The Dilemma of Death & Language of Loss: A Conversation

Register for the full conference with the promo code DISCOUNT50, and $50 will be deducted from the price of your general admission ticket! Click image to go to conference page.
“Palliative care is one place where euphemisms go to enjoy job security and long life.” Stephen Jenkinson, Die Wise

Join me at the 7th Annual Afterlife Conference in Portland June 1-4, 2017 (see image caption for a great $50 discount) where I’ll facilitate a May 31st opening night community discussion on the language we use: The Dilemma of Death & Language of Loss: A Conversation.

Read on to meet the panelists who will get our May 31st conversation started: Karen Wyatt, MD, hospice physician and founder of End-of-Life UniversityWilliam Peters, MFT, MEd, director of The Shared Crossing Project, a research initiative to examine the shared-death experience; and Austyn Wells, spiritual medium who combines her certification in grief counseling with shamanism, energy medicine, and intuitive client interaction. 

Euphemisms: Helpful or Troubling?

Asked about their favorite euphemism for dying, death, or bereavement, Karen says, “I most frequently use loss as a euphemism for death and bereavement because I believe it describes the emptiness one feels inside after the death of a loved one. And it also equates death with other losses that are a normal part of life so that death can be viewed within the framework of life in general, and not as a separate and unnatural event.”

As the founder of the End-of-Life University, Karen uses that phrase “not just to refer to death itself.” In her view, “end of life describes the last stage of human development and incorporates the declining years of life, the dying process, and death – the moment at which physical life ceases.”

Austyn and William are more inclined to eschew euphemisms. Austyn says, “They all seem evident we are distanced from the reality of death. Bit the dust, checked into the horizontal Hilton, we talk about things connected to our material world without an understanding of what the afterlife might look like. Even passed away is somewhat obtuse.” The prevalence of euphemisms, Austyn believes, reflects “a mental paralysis in understanding the soul.”

William also considers passing on or passing over as examples of euphemisms that “make light of human death.”  He says, “Euphemisms for death are an unhealthy distraction away from the reality of human death. As a family therapist with an existential bent, I encourage people to confront the reality of human death head on. This being said, one of the funniest euphemisms I have heard is pushing up weeds.”

Karen says she cringes at the Grim Reaper as a metaphor for death “because it evokes such negativity and fear. Everything about the character of the Grim Reaper seems to represent terror, e.g. the black hooded robe, absence of a face, scythe for cutting down the living, etc. I would like to see this image retired from use or updated to a friendlier, kinder character who represents the beauty of death, as well as the sadness.”

There’s little room for sadness, William notes, in our “be happy, move on culture” where we so often hear people encouraged to “get over it.” He says, “Death often sets a whole process of healing and awakening into motion.  This process of grieving can lead to a higher state of consciousness and wellbeing if one allows the process to unfold naturally.”

Join us to consider these and other perspectives in small group discussion following opening remarks by these panelists.

The 7th Annual Afterlife Conference

On the west coast only every three years, this year’s Afterlife Conference
features the best and the brightest in end-of-life care, afterlife research, bereavement, and mystical perspectives on what happens after we die.

Dr. Eben Alexander, neurosurgeon and best-selling author of Proof of Heaven, says, “I love the personable nature of this conference. It’s really a good size, and the people here, in many ways, just flat-out get it.”  

For More Information

The Dilemma of Death & Language of Loss: A Conversation
Wednesday, May 31, 2017, 7-9pm, Red Lion Hotel on the River (909 N Hayden Island Drive, Portland, OR)

  • The Dilemma of Death & Language of Loss registration
  • The Dilemma of Death & Language of Loss flier
  • The Dilemma of Death & Language of Loss Facebook page (invite your friends!)

Panelist Presentations at the 7th Annual Afterlife Conference:

  • Karen Wyatt MD presents Sacred Self-Care Practices for Death Care Professionals, Saturday, June 3, 2-5 pm. More info
  • William Peters, MFT, M.Ed. presents Shared Death Experience: Healing across the Veil, Thursday, June 1, 1:30 – 4:30 pm. More info
  • Austyn Wells presents A Lightworker’s Tool Kit, Thursday, 6/1, 9 am – noon. More info
  • Afterlife Conference registration