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Conference Session 5: Loss and Grief in Times of Disasters - Existential and Emotional Aspects of Being Mortal
Friday, October 30, 2020, 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM PDT
Category: Conferences

Loss and Grief in Times of Disasters – Existential and Emotional Aspects of Being Mortal


  • Elizabeth Johnson, Executive Director, The Peaceful Presence Project, Bend, Oregon
  • Kera Magarill, Older Adult Behavioral Health Specialist, Washington County, Oregon
  • Deborah Threadgill, Threadgill’s Memorial Services, Beaverton, Oregon

Session Facilitator: Jennifer Sasser

Continuing Education Credit:

This session has been approved for 2 CME credits (AMA PRE Category 1)* and 2 AFH training credits.

*Accreditation Statement: This activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and Policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint providership of St. Charles Health System and Oregon Gerontological Association (OGA). St. Charles Health System is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians. St. Charles Health System designates this live activity for a maximum of 2 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

This is the last of five sessions of OGA's 2020 virtual conference. You can register for individual sessions or, at a discount, for the entire conference series. For an overview of all sessions, please visit the conference page.

Register Here

Elizabeth Johnson holds a master's degree in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Oregon. Her work as a facilitator and experiential educator has brought her to more than 30 countries around the globe. This international exposure to a diversity of cultural and social contexts has sparked in her an appreciation for the importance of integrating all needs and voices into the fabric of a functional society, especially those of an aging population.

Elizabeth currently works as the Executive Director and an end of life doula for the Peaceful Presence Project, a nonprofit that seeks to help Central Oregonians live well, age well and die well by reimagining the way the community talks about, plans for and experiences the last stage of life. She also works as the Central Oregon Lead for the Center for Age Friendly Excellence. She’s passionate about the integration of age inclusive initiatives into local communities, as well as honest dialogues around the complexities of the aging and dying process.


Elizabeth's presentation will focus on what it looks like to be a more death- and grief-literate culture (and individual) and why this matters, especially in the face of massive collective loss and trauma. She will discuss the role of an end-of-life doula in our communities and how their support can assist in the loss and grieving process. The presentation will address what is missing in our grieving process and what can we do about it.

Learning objectives:

  • Understand community strategies and resources for supporting one another in the grieving process
  • Understand practices we can intentionally be engaging in to be present to the feelings that come up around being confronted by the reality of our shared vulnerability and mortality

Kera Magarill is an Older Adult Behavioral Specialist with Washington County Disability, Aging and Veteran Services. She has worked to support older adults and caregivers in a variety of residential, care and social service settings for over 18 years.

She served as faculty and taught courses in Aging Services at Metropolitan State University and worked for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Colorado Chapter before moving to Oregon to serve in her current role as an Older Adult Behavioral Health Specialist with Washington County.

Kera is passionate about battling the stigma of mental health and dementia in order to create a more age-friendly community. She holds a Masters Degree in Human Services and has received certification in gerontology and dementia and special training in music therapy.


Kera's presentation aims at encouraging us to talk about death and learn about life in the process. She will introduce the Death Café - an international movement that focuses on the gathering of community (often strangers) into a safe space for conversation and connection regarding the topics of death, dying, and mortality.

Learning objectives:

  • Learn the basics about Death Cafés, the Death Café movement, and best practices in Death Café facilitation
  • Learn about the benefits of open conversations about death and dying for all vs “death denial”

Deborah Wardrop-Threadgill earned a BA in sociology from Rider College in New Jersey and went on to pursue many careers. She ultimately was led to the funeral industry in 1999, when she and her husband, Ron, opened a funeral home with another couple in SE Portland. The partnership was dissolved in 2004, and Deborah and Ron pursued other interests. A few years later people asked the Threadgills to return to the funeral industry because they did things so differently. In 2007, Deborah and Ron opened Threadgill’s Memorial Services in Beaverton with the goal of raising the bar on how families were treated. They offer both conventional and non-conventional services such as green or natural burials; aqua cremation; family-directed home funerals; and Living Funerals or a celebration of Life prior to death. They do their own transports of the deceased and, up until COVID-19, met with families in the comfort of their homes to make arrangements. They were able to adjust their administrative processes quickly during the pandemic and converted to electronic documents.

In addition to being a licensed Funeral Service Practitioner, Deborah received training from Final Passages in California as a Home Funeral Guide, aka Death Midwife. She educates families on how to keep their loved one at home and have a service there.

Deborah is passionate about end-of-life preparation and how end-of-life doulas can play a vital role in this process. She received end-of-life doula training two years ago from INELDA (International End of Life Doula Association). She is also a member of NEDA (National End-of-Life Doula Alliance). Up until this last March, she held monthly meetings with other end-of-life doulas in the Portland area.

She received training as a Death Café facilitator and has attended many death cafés.

Ron and Deborah also own the only Harley-Davidson motorcycle hearse in the Pacific Northwest; it is known as Your Last Ride.


Deborah will share her experiences on how COVID-19 restrictions have impacted funeral services and the traditions and rituals that are relied upon for the grieving process. She will discuss how the opportunity of being creative and innovative may help eliminate the need to adhere to traditional, and sometimes obsolete, funeral services which have turned many people off to the idea of having a service at all. She will also address how to find the silver linings of the COVID-19 restrictions, which may be the catalyst for reimagining funerary practices of memorializing and honoring the dead.

Learning objectives:

  • Understand why end-of-life traditions or rituals are so important
  • Feel encouraged and equipped to start the necessary end-of-life preparations for our own death and to discuss with our family and friends what we want our memorialization to look like

Session Sponsor:

Supporting Sponsors for this session:


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Contact: [email protected]