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Karen Karnatz

Holistic Death Care Professional / Death Doula

In 1997, I enrolled in Mortuary College and began my embalming apprenticeship. I have devoted the last 23 years to death, dying and bereavement, and am an expert in the realm of death care.

I have the receipts to back it up; I have worked as a funeral director, embalmer, cemetery manager, cemetery broker and crematory manager. I am always honored when I am asked to use my skills to assist my community - I grieve and support by working. I stay in touch with the needs of my community and my death care peers by never losing sight of where I came from, and continue to work with families in funeral home and cemetery settings.

In 2005, I became a certified Celebrant through the InSight Institute based in Oklahoma City. Through their training, I learned to officiate funerals and soon after graduating, I understood that was the thing I was meant to do. I have assisted thousands of families during my tenure in death care, and have created over 100 funerals and weddings. Not only do I enjoy writing, but I also love public speaking.

If you look online or your local bookstore, it is easier than ever to see death care professionals educating the public on “good death” practices. Leaders like Caitlin Doughty and Alua Arthur are inspiring a new generation of death care providers. Like them, my passion is sharing the knowledge I have gained over the last 20 years, and helping others to be active participants in the death and dying process.

In January of 2021, I decided that my next step was to focus on grieving, as we are going to be doing a lot of that after the pandemic leaves us in shambles. I enrolled in the University of Wisconsin Certificate Program to become a Grief Support Specialist and earned this certificate in March of 2021. Fire Under the Night Sky was a surprise; the outline became my final project for the course.
I had thought my project would be something to use at the funeral home to better help the families we serve grieve their loss. Instead, I realized that I had my own grieving to do, and I needed a structure to guide me through it. In talking to my therapist, I realized that little deaths are everywhere, and we need to acknowledge and grieve them all as they happen.

I care about doing all death better, and I want everyone else to care about it, too. Death is broad; it is not just people that die, but ideas and how we identify ourselves. That means we need to talk openly about the losses we experience and how we grieve. There is a sea change coming. We can point to the influx of self-help books on ritual and guided journals to know that people are ready to start addressing this part of themselves. I also see it on social media. I recently congratulated an influencer on Instagram, as she detailed a funeral she held for her married self, as she was in the middle of a divorce. I saw this as confirmation that ceremony is making a comeback and I am here for it!

Fire Under the Night Sky contributes to the growing search for the ritual and ceremony we have lost as we moved away from organized religion. Writing and speaking is my art form. Fire Under the Night Sky is my second completed work, and my first published book.

Sept. 6, 2022

4: The Death of Her

In a super sized episode, Kyle McMahon discusses the final days through the final moments with his Mom before pancreatic cancer t…

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