Jan 18, 2023 - Things to Do

Congressional Cemetery's Death Doula helped me write my obituary

Photo: Chelsea Cirruzzo/Axios

👋🏻 Hi, it’s Chelsea and I wrote my own obituary.

  • The seemingly morbid task was an activity offered last weekend at the Congressional Cemetery, courtesy of their new Death Doula in-residence.

Why it matters: Death is inevitable, and Death Doula Laura Lyster-Mench wants to help us openly talk about it.

What it was like: The event took place in the cemetery’s cozy chapel. I helped myself to a cup of complimentary tea and sat down alongside people of all ages with a worksheet that walked me through how to write my own obituary.

  • At first, I bristled at questions about how I died, how old I was. and who I am leaving behind, instead choosing to fill out the questions about activities I loved.

Yes, but: Lyster-Mensh’s warm, honest, and approachable presence made it easier to talk through what emotions the exercise invoked — sadness, anxiety, fear — and inspired me to go back to the harder questions.

  • It also sparked a conversation between me and my boyfriend about how we’ve dealt with death in our lives and what we want for our own end-of-life care.

The bottom line: By the end of the exercise I had a solid list of the things I am proud of, the people I love, my future hopes and dreams, and a new appreciation for how we can leave behind the best parts of ourselves.

  • Oh, and plans for my eventual funeral to include the Glee cast soundtrack.

What’s next: The cemetery hosts free weekly Death Doula days with activities such as letter writing and card games focused on death. It is also hosting free Death Cafes all year — informal discussions about death with tea and cake.


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