Ohio woman opens nation's first 'Death Cafe'

Jul 18, 2012

Death is an issue few people want to talk about. One central Ohio woman wants to change that. Lizzy Miles is hosting what's believed to be the first "Death Cafe" in the United States tomorrow night in Westerville. Spaces for the event have already been closed so miles is taking reservations for another cafe August 23rd in Columbus. She talks about them with the Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles.

LM: A death café is a pop up event where strangers get together to talk about death, have tea and yummy desserts.

JI: What do people do at these death cafes? Are these terminally ill people who come to these? How do they work?

LM: It is open to the entire community and one of the principles of the death café is there’s no ideology. So you can come if you are worried about your own death or want to talk about someone who has died and you are grieving, or you can come If you want to hear what someone else has to say and you haven’t formed your opinion yet. This is the first one in the United States. There have been 17 in England, just in the past year so it’s become really popular over there

JI: What made you want to do this? This is kind of a strange thing to think….I want to do death cafes.

LM: I’ve worked in hospice for several years and in hospice we find so many people who even with terminal illnesses, have not had the discussion of death with their families. Their families still don’t know what they want. They don’t know what they want. And with my other hospice colleagues, we all say well how can we get people to start talking about death sooner? And this is my attempt at seeing if, opening the conversation to the general community will help people think about death.

JI: Let me try to understand how this operate. You get people together and how does this work?

LM: it really is just an open conversation of what brought you here. We have tea, coffee, cake and I have cute little cookies that are shaped like tombstones. So there will be food too. That’s part of it. Comfort food, when you are talking about such a serious topic like death, it’s nice to have some cookies and cake along with it.

Miles says two facilitators will help her with the 30 people expected to gather to facilitate conversations about death at the upcoming cafes. There will also be a death cafe, specifically designed for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered community in the coming months to help them deal with unique problems surrounding death. People who are interested in going to a death café can find out more information by going to