Meet Your Friendly Local Thanatologist

The envelope arrived yesterday from the Association for Death Education and Counseling with my shiny new certification (well, not so shiny, but it is a nice paper stock).

I now have a few more letters to put behind my name: CT, Certified Thantologist, which recognizes a specific educational background in dying, death and bereavement, combined with experience in the field.

I submitted myself to the certification process (a 3 hour exam following a lengthy application that included gathering transcripts and letters of recommendation) primarily as a gauge of what I’ve learned in the field. I studied the recommended texts but largely relied on the experience I’ve gained with my clients and the cultural immersion of the last four years of Death Café & other community conversation work.

This is not a field I ever planned to enter, nor one I studied in college or graduate school. My journey began with my father’s death, then one thing and another led me into training as a Celebrant and Home Funeral Guide. Once I cofounded PDX Death Café, I began to wonder more broadly about how cultural perspective on dying, death, and grief… and that led me to the Orphan Wisdom School.

I wasn’t sure how this path would measure up against academic and professional bodies of knowledge. As it turns out, life – and death – are good teachers.



Afterlife Conference Returns to Portland in 2017

Use our promo code for a discount on general admission

The Death Talk Project is leading a discussion on language to kick-off the 7th Annual event.

This popular national conference returns to Portland June 1-4, 2017. Use the promotion code “HP” for $10 off general admission to the full conference.

To kick off the 7th Annual Conference, the Death Talk Project will host an interactive evening focused on the language we use to talk about death and grief. A panel of experts facilitated by Holly Pruett will explore the pros and cons of popular euphemisms for death, whether death is the “end of life,” and multi-cultural approaches to talking about death and the afterlife. All participants will be invited into small group discussion. Read More

Holiday Remembrance Events

angel-of-hope-invite-2016The winter holidays call us to remember… those who are no longer at the table with us… the traditions of our ancestors… a time when our prayers were known to be needed to persuade the return of the light.

This December I return to two community venues to help hold space for grief and remembrance. Please join me:

Dec 11: Children’s Memorial Day Candlelighting Service

A ceremony to honor the grief of families whose children have died, and the memories of those children. River View Cemetery Chapel, 7pm. Free, no registration required. Optional submission of photo by Dec. 5. Download a flyer.

Dec 18: 5th Annual Celebration of Love & Remembrance

Come together for a period of silent meditation, quiet music, and rituals of remembrance, bereavement, and farewell, followed by a simple supper. You are encouraged to bring pictures or mementos of persons you wish to honor or remember. Offered by Holly Pruett, Life-Cycle Celebrant & Home Funeral Guide; Don Tarbutton, retired Hospice Chaplain; Harp: Sylvia Hackathon, CM-Th.

Pine Street Sangha, 5:30-7pm. There is no cost to attend, contributions are appreciated. Space is limited, registration required via Eventbrite.

Final Film & Death Cafés of 2016

13443129_528899930626716_3589000226302426187_oJoin us Tuesday, November 22 for Death Talk Goes to the Movies‘ final screening of 2016, the critically acclaimed documentary We Were Here: The AIDS Years in San Francisco. Discussion will be led by director and producer David Weissman, along with one of the film’s subjects, Daniel Goldstein. 7pm at the Clinton St Theater, suggested donation $5+.

We have two final Death Cafés scheduled this year:


Cease Not Until Death: a 6 week class

Leveen Lois [cropped]
Delve series leader Lois Leveen
I’ve just completed this provocative and useful exploration of how literature and art help us make sense of illness and the end of life. There are a few spaces left for the encore session in January – sign up today!
Death comes for all of us, and for those we love—often after long bouts of debilitating disease.  What role can art and literature play in understanding and enduring these losses?

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