Local hospice hosts virtual 'Death Cafe' discussion

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Dave Rogers, The Daily News of Newburyport, Mass.
·2 min read
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Feb. 23—NEWBURYPORT — Discussing one's mortality, much less thinking about it, can be a daunting challenge especially when COVID-19 has claimed the lives of half a million Americans over the last 12 months.

But Joel Grossman, who leads the Death Cafe, said a discussion group about dying and how to get ready for it as best as one can isn't as heavy a discussion as one might assume.

"It's a chance to broach the topic and surprisingly there's a lot of laughs. It's not heavy at all," said Grossman, an interfaith minister who works at Constellation Hospice in Newburyport.

Constellation Hospice, with locations across New England, and the Hospice Help Foundation are co-sponsoring the discussion.

Over the years, the Death Cafe was held in person, but because of COVID-19, the event will take place March 1 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. via videoconference. Grossman said anywhere between five and 500 people could easily participate. If the event attracts more than a handful of people, attendees would likely be placed into smaller groups.

"The main nine-tenths of it is small-group discussions so Zoom breakouts are the same thing, so we said, 'Let's go ahead,'" Goodman said.

Death Cafes were started in 2004 and are now being held worldwide. Participants range from younger people facing the inevitable loss of their parents to middle-aged people wondering what lies ahead and those who are close to the end of lives.

"More than anything else, it's a place to talk out loud with others about mortality," Grossman said, stressing the event is not grief support but rather a frank discussion.

Asked what prompted the creation of Death Cafe, Grossman said it was the very fact that death is a tough subject to discuss and having a safe and supportive venue for that subject was needed.

"Breaking the ice, making the conversation available and that's what this is, whatever they want to say, " Grossman said.

And despite Grossman being a minister, the Death Cafe is completely secular, he said.

For more about Death Cafes, visit https://deathcafe.com/what/. No registration is needed. The Zoom link is https://zoom.us/j/99588657410.

Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached at drogers@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.