Death Positive Programming

What is Death Positivity?

Congressional Cemetery is pleased to offer death positive programming. As an active burial ground, we are no strangers to death. But at Congressional Cemetery, we believe in talking openly and honestly about death without the stigma those conversations usually carry. Death positivity describes the idea that talking openly about death is healthy and important to appreciating life.

Introducing Death Doula Days

Congressional Cemetery is pleased to welcome Laura Lyster-Mensh as our Death Doula in residence for 2023! Given our interest in death positivity, Laura was a natural fit to welcome aboard. She will be hosting visitors for Death Doula Days on Saturdays, 10:00 AM- 1:00 PM at our Gatehouse for a weekly rotating slate of different death positive programs, activities, and discussions.

What is a Death Doula?

Death Doulas, or “end of life doulas,” are trained, non-clinical supporters of dying people and their families. Death doulas offer support with telling one’s life story, planning for death, and vigil at the end of life.

Want to rock Death Doula Days merchandise, including shirts, hoodies, and more?

Meet Laura

Laura Lyster-Mensh is a woman of a certain age who has travelled the world learning stories. She has lived in Asia and Greece, written books, hosted podcasts, run businesses, studied languages, and taught English. During the pandemic she and her family moved to DC, and she used some of her isolation time to take training as an end-of-life doula and hospice volunteer. She now volunteers at the Capital Caring hospice unit at Sibley Hospital. Among Laura’s goals for her residency are to promote death positive conversations among the HCC community and beyond.”

If you are interested please email Laura directly at

You may also follow the activities of Death Doula Days via Instagram.

Upcoming 2023 Death Doula Days Topics

June 3, 2023: Q&A about natural organic reduction (human composting) with our own Lily Buerkle from 10:30a-11:30am  RSVP

June 10, 2023: Five Wishes activity RSVP

June 13, 2023: Death Cafe in the evening in the Chapel RSVP

June 17, 2023: What does dying look like? Q&A with an HCC docent gardening volunteer and retired hospice nurse (guest from 10am-11am)  RSVP

June 24, 2023: Death Deck game day RSVP

July 1, 2023: Holiday weekend off

July 8, 2023: TBA

Death Cafes

Congressional Cemetery, in conjunction with Laura, are now offering Death Cafes. Death Cafe is a global movement facilitating thoughts and discussion about the often-taboo subject of death. It’s an intimate informal gathering to discuss death while eating cake and drinking tea. There is no agenda other than providing a safe space to have an open-ended conversation.

Please join us for Historic Congressional Cemetery Death Cafes on February 7, April 11, June 13, August 8, October 10, and December 12 from 6:00 PM- 7:30 PM in our historic chapel. Tickets are free and are available for reservation approximately one month prior to the event date on January 12, March 14, May 9, July 11, September 12, and November 7.

Death Cafes

  • Death Cafe

    June 13 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

    As an active burial ground, Historic Congressional Cemetery is well acquainted with death. But just what is a Death Cafe? Death Cafe is a global [...]

  • Death Cafe

    August 8 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

    As an active burial ground, Historic Congressional Cemetery is well acquainted with death. But just what is a Death Cafe? Death Cafe is a global [...]

Death Doula Days

  • Death Doula Days

    June 3 @ 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

    No one likes to talk about dying, right? We do! Bring your curiosity, your courage, and a sense of humor as we sit around the table at the gatehouse (almost) every Saturday in 2023 to explore our worries and wonderment about mortality. Join our new death doula in residence for a weekly series of conversations and workshops about the end of life. Guests will include those who sit with the dying, care for our bodies, and help those we will leave behind. We will work on projects like organizing our digital lives, documenting our wishes, and telling our life stories. We will play games, do projects, hear musicians, meet artists, and hear from scholars who explore the end of life in their work. Our goal is to explore a 'death positive' way to think about our mortality. You never know who you’ll meet around the table, but each person who enters the room is a gift to the event. Cake and tea provided. Donations to our host, Historic Congressional Cemetery, are warmly encouraged. By facing our fear of death we aim to best enjoy every breath.

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