community news

The local palliative care society is continuing to help others feel more comfortable talking about death.

Kim Aylesworth is facilitating a Death Café, offered through the Pictou County Palliative Care Society, the third such offering since 2017. The event will be held Nov. 25, 6:30-8:30 p.m., at River Run Café on Provost Street.

“Death Café is a model that started about 10 years ago now,” said Aylesworth, who volunteers with the palliative care society. “It’s a way for people to come together in a very casual, comfortable safe space. You’re sitting over coffee as you would with a friend. You’re coming together to sit and chat about death, what are your experiences, what are your concerns … it’s a very unstructured and participant-driven event.”

Aylesworth says some people often come to these events with something on their mind and it’s a chance to talk about it.

“Ironically, it’s sometimes easier to talk to a complete stranger about death than it is family. We are a very much a death-denying society. Many people think death is sad and depressing, but the objective is to talk about a good death and a good life. If you have a good life, you can come to an end of life feeling satisfied.”

In previous years, Aylesworth said about 30 people attended the Death Café. By sharing and listening to others, it’s a chance to feel or build empathy, which Aylesworth says is part of a “compassionate community.”

“We’re all going to deal with death, dying and aging,” she said. “These conversations are very heartfelt. They aren’t dark. We laugh.”

With a push provincially and nationally for advanced care planning, Aylesworth says a Death Café could help many who want to plan for the future.

“Often when we get (to the end of life), it’s stressful. Sometimes we know we are there, but it depends on the people. Some people are denying they’re dying, and then it’s up to the people that are left—children, spouses, partners and friends.”

Some people, she says, are pre-planning paying for services, while others don’t. Others don’t live close to family members, so details are left up to health-care professionals.

“Those first discussions are held in hospitals, funeral homes or churches when we’re forced to face it,” said Aylesworth.

One of the biggest things for Aylesworth is educating people about death and how to deal with the passing of a loved one. She said children are often protected from death, which leaves the child without closure.

“But there are lots of other things coming up these days too—medically assisted dying, green burials, and even markers or gravesites. For a lot of people, markers or gravesites aren’t important to them. It’s a different generation now.”

For anyone interested in attending the Death Café, space is limited so registration is requested. COVID-19 restrictions will be in place, and proof of vaccination will be requested upon arrival. For more information or to register, call the Pictou County Palliative Care Society at 902-301-9754 or email admin@PCPCares.org.

Reporter

Raissa Tetanish has been a journalist for the past 15 years, and has spent four years as editor of both The Light and Hub Now. She joined the Pictou Advocate in April 2021.