Jon Underwood founded a movement called Death Cafe. Death Cafe has had a significant, positive impact on how society thinks about and addresses death. Death Cafe has continued to grow in influence in the three years since Jon’s death and virtual death cafes now provide support to many during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Digital Death Cafe

Photo after ‘Death Cafe with Jon Underwood’ at our popup shop during Dying Matters Awareness Week 2013.

What is Death Cafe?

At a Death Cafe people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death.

Our objective is ‘to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives’.

A Death Cafe is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session.

Our Death Cafes are always offered:

  • On a not for profit basis
  • In an accessible, respectful and confidential space
  • With no intention of leading people to any conclusion, product or course of action
  • Alongside refreshing drinks and nourishing food – and cake!

To learn more about Death Cafe click here.

Jon’s impact

Jon was a very calm and warm person. This was evident when he spoke to you as an individual or when he spoke at an event or in a Death Cafe. Death Cafe started to obtain international interest when I was developing an early version of MyWishes (previously called DeadSocial). I would regularly bump into Jon at charity events that we were attending as delegates or speaking at. He advised me on aspects of what we were developing and I would advise him on technical aspects of the Death Cafe website.

Jon facilitated a Death Cafe in our popup shop for Dying Matters Awareness Week 2013 and spoke at our first ever event. A video of Jon speaking at ‘Death, digital demise and our digital legacy’ can be watched below…. We gathered into a Camden co-working space and Jon got up and spoke to a a group (of mostly twenty-something year olds) about what Death Cafe is and why it exists. It was evident that his talk evoked thought and I remember continually hearing the word “Death Cafe” during the interval.

Jon’s legacy includes significantly advancing the acceptance and understanding of death. The ‘safe environment’ Death Cafe continues to provide across the globe has helped and inspired many thousands if not millions of people. If you have not attended a Death Cafe I strongly recommend that you do. I have found them moving, liberating, sad, shocking, funny and empowering.

Thank you for your time, your advice and your friendship. Thank you for the contribution you have made to better my own understanding of death. Thank you for quitting your job and starting the Death Cafe movement. What you achieved is remarkable.

Written by James Norris, the founder of MyWishes