A subject normally considered "taboo" will be the centre focus at an inaugural event next weekend.

Osbornes Funeral Directors is holding an inaugural Death Cafe on August 4.

At the cafe event, qualified and registered funeral directors, embalmers, celebrants, Hospice staff and grief counsellors will be on hand to answer any questions.

Funeral director Richard Fullard says as funeral directors they often field questions about their role in the community, but also about - what happens when I die, how can I do this or is it okay if I want that?

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Osbornes funeral director Richard Fullard encourages people to come along to the event. Photo / Stephen Parker
Osbornes funeral director Richard Fullard encourages people to come along to the event. Photo / Stephen Parker

"There is a genuine interest about what happens, not only to our body, but how can we leave instructions for our loved ones, so we thought we'd have a Death Cafe and invite anybody who might want to start a conversation to come in and have a cuppa with one of our team and ask us anything they want."

Death Cafe is a global concept founded by Jon Underwood, based on the work of Bernard Crettaz.

Richard says the objective of Death Cafe is not to be seen as morbid, but rather for people to go along, drink tea, eat cake and to 'increase awareness of death with a view of helping people make the most of their (finite) lives'.

He says Osbornes Funeral Directors believes the more comfortable that people can become in talking about death and dying, the better they will be at communicating their wishes to those they love and care about.

Osbornes funeral director Richard Fullard encourages people to come along to the event. Photo / Stephen Parker
Osbornes funeral director Richard Fullard encourages people to come along to the event. Photo / Stephen Parker

"Death Cafe allows us to exchange conversations about life and death and celebrate the art of living and dying in a compassionate community."

"No suits, no presentations, just good coffee and great conversation about death care."

Rotorua Community Hospice chief executive Jonathon Hagger says for some people the process of death and dying happens sooner rather than later, so being aware of what is happening is healthy.

He said death and dying was not a topic that was comfortable for many people to discuss, which meant not many people planned ahead before they died.

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"Death cafes give people an opportunity to talk about and consider death, which is an entirely natural process we all go through.

"The great thing with a Death Cafe is that there is no set agenda and people can talk about their own experiences, be it planning ahead, supporting someone who is dying, or working through grief after the loss of someone."

He says in other cities Death Cafes have proven to be popular as people feel comfortable expressing their curiosity.

"Death is a natural process and it's healthy to have knowledge of what is in store for us.

"Society often talks about birth but not dying, and at Hospice we see the two as being part of one continuum."

He says growing our knowledge of death and dying is positive, especially for children.

"It's important to see and understand death as being normal.

"Spirituality is an area that people who are dying often think about more deeply about and Death Cafes provide a safe space to consider our humanity.

"Talking about dying can be scary at first but the more we do it the easier it becomes. We really want to encourage people to attend and be part of the conversation."

Age Concern Rotorua manager Rory O'Rourke says although death will come to us all eventually, it is still a bit of a taboo subject to talk about.

He says at Age Concern they do have seminars on subjects that skirt around the subject like power of attorney and wills.

"Even our visitor volunteers who visit the lonely and socially isolated are not reporting discussions about death, and although many of our clients are getting nearer to the end, and some do pass, the subject is not really discussed.

Rory says any forum which provides an opportunity to discuss and take away the taboo nature of death can only be a good thing, so he would see the Death Cafe as another opportunity.

"Death will come to us all at some time so the more prepared we are the better it will be for our family left behind."

Katie Williams, founder of The Coffin Club Rotorua, also says Death Cafes are popular all over the world, including quite a few going on in New Zealand.

She says good on Osbornes for taking the initiative and the more chances there are for people to talk about death or aging the better.

"We've got to normalise these things because we are all going to do it and it can ease lots of older people's feelings."

Collingwood Funeral Home owner Todd Gower says they hold open days at their funeral home which was similar.

He says the open days are where people can go along, have a coffee and a chat, talking about death, aging, and what the funeral home has to offer.

Todd says they do get groups who come through.

"I think it's great. We obviously encourage open discussion and people are becoming more open now."

The details
- What: Death Cafe
- When: Sunday, August 4, drop in anytime, 9am to 12pm
- Where: Osbornes Funeral Directors, 137 Old Taupo Rd
- RSVP by calling (07) 348 3600, or at the Osbornes Funeral Directors Facebook page.