You might think I am weird, but I like to talk about death. Not in a creepy way. I am simply fascinated by the conversations around death and dying. In our #50MeetUps journey, my next stop was with the Death Cafe NYC Meet Up. This group is run by a Hospice Memory Artist and a Grief Specialist who was widowed at a young age.
When I explained a little bit about wanting to learn what makes a good meetup (aside from my interest) the first two words they shared with me were “validation and support.” That is why people come to this group. There was a woman there whose husband is 92 years old and in hospice. She comes to the group to see what she should expect after his death. One woman lost her fiancé to suicide and hasn’t been able to return to work. Another young man lost his best friend to suicide a few years back. He said her death forced him to get help when his internal struggle with suicidal ideations became too much to handle on his own. Validation and support.
What was it like?
The overall experience was very calming. We met at Tagine, a Moroccan restaurant with a warm, welcoming atmosphere. Mint tea was served, appetizers and family style plates were passed around making it even cozier. I know, cozy and death don’t mix, but, with this group, it did. No one was afraid to say “death” or “dead” or “dying.” There was no need to use euphemisms like someone “passed on” or is “no longer with us.” The ability to use such language allowed for open discourse and meaningful moments.
What did we talk about, besides death?
While this was not (and is not intended to be) a therapy session, people were still able to share and breakdown why they think and feel they way they do about death. We talked about sudden death, long goodbyes due to illness, and most memorably, we talked about loss. Loss of things and experiences – for example, a young man lost his wallet in Hurricane Sandy and in it was his life. That was a loss for him. A woman was unable to have children of her own and she had to mourn her inability to feel her baby kick inside her. Loss and death invoke grief.
This is definitely a group I will return to for my own interest and exploration.