Death and grieving: Memoirs and cafes help survivors cope and grieve

Published: Wednesday, April 24 2013 7:25 p.m. MDT

Everyone deals with death. Maybe that's one reason some people want to talk about it, or at least read about how others cope with mortality.

A new trend in helping people feel more comfortable discussing death and dying is the so-called "death cafe." According to a story in USA Today, the casual get togethers started in England and are catching on in America.

There's even a website, Deathcafe.com, where you can learn how people from around the world are hosting their own death cafes. USA Today reported that Jon Underwood, who held the first cafe in September 2011, in England, developed the idea from the writings of Bernard Crettaz, a Swiss sociologist who says talking about death leads to authenticity.

Those who attend the gatherings aren't interested in the morbid aspects of dying, Underwood said. "These are people who want to live more fully. They think that by fearing cessation they can't be spiritually alive. The more we talk about dying and what it means about ego and self, the more we add to life," he said.

The discussion can also center on less spiritual, but still important, topics that often aren't dealt with until crisis hits, such as advance directive planning, physician-assisted dying, funeral arrangements and what happens after death.

A more traditional approach to learning how to cope with death is in the privacy of a book.

One of the latest books about grieving death is a memoir by Richard Lischer, a professor of preaching at Duke Divinity School.

In "Stations of the Heart," Lischer tells readers how he dealt with the death of his 33-year-old son, who died of cancer.

In an interview with Religion News Service, Lischer said writing about his son's death helped him grieve. But thinking about what his son, who left behind a wife and child, will miss in life still stings.

"But," he adds, "When you get perspective, your faith tells you there is a basic goodness in the gifts God has given. It’s a terrible thing what happened. But that he was here in the world — that was good.”

email: mbrown@deseretnews.com

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