The 2023 Conference on Death, Grief and Belief
Online July 8 and 9
Earlybird prices end April 15, 2023. Register now to save $50!
Join us virtually for an extraordinary weekend
of shared wisdom, fearless exploration,
and social support for unpacking toxic religious beliefs
that can be harmful when facing loss and grief.
Scroll down to meet our stelllar presenters,
and click on the links below for conference details.
2023 Presenters and Programs
Speakers and Schedules are Subject to Change Without Notice
Please see our Continuing Education page for details.
David Lukoff, PhD
Why Psychologists Need to Understand Religious and Spiritual Problems
In theory, research, and practice, mental health professionals have tended to ignore or pathologize the religious and spiritual dimensions of life. This represents a cultural insensitivity toward individuals who have religious and spiritual experiences in both Western and non-Western cultures. David will discuss the need for improved training for mental health professionals in this arena. One CE hour Read More >
David Lukoff, PhD is a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, a former president of the Association for Transpersonal Psychology, and a licensed psychologist in California. He is the author of 80 articles and chapters on spiritual issues and mental health, and is an international workshop presenter training psychologists in spiritual competency, grief, death and illness, spiritual problems and spiritual emergencies. He is also co-author of the DSM-IV and DSM-5 diagnostic category Religious or Spiritual Problem, which increased awareness of spiritual issues in clinical practice.
VIRTUAL VISITING HOURS:
Jamie Eaddy, DMin
Trauma & Toxic Theology
in the Black Church
Time does not heal all wounds, and prayer does not prevent grief. So what happens when we can't pray the grief away? How do beliefs like heaven and hell, redemptive suffering, and resilience impact our response to loss? Dr. Jamie Eaddy Chism will discuss how toxic theologies within the Black Church reinforce trauma and create the kind of faith that functions as a barrier to healthy grieving. One CE hour Read More >
Rev. Jamie Eaddy Chism, DMin., CEO of Thoughtful Transitions, is an ordained minister, death doula, and educator who serves as the Director of Program Development at the International End of Life Doula Association. Deeply committed to challenging the societal norms that make death a forbidden topic for so many people, Dr. Chism helps cultivate sacred spaces for exploring our mortality, helping people navigate all kinds of loss, including losing a relationship, identity, normalcy, dreams, hope, etc.
Providing trauma-informed care, community healing, and dismantling a system that disregards black life, silences black grief, and ignores black death is her life's passion and purpose. Monthly, she explores all things grief and loss through her organization’s webinars, blog, and her podcast,, Thougtful Transitions w/Dr Jamie:The Loss Navigation Specialist.
Dr. Chism earned a Doctor of Ministry degree with an emphasis in transformative leadership and Prophetic Preaching from the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School and a Master Divinity degree from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University. She is a clinically trained chaplain, a certified trauma professional and holds certification in death, dying and bereavement by the Association of Death Education and Counseling (ADEC).
Lucy Hone PhD
Lessons from the Māori Worldview
About Loss and Resilient Grieving
After 20 years of living and working in Aotearoa New Zealand, Dr. Hone reviews what she’s learned about coping with loss from the Māori people indigenous to that land. Viewing her own and her clients' beliefs on death and grief, Lucy will share key findings from her research in the field of resilient grieving and what she sees as the barriers and enablers to healthy adaptation to loss. One CE Credit hour. Read More >
Regarded as a thought leader in the field of resilience psychology, tragic circumstances forced Lucy to focus more closely on grief when her 12-year-old daughter was killed in a horrific motor accident. Adjunct senior fellow at the University of Canterbury, an internationally sought-after professional speaker, best-selling author, and award-winning ‘pracademic’, Lucy has a gift for turning complex science in to useable tools. Covid-19 saw her TED talk, 3 Secrets of Resilient People, go viral making it one of the Top 20 most watched TED talks of 2020 and the most watched of any New Zealander. Author of Resilient Grieving, Lucy now runs the hugely popular Coping With Loss programme providing actionable tools and support to all those wanting to take be an active participant in their grief process. Her work is regularly featured in global media, including the Guardian, the Hidden Brain, the Washington Post, the BBC, CBS and ABC, Channel News Asia, Swedish Television, and TVNZ.
Secularizing African American
Death and Grief Practices
African American funerals and burial practices have long been steeped in the "Black Church" tradition. This presents a unique challenge, and even some triggers for nonreligious individuals. Mandisa Thomas, a Humanist Celebrant, will discuss these traditions, some good resources for planning secular memorials, and how we can ensure that our families and communities (religious and nonreligious alike) make the best decisions on our behalf, and honor our secular identities. Read More >
Mandisa Thomas, a native of New York City, is the founder and President of Black Nonbelievers, Inc. Although never formally indoctrinated into belief, Mandisa was heavily exposed to Christianity, Black Nationalism, and Islam. As a child she loved reading, and enjoyed various tales of Gods from different cultures, including Greek and Ghanaian. “Through reading