Forum allows students to talk about death

Amanda Duncklee, Asst. Community Editor

Marywood’s newly established Death Café is alive and well.

Held on the last Tuesday of each month now through April from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Room 319 of the Learning Resources Center, the Death Café is a public forum that enables the Marywood community and the community at large to talk freely about death and any concerns about death.

“The goal of the Death Café is to talk about death and death-related issues,” explained Marion Beddoe-Iobst, the facilitator of the Death Café. “We do not have speakers or themes, other than the umbrella topic of death. Attendees can bring questions they have been longing to ask and every member is welcome to speak.”

Beddoe-Iobst is a junior English major at Marywood. She is an adult learner and is a thanatologist with a Masters in Social Work and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Thanatology is a branch of science related to studying death and circumstances surrounding death.

“I felt a need to offer a place for people of the Marywood community to talk openly about death,” said Beddoe-Iobst. “Not everyone has a chance to do so openly, and I wanted to enable people to do so.”

Jan. 27 marked the first ever meeting of the group. However, the concept of a Death Café is not new.

Jon Underwood and Sue Barsky Reid of the United Kingdom are the founders of the Death Café. They formed the Death Café from an idea by Bernard Crettaz in Sept. of 2011.

Death Cafés have received particular success in Europe, North America, and Australia. The facilitators run the Death Café on a completely voluntary basis and have more information listed about the organization’s origins at the official website,

Philosophy Chairperson Philip Jenkins, Ph.D., is in full support of the Death Café.

“Marywood University is an institution with a strong sense of community and social justice as part of our mission,” said Jenkins. “I think that being able to offer a safe place to discuss issues surrounding death and dying is very much in keeping with who we are as a university.”

The Death Café is a welcoming and safe environment for any person who wishes to discuss topics surrounding death. No previous experience with a Death Café is needed to participate. Attendees are encouraged to come with questions, though it is not required.

“We will have sweets and people could bring tea,” said Beddoe-Iobst. “I want everyone to feel comfortable, to participate, and to have a good time.”