It is a topic most people want to avoid. Unlike the footy results or the latest reality TV happenings, death is rarely talked about around the water cooler.
But for Michelle Jewels-Parsons it is a part of everyday life, and she’s on a mission to encourage everyone to start the conversation about death.
The funeral celebrant and former fundraiser for the Mary Potter Hospice told Bushy Martin on the Get Invested Podcast that she found her life calling from personal tragedy.
“I unfortunately experienced the death of my father quite shockingly and unexpectedly when he was 52,” Michelle said.
“Everything I went through with him when he died has led me to where I am today.”
Despite the pain and grief of that period in her life, Michelle has been unusually comfortable with death and loss from around the age of six, and it didn’t go noticed by her family.
“I remember having a conversation with my granddad, and he said, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ And I said, ‘I want to work with people when they die’.
“You’re either really comfortable about death or you’re not. It’s not an industry that will grow on you.”
While most people couldn’t imagine a career in the ‘death industry’, Michelle said become an end of life companion was the best move she ever made.
“I wanted to wake up, I wanted to jump out of bed every single day and love what I do,” she said.
“And I can honestly tell you for the last eight years that happens to me every day. And the day that it stops is the day that I stop doing what I’m doing because it won’t matter to me.
“I’ve led funeral services for clients, I’ve walked the journey of life to death with terminal and palliatively-ill clients. And I guess I’m on a mission to change the way we talk about death because frankly, we don’t. And I’m encouraging everybody to have the conversation that no one’s having.”
And she’s doing it not only as a funeral celebrant, but also as a speaker and author.
“There is absolutely nothing sexy about talking about death,” she said.
“It’s like a swear word. We’ve been told … don’t talk about it. Don’t mention it. It’s a bit of a taboo subject.”
It’s when someone unexpectedly dies that the necessity of the conversation becomes apparent.
“That’s where the stress comes and that (stigma) changes,” Michelle said.
“It takes the family out of the grieving process and plops them into a practical process where they’re thinking about a means to an end. And it changes their whole perspective on grief.”
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