DeathCaring Collective: Making Death a Part of Life

Cortes DeathCaring Collective is a once a month gathering of folks in which we talk about death, dying, and grief, educate ourselves about current and alternative approaches, and strive to make death truly a part of life in our community.

The DeathCaring Collective was inspired by folks from neighbouring Quadra Island, who had already been meeting for a couple of years. Conversations on Cortes Island started with the volunteers Campbell River Hospice had trained on Cortes, and monthly meetings started in 2019.

The chairperson opens the one- and one-half hour meeting. The first half hour is devoted to sharing, the next to an educational topic, and the final half hour for business items and to discuss community projects.

In the sharing portion of the meeting, folks are invited to talk about what is happening in their lives regarding death, dying, and grief. Although these subjects hugely impact our lives, we as a culture tend to shy away from talking about them. Specifically creating a space that welcomes our (often) difficult feelings, thoughts, and experiences around death helps us all to become more comfortable and compassionate with loss and mortality.

Because we don’t talk about death, many of us know very little about how to navigate it. During the education portion of the meeting, we have someone from the community or a nearby to share knowledge with the rest of us.

Another intention of the DeathCaring Collective is to educate and create more choices in our community. We have worked with the Southern Cortes Community Association (SCCA) and the Whaletown Community Club (WCC) to designate sections of each of these community cemeteries for Natural Burial. We continue to work with them to create pathways in the cemeteries and a communal memorial structure. In the spring of 2020, we launched Community-Led Death Care, a group of volunteers available to guide and support families through a death event, particularly with the alternative choices that bring death home. The website, has more information on this service. Since 2020, we were honoured to support several families who chose alternative approaches meaningful to them, bringing death back into the stream of life.

In line with the DeathCaring intention to educate our community, there will be death education articles placed from time to time in the Cortes Tideline. It is our belief that talking about death, learning more about it, and navigating it with more knowledge, intent, and courage, is life-affirming.

Written by Margaret Verschuur