​what we needed that ‘she feels at this moment. “

However, despite the technology filling a void at the moment and the family finding some comfort in the short term, Rabbi Berger has concerns for the future.

“I think there will be a feeling that many of us were affected by this period, so many families will have mourned within them and some will have had more than one mourning,” she said.

“I don’t think we will fully understand what the trauma society went through, maybe for many years after we got out of the lockdown.” “

Mireille Hayden, end of life doula
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Mireille Hayden is an end of life doula and also runs a death cafe

Mireille Hayden is an end of life doula, offering support and advice to deceased or dying families.

She also runs a death cafe and hopes that the pandemic will help change attitudes toward death.

“It’s very difficult, but we haven’t faced it for centuries,” she said.

“Being confronted with this daily means engaging people in conversation and making them think, it could happen to me, whatever my age, so I need to have this conversation, to put my plans in place ; I have to make sure that my loved ones, relatives and family are taken care of and taken care of. “

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Her hope is that this pandemic will facilitate conversations about death.

“What we’re trying to do is help people put their plans together and try to provide all of the services that we were before the foreclosure, like death cafes and workshops – but virtually, so that people can access this support and get all the help they need to put plans in place. “

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