Romford death cafe provides opportunity to tackle taboo subject

L-R: Asha Bhulia palliative care nurse, Gemma Norburn anatomical pathology technologist, Bridget D'A

L-R: Asha Bhulia palliative care nurse, Gemma Norburn anatomical pathology technologist, Bridget D'Aliessio palliative care nurse at Queen's Hospital's death cafe in Romford. Picture: April Roach - Credit: Archant

You might think that sitting in Queen’s Hospital’s cafe and talking about death over cake and a cup of tea makes for a dreary afternoon.

L-R: Asha Bhulia palliative care nurse, Gemma Norburn anatomical pathology technologist, Bridget D'A

L-R: Asha Bhulia palliative care nurse, Gemma Norburn anatomical pathology technologist, Bridget D'Aliessio palliative care nurse at Queen's Hospital's death cafe in Romford. Picture: April Roach - Credit: Archant

Conversations at Queen's Hospital's newly-launched regular death cafe were anything but bleak.

Instead the participants in the session on Monday, September 2, were happily sharing stories and reflecting on interesting topics such as what would you do if you knew the date - but not the year - you would die.

Gemma Norburn, an anatomical pathology technologist at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospital Trust (BHRUT) ran the popular death cafe during Dying Matters Awareness Week in May.

Following the well-attended event the trust decided to make the cafes a regular feature at Queen's Hospital in Rom Valley Way and King George Hospital in Goodmayes.


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Gemma explained that the hour-long chats are not bereavement counselling sessions or meant to foster religious or political debates about death.

She said: "The idea behind the death cafe is that you don't decide on topics or have any kind of agenda.

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"It's still felt that generally death is a taboo subject and the cafe is all about providing a space for people who want to talk about it."

Asha Bhulia, a palliative care nurse who facilitated the talk, said that she had been enjoying BHRUT's new Care after Death practice.

It involves encouraging health care professionals, such as herself, to go down to the mortuary to speak with people like Gemma about how they can better look after patients after they die.

"People don't always realise that the care for a patient continues after death," said Gemma.

Bridget D'Aliessio, who also works in palliative care said it was a sense of curiosity and interest in Gemma's job in the mortuary that led her to want to participate in the cafe.

"You get to learn about anything and everything to do with death and the dying," said Bridget.

Another participant added that it was refreshing to be able to talk about death in a place that wasn't a sad environment.

To find out more visit deathcafe.com.

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