As we say goodbye to 2019, we here on the organizing side of Death Party Philadelphia are infinitely thankful to each and every one of you who came out to our monthly meetings this year; who shared our message via your social media channels, who generously donated to our yearly fundraiser, and, most importantly, who added your voices to the death positivity conversation. We appreciate you.
We’re already working out the scheduling of our 2020 programming year, and we’ve got so much amazing stuff planned so far! First up is DEATHBOOM with our friend Megan Carmichael, who’ll be joining us all the way from Southern California. While we’re going to try to stick with our ‘last Sunday of the month’ scheduling, please note that Megan will be joining us on Sunday, January 12th, 2020!
RSVP and (free) tickets here: https://www.facebook.com/events/898363007227837/
We hope you have a happy and relaxing Holiday season, and we can’t wait to see you next year at Death Party Philadelphia!
Baby boomers are aging, they are continuing to amass financial wealth, they are comfortable spending, they have never been satisfied doing things as they have been done before, and they are going to change the way our society handles death. Presenting an economic analysis of the current landscape, profiles of deathcare professionals, evaluation of different training opportunities and specific steps for entering the deathcare industry regardless of your professional background, Megan will probably convince you to give your 2-weeks notice by Monday morning (j/k).
About our Presenter: Megan thinks and writes about the intersection of death and daily life for her blog, www.dailylifeanddeath.com, and other publications. Her background in marketing and wealth management led to working in the deathcare industry after the loss of her mother in 2017 and her father in 2019. She lives in Ventura, CA with her husband and two young children.
Join Death Party Philadelphia member Allison Matia for an exploration of the relationship between death and the nervous system.
As technology and medical science advance, the distinction between life and death becomes ever more ambiguous. Historically, death was defined as loss of cardiac function. With the advent of life support technology, vital functions can be maintained artificially after the nervous system fails to sustain them. This phenomenon has led to a paradigm shift in the way death is defined.
In modern times, death is diagnosed using neurological criteria. While we now use a neurological definition of death, the criteria for this definition are still difficult to articulate due to the many different physiological processes that sustain life and the various ways in which technology can maintain them when the nervous system fails.
This presentation will explore the history of how death has been defined, how death is currently defined, and the physiological and technological factors that make the exact point of death so difficult to determine and define.
The following points will be presented:
- The definitions of and distinctions between brain death, coma, and persistent vegetative state.
- The criteria physicians use to diagnose death.
- Legal implications of how death is defined, most notably, when organs can be legally harvested for donation.
Tickets are free but highly encouraged: https://www.facebook.com/events/501818557026388/
Allison Matia is a Neuroscience Ph.D. student at Rutgers University where she studies the neural representations of odor mixtures at multiple points in the olfactory circuit. She is interested in disseminating the tenets of Death Positivity more broadly into U.S. culture.
For our June meeting, please join Dr. Rachel Oristano and Death Party Philadelphia for an in-depth discussion on the intersection of death and the wellness industry.
Every industry has its pros and cons, and the Wellness Industry is no exception. This talk will include a critical look at some of the negatives, such as an analysis of “Anti-Aging” and how that relates to death denial, the cultural obsession with youth, and ethics in treating potentially terminal illnesses. These points will be compared against the positive aspects of the Wellness Industry as they relate to Death Positivity, such as appreciating the wisdom and experience from elders in medicine, the emphasis on sustainability, and the value of quality of life in hospice care.
Sunday, June 30th at 6pm.
Tickets are now available (and FREE!) via the event page.
About June’s guest speaker:
Rachel Elizabeth Oristano is a Licensed Naturopathic Doctor, Licensed Acupuncturist, and Certified Nutrition Specialist. Dr. Oristano received her Naturopathic Doctorate, Masters of Science in Oriental Medicine, and Doctorate of Science in Oriental Medicine from the accredited National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, OR. Prior to attending NUNM, Dr. Oristano graduated from Haverford College with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, a Minor in East Asian Studies, and a Concentration in Neural and Behavioral Sciences. She furthered her scientific research experience working in the Aaron Gitler Molecular and Cell Biology lab at the University of Pennsylvania before pursuing her career in natural medicine. Currently, Dr. Oristano practices in East Falls, PA and focuses on mental health, using nutrition, acupuncture, and mind-body medicine as her primary treatment modalities.
Morbid Curiosity in Museums and Historic Sites
Join Death Party Philadelphia on Sunday, February 24th, as we welcome Beth Savastana, Program and Volunteer Coordinator at Laurel Hill Cemetery! Drawing from her years of academic and professional experience, Beth will make the case for museum and historic sites using the display of human remains and other “morbid” content to generate interest and revenue. While acknowledging the valuable educational and cultural benefits associated with putting death on display, Beth will also examine the ethical debates that continue to surround these types of exhibitions. This meet is a must for any card-carrying Laurel Hill and Mütter Museum member, so don’t miss it!
Beth Savastana has embraced death starting at a young age with an obsession of mummies and archaeology. This led her to receive a B.A. in Archaeology from Lycoming College. Two years later she continued her education with an M.A. in Museum Studies from The University of Leicester in England. While there she chose her dissertation topic on museums derived from former medical collections and the educational and financial benefits that can come from displaying them today. Serendipitously, she began working at Laurel Hill Cemetery in 2014 and has been living her thesis since by helping the public get pumped about death in Victorian times and encouraging all to view cemeteries as beautiful museums…not places of fear and dread.
