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.