The first Death Café hosted by the Saskatchewan Hospice Palliative Care Association (SHPCA) and the Sun Country Health Region proved to be an opportunity for meaningful but uplifting conversation.
The Death Café was held at St. Joseph’s Hospital’s Auditorium No. 1 on Tuesday afternoon. A small crowd of four people turned out, but according to Denise Séguin Horth with the SHPCA, it was an ideal number for what they had planned.
The Death Café started with a presentation by Séguin Horth on the services that the SHPCA provides, and how it wants to improve care and benefits for families. Then Séguin Horth and Brenda Freeman, the palliative care co-ordinator with the Sun Country Health Region, co-facilitated the Death Café discussions.
“People show up at a table, and they’re open to dialogue,” said Séguin Horth. “It’s a safe place to discuss whatever comes up.”
There is no set agenda when it comes to a Death Café, she said.
Each participant at the gathering introduced themselves, and was asked how many times they had attended the session. They were also asked what their expectations were, and if they had specific topics they wanted to talk about.
“We let people know that a Death Café is not a bereavement program. We’re not psychologists,” said Séguin Horth. “It’s just an open and safe place for people to talk about the things they don’t necessarily talk about in the normal, everyday situations.”
It was an intimate setting, and people who attended the Estevan session were uplifted, she said. Everyone felt like they learned a lot, and there was some deep sharing. Séguin Horth said they would encourage their friends to attend future sessions.
Often times when the topic of death comes up, Séguin Horth said people resist or back away.
“It gives you a lot of reflection when you get home and ponder the questions that were raised, and everyone’s different approach to death,” said Séguin Horth.
She noted there have been Death Cafés in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert in the past, but to her knowledge, it hasn’t happened in Estevan or in another rural area. She hopes the association can bring Death Cafés to other rural areas.
“The importance is because people want to talk, and they don’t always have a chance to talk about these things,” said Séguin Horth.