LGBTQ+ Death Cafés provide space for much-needed conversations about queer ageing and loss

The events organised by LGBT Ireland and the Irish Hospice Foundation allow participants to consider death and dying through something other than a heteronormative lens.

Image from LGBTQ+ Death Café. There is a rainbow coloured table, on top of which is a green pamphlet, a vase of flowers and a rainbow coloured paper cup.

In August this year, GCN was invited to attend Ireland’s third-ever LGBTQ+ Death Café. Facilitated by LGBT Ireland in partnership with the Irish Hospice Foundation, members of the queer community and allies gathered in the Dublin Pride Hub to engage in open discussions about dying, grief, loss and more.

With the subject of death remaining taboo, the thought of stepping into such an environment can feel somewhat uncomfortable and intimidating. In fact, several attendees shared common stories of previously not being allowed to talk about death with their families for fear it would bring it upon them.

However, the warm and welcoming atmosphere (not to mention the delicious snacks) immediately eased people’s fears. “It’s not a Death Café without laughs” was one of the truest statements of the night.

It was an intergenerational group encompassing people with a diverse range of experiences. While some were there to process their own personal grief and plan ahead, others were healthcare workers, celebrants and climate activists interested in better supporting those around them.

We were encouraged to consider many things, including how we would want to spend our final days, what song we would like to play at our funerals, and how the concept of death makes us feel. We also had several queer-specific discussions, a rarity for many of us.

Living in a Catholic country, death is often presented and experienced through the heteronormative lens of the church. Therefore, end-of-life care and rituals for LGBTQ+ folk can regularly be overlooked, a problem these LGBTQ+ Death Cafés aim to combat.

We discussed how to have Pride in death – from the clothes we want to be buried in to how younger members of the community can help ensure older queer people die the way they want. The issue of estranged families having influence over a person’s funeral was also raised, as were the feelings of exclusion and isolation while ageing.

Facilitators additionally emphasised the importance of making forward plans when it comes to death in order to have control over the situation and take the burden off of others.

A ‘Think Ahead Planning Pack’ was distributed to all participants, which provides “a place to record your personal preferences and choices for your future care through illness, end of life and after death”. Sections of the resource include those that allow for outlining a person’s desired place of care, medical treatments, funeral arrangements, and more.

As a 25-year-old, I thought that I had decades to spare before planning for death. However, the passing of GCN journalist and friend Joe Drennan, at just 21 years of age, changed my perspective. Life is fickle and can be taken away at any time in the most senseless of manners. It’s never too early to prepare for the end, and LGBTQ+ Death Cafés are a welcoming place to start. 

They’re also a great place for mingling, sincere conversations and processing grief. For more information and to stay updated on when the next one is taking place, follow LGBT Ireland on social media.

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