Death Imitates Art: the Mortal/Immortal Body of Elizabeth Siddall
Join Death Party Philadelphia for our very first meeting of 2019, where Kelly Crodian-Shuff will recount a true gothic tale of close encounters with artistic temperaments, doomed romance, and a tragic muse disturbed from her grave. This highly illustrated and immersive presentation will examine the enigmatic figure of Elizabeth Siddall, model and muse to the Pre-Raphaelite artists of the Victorian era and famously dead wife of painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
Siddall was idealized in paint and poetry by Rossetti both before and after her death and was notoriously depicted as Ophelia in John Everett Millais’ iconic painting of Hamlet’s doomed lover. Although an artist and poet in her own right, Siddall’s own voice has long been eclipsed by the uncanny way in which her own story seems to blend with those of the withering maidens she embodied on the canvasses of male artists. However, unlike Ophelia or Dante’s Beatrice, Elizabeth Siddall was a very real person; one whose true self has been irrevocably lost to time, even as she continues to inspire art, music, and poetry 157 years after her death.
Our discussion of the Tale of Elizabeth Siddall will explore what happens to a person’s image once it has passed permanently outside of their control. Is it possible for the dead to have agency? How does the objectification of certain bodies in life lead to exploitation in death? And most importantly, is the work of a muse ever really done?
Kelly Crodian-Shuff is a longtime Death Party Philadelphia contributor with a background in Women’s and Gender Studies who really likes Kate Bush. She currently works as a nonprofit administrator and lives in West Philly with her spouse and cat.
We had an amazing year of programming at Death Party Philadelphia in 2018, with our monthly meetings covering diverse topics that span the death positivity community. We’ve discussed Death and Disability, Compassion Fatigue, Cemetery Semiotics, Human Taxidermy with tattooed skin, Dying (legislation) in Pennsylvania and even a screening of the feature documentary The Nurse with the Purple Hair (with exclusive introduction by iconic director Sean S. Cunningham and a Q&A with the film’s subject Michelle Lasota) and we still have one more Death Party Party of the year!
On Sunday, December 16th we’ll be meeting at our regular spot to bid farewell to 2018 with our annual holiday party and Secret Skeleton gift exchange- but that’s not all! We’ll be discussing 2019 programming and we’d love to round table topics and presenters for next year’s schedule.
If there’s a subject or presenter you think would fit our model, or if you’d like to speak at one of our monthly meetings, please join us and pitch the idea! We’re nothing without the voices of the Death Positive community, and we’d love to add your voice to our sometimes off key choir.
We can’t promise that we’ll have time in our calendar for every suggested topic but we’re ready to listen.
Sunday, 18th November 2018
Full information/RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/2336546189960204
Hobart Frolley is an artist and Vet Nurse at the Philadelphia SPCA who has been working in animal welfare since 2003. Throughout their years of experience they have become aware of the condition known in the animal care world as Compassion Fatigue, which is sometimes referred to in other fields as “Secondary Traumatic Stress.” This presentation will cover what Compassion Fatigue is, its warning signs, and ways to prevent and/or manage it. Due to the large number of people in the Death Positive community working in direct care fields, this is a vitally important topic to discuss and explore.
Attention fellow mortals! It’s PARTY TIME! The season to let our funeral flag fly is finally upon us, and make no mistake: we are pulling out all the stops this year!
Raise a glass to your inevitable death and decay with Death Party Philadelphia!
· Spooky RocknRoll beats by DJ Sonny Blood
· Costume contest (PRIZES)
· Next level raffle basket with luxurious goodies to die for
· Photo booth
· And duh, beverages of all sorts available for purchase from
our ever-generous hosts at the Bike Stop
All proceeds from this year’s party will benefit the Greater Philadelphia Funeral Consumer’s Alliance, the Philly chapter of a national nonprofit dedicated to protecting the funeral rights of individuals and families. So bring all your friends*
*Party is 21+ with proper ID.
Dark Tourism is defined as tourism involving traveling to places and events associated with death. From the coliseums in Rome, to the small town of Salem, Massachusetts, there is something that makes us want to visit places where something “dark” has happened. We’ve even created a Netflix original documentary series to help fill this need.
This presentation will dive into what exactly dark tourism is, why we as a largely death-phobic population feel drawn to visit these places, and what this increase of visitors means for local communities and their culture. All are welcome to come listen and encouraged to participate with experiences and opinions.
On Sunday, September 23rd, please join our featured presenter, Connor, as he walks us through the ins and outs of death related tourism. Doors open at 6pm. Event RSVP can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/343782049498997/
Connor Michalchuk has been a member of DPP since August 2017. By day, he manages a small boutique selling natural skincare and fragrances, and by night he’s a glamorous burlesque star and comedian. This will be his first presentation at DPP and he looks forward to sharing it with you.
On Sunday, July 29th, please join us for a screening of, “The Nurse with the Purple Hair,” and discussion immediately following with the documentary subject and DPP friend, Michelle Lasota.
Our Facebook event page has more information:
About, “The Nurse with the Purple Hair,” and Michelle herself:
“The Nurse with the Purple Hair is a warm and inspiring documentary about end-of-life care. The film features hospice nurse Michelle Lasota and is directed by world-renowned filmmaker Sean Cunningham. The film honors hospice professionals and the mind-body-spirit services they provide.”
Michelle graduated as an RN in 2003. When Michelle’s father died unexpectedly in 2004, she was working as a surgical nurse at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles. She returned to Philadelphia and switched to hospice nursing. She says: “It was a personal healing journey. For me, everything that I didn’t get to do for my dad I was now doing for all of these other people. So it was really important to me.”
Michelle serves as a level 3 RN on her hospice unit, and as preceptor to nursing students to newly hired employees. In 2010 she received a UPHS nursing excellence award in recognition of Nurse/Patient-Family Relationships.
Michelle makes her home in Philadelphia. She has two little boys.
For more information please visit: