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'GRIM CONVERSATION ENCOURAGED': Michigan's first 'Death Cafe' opens in Grand Rapids

Abby Hunter has a love for coffee, food, traveling and death. So, she decided to open 'The Mortals Cafe' where people can comfortably discuss death and dying.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — There's nothing like bringing new life to a community - through death.

A new and unique cafe in downtown Grand Rapids is inviting guests who are interested in sampling internationally-inspired coffee, all while indulging in open conversations about death and dying.

"It's just all about providing a pot of coffee and some cake and getting together and openly talking about death," said Abbey Hunter, who owns 'The Mortals Cafe' in downtown Grand Rapids. "Space needed to be created for people to feel safe discussing what many feel is a very uncomfortable subject."

For Hunter, the subject is far from uncomfortable. She's been fascinated with death and dying since she was a student at Forest Hills High school in Ada, Michigan.

"As I was growing up, I remember always wanting to be a mortician," said Hunter, 36. 

The Mortals Cafe may be the first official 'Death Cafe' in Michigan, but it's not the first one ever in the world. They originated in London in 2011. Over the past decade, they started gaining in popularity throughout Europe and Australia, before a few started popping up in the United States.

"I thought, 'Wow. It would be really cool if we created a brick and mortar location, have available resources, workshops, classes and lectures on the subject of death and dying in our own mortality," Hunter said. "Death is the great unknown which means it's something to think about, ruminate on and discuss."

Hunter says she was a little worried at first as to whether a death cafe would be receptive in "conservative West Michigan," but after two months of being open, it's been quite popular.

"I've had people sharing personal stories of like their brush with death or a close family member or a friend's experiences," added Hunter. "We also offer additional resources from finding a death doula to connections to palliative care, life insurance and more."

From the eccentric menu, eclectic coffee varieties, to the 'morbid' conversation, Hunter says her cafe exists to help people feel comfortable enough about death so they can take the conversation home and talk to their spouse, parents or kids.

The Mortals Cafe is located at 111 S. Division Ave. It's located inside Little Space Studio, a co-working space available to paying members. 

The cafe is typically open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. However, it has different hours for ArtPrize, which runs through Oct. 3. ArtPrize hours are Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, and noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

If you want to learn more about The Mortals Cafe, click HERE and you'll be taken directly to their website.