Introducing the ‘Gravetalk’ initiative
It has always been difficult to have conversations around death, dying and funerals, even more so when it gets personal. However, in the past few years signs have been appearing that this taboo is under challenge.
This challenge is partly being driven by demographics: the generation known as ‘baby-boomers’ (1946-1955) are reaching the stage of life when death is getting closer. Throughout the years this generation has been characterised by questioning and challenging institutions and authority, and perhaps wanting to be original and creative. As someone put it: “The generation that created Woodstock are not going to ‘go gentle into that good night’”.
Signs that the taboo is being questioned include the making of documentaries such as ‘My last summer’ (Channel 4), the emergence of Death Festivals (Southbank, and the success of the grass-roots movement known as Death Café. A Death Café is a space where people can eat cake and talk about death, sometimes in a real café or sometimes in a home or other meeting place. Young adults as well as older people find that once they start talking, there is a lot to be said about this sensitive but important reality.
The Church is well placed to be part of this momentum. For centuries we have held, both literally and metaphorically, people’s experience and thoughts around dying, death, funerals and bereavement. Pastorally, we are there for people as they face death and there for them as they plan funerals and grieve. We also have plenty of space and are good at tea and cake.
GraveTalk is a café space to talk about death, dying and funerals. It is organised by the local church and can be held in a hall, a home or a real café. At each event a pack of GraveTalk questions are distributed – there are 52 specially written open questions which get people talking about death, dying, funerals and loss. There are no answers, just conversation. And it’s open to people of all faiths and doubts.
The GraveTalk concept and resources has been carefully tested with parishes in partnership with the University of Staffordshire.
The Life Events Project Team