On “The Japanese Art of Grieving a Miscarriage”

Jizo figure, Great Vow Zen Monastery, Clatskanie, OR; NPR photo by Deena Prichep

As one who knows the grief of a pregnancy aborted and attempt after unsuccessful attempt at conception, I wasn’t surprised to receive a NY Times piece on the topic from a half-dozen people. It’s no wonder The Japanese Art of Grieving a Miscarriage has hit a nerve: our dominant culture in the US has little willingness to see this face of grief.

In the Times essay, the American author describes the ceremonial vacuum she and her husband experienced when her 10-week-old pregnancy ended. “We knew miscarriage was common. But why wasn’t there anything people did when it happened? ‘If only there were some kind of tradition.…’” Read More

Let’s Talk: “One Man’s Quest to Change the Way We Die”

Credit: New York Times

This NY Times Magazine profile is generating lots of buzz. Why now?

BJ Miller’s TED Talk, “What really matters at the end of life,” has garnered more than 5 million views since early 2015. And now a NYT profile of this man with the remarkable survival story is striking a nerve. As the piece gets shared on Facebook from page to page, what does it tell us about the times we live in, the culture it reflects?

“To be human is really hard”

The day before my Dad’s craniotomy for his fatal brain cancer, his surgeon said to me, “Don’t worry, little girl.” I was nearly 40. “We’ll fix your Dad right up.” How much different might our family’s experience have been with a doctor like BJ Miller? Read More

Death Talk by the Numbers

Time devoted to bringing you the Death Talk Project is largely unpaid. $500/month in community support will help make this valued work sustainable.

Nearly 4 years ago I co-founded PDX Death Café. Since then, I’ve led or supported 43 Death Cafés – and now I’m mentoring a leadership team that’s recruited a cohort of 2-dozen committed facilitators.

Following the sold-out 500-person Death:OK (Let’s Talk About It) conference in October, 2015, I founded the Death Talk Project. Now 9 months since its debut, we have an email list of 2000 and combined Facebook “Likes” (across 6 pages) of 4100 and have gotten countless notes of appreciation & encouragement 🙂

I’ve hosted 23 nights at the movies in partnership with Peace Films & the Clinton Street Theater, with our 2017 line-up ready to roll. I’ve fielded at least 3-dozen inquiries about “how to get into this work” and launched a new monthly informational interview session to respond to this demand. Read More

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