Photo of the 'death cafe' held in the English cemetery chapel in Malaga. / SALVADOR SALAS

English cemetery in Malaga breaks new ground with 'death cafe' meetings

A support group meets every month in the chapel for discussions on the taboo subject of the end of life

MATÍAS STUBER MALAGA.

The English cemetery in Malaga has begun monthly meetings in its chapel to talk about the taboo subject of death, an idea originally promoted by Londoner Jon Underwood with his 'death cafe' concept.

On All Saints' Day, 14 people gathered under leaden skies for the first meeting organised by 50-year-old Noelia Correa. The attendees ranged in age upwards from people in their thirties. Some had recently experienced the loss of a loved one and needed to channel their feelings. Others simply wanted to talk about death without the connotation that accompanies it in Western societies.

"I want to make friends with death", said Noelia in the short introduction to the assembled group partaking in this new 'death cafe' wave which has spread all over Europe.

She then lists the rules: no entry charge is allowed, entry must be free for anyone, the atmosphere must be peaceful and respectful, there must be coffee and pastries and there can be no selling or advertising.

“What we want is to normalise the subject of death. It is not a psychological treatment," Noelia said.

Noelia believes that facing death and reducing existential fears empowers one to live with more peace of mind and awareness. "It works for most people," she added.

The conversation began to turn to the preparations for a death: what does it mean and can one really be prepared for a farewell without return? The atmosphere was one of the utmost respect. At one point, a state of general relaxation was reached and some laughter could even be heard. Talking about death, some participants said, helped them to see a recent loss as a little less calamitous.

The expansion of the death cafe is due to the initiative of the aforementioned Jon Underwood. The inspiration, however, has a sociological basis. The Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz sparked the idea of the death cafes. Crettaz wanted to bring people together and create an intimate, friendly and protected space to talk about death.

The chapel in the English cemetery does not celebrate death, but it helps some people to deal with it better during the two-hour period.

The 'death cafe' is held on the first Friday of every month.