How Black & Indigenous Communities Use Euphemisms, Parables and Proverbs as Tools for Preplanning
Have you ever heard the sayings “eat the fish and spit out the bones” or “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water? Am I the only one who feels like they sound like some sort of secret language? These coded messages are known as euphemisms. Euphemisms are defined by Webster as a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing. For many, conversations about end of life, health care and planning for death and dying are considered private, personal, and not to be discussed in of doctors, nurses, home health aides, funeral directors and others considered to be “mixed company” or strangers. For far too long, this has led to the misconceptions that black, indigenous and other communities of color simply are not capable of or simply do not care to preplan for end of life, health and death care needs including but not limited to funeral and burial planning. This could NOT be further from the truth.
Let me explain, euphemisms derive from proverbs or parables which I like to think of as the short and sweet way of communicating vitally important messages while preserving the messages integrity and protecting privacy. Euphemisms, proverbs, and parables are often used by Black and Indigenous elders in collaboration with story telling and sharing to preserve language and culture and are as old as the Egyptian hieroglyphs. They are methods of communications preserved for sharing wisdom, information, secrets, insight, desires and serve as a form of establishing trust between the giver and receiver of their message.
In this episode of The Death and Grief Talk Podcast, I speak with Zeena Regis and Elisha Hall Ph.D. in hopes of giving insight into the methods, language and sacred euphemistic language used amongst members of Black and Indigenous communities as it relates to expressing, planning for and executing desires for the inevitable.
Elisa Hall Ph.D. is a Systems Thinker that fuses strategic planning, healing, and community organizing into all of his pursuits. His praxis explores how African and Indigenous values can be used as best-practice and the creation of better policies. He uses his passion of creative expression to tell the untold and share the unshared. Leveraging information and innovation across communities and continents is his life's work. He develops compassion within organizations and provide the path to deepen their diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Zeena Regis currently serves as the Faith Engagement Manager at Compassion & Choices, the nation’s oldest, largest and most active nonprofit working to improve care, expand options and empower everyone to chart their end-of-life journey. Zeena was selected as a 2021-2022 fellow in Collegeville Institute’s Emerging Writers Mentorship Program. Her training includes a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from Agnes Scott College and a Master of Divinity from Columbia Theological Seminary. Zeena is also a playwright and her latest work, A Free Black Woman's Guide to Death & Dying, was selected for the Synchronicity Theatre's arts incubator project and premiered in May 2022.
Connect with Dr. Hall Online
Connect with Zeena Online
About the Death & Grief Talk Podcast
Death and grief are sacred aspects of our human journey that we all witness, honor, and process uniquely. The Death and Grief Talk Podcast is here to host open and honest conversation about the questions, fears, anxieties, and emotions that we all experience when someone dies.
I am your host The Grave Woman. I'm a licensed funeral director, embalmer, insurance agent and scared death/grief care practitioner. I have over a decade of experience working in the death care industry. I am dedicated to helping everyone navigate individual journeys to find peace and purpose with life, death, and grief.
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Joél Simone Anthony, also known as ‘The Grave Woman,’ is a licensed funeral director and embalmer. She is dedicated to eliminating misconceptions about post-life preparation while stimulating an open, honest and straight forward discussion about death. You can submit your comments, questions and requests to email@example.com or by using our contact page.