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Death Cafés address topic that shouldn’t be scary

SOLANA BEACH — It’s been said there are only two certainties in life, one of which most people would prefer to not pay. The other they’d rather not talk about.

While the first action is not legally recommended, discussing death is something Encinitas resident Tiffany Fox is hoping to encourage when she hosts her first Death Café Oct. 18.

“The goal is to provide a safe, nonjudgmental space to talk about death, something that usually has a negative connotation,” Fox said.

Death Café is an international movement created by Jon Underwood, who held the first discussion group in his East London home in September 2011. Since then about 1,150 Death Cafés have formed.

According to the website, the objective is “to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives.”

There are no other objectives, themes or agendas. In fact, the only requirement is that cake is served at each gathering, making the event “less of a serious discussion and more of a celebration,” Fox said.

At 38, Fox said she was one of the youngest participants when she attended her first Death Café in Carlsbad this past March.

She said she’s always been interested in discussing death, but the topic became more intriguing when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, something from which she said she is fully expected to recover and survive.

“Death doesn’t have to be scary or dark,” Fox said. “I’ve always been interested in discussing death because it didn’t scare me, not even as I was contemplating death with the disease.”

As a yogi, Fox said she considers death part of life’s natural cycle that shouldn’t be feared.

“To live deeply means contemplating death and one’s own mortality,” she said. “With Death Café others can direct you down paths you wouldn’t have gone down or to think things you wouldn’t have thought.”

About 40 people attended the two-hour Carlsbad event, “and the conversation never stalled,” Fox said. “Clearly there is a need. I’m not the only one contemplating this.”

Fox said she decided to host an event because “they should happen more often.”

“We have support groups for bereavement, but there’s no place to go talk about death more casually,” she added.

She said her Death Café will begin with a brief introduction. Participants will then break into small groups and be given optional discussion topics such as the importance of having one’s estate in order or experiences people have had witnessing death.

But each group can discuss whatever comes up, she added. The meeting will end with reflections from each group — and cake.

People who are currently grieving a loss are dissuaded from attending, but David Miller, minister at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito, where the event is being held, will be on hand for support, Fox said.

Death Café will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. on Oct. 18 at 1036 Solana Drive in Solana Beach. The event is free but donations are accepted to cover the cost of cake and beverages.

To register or for more information email Fox at [email protected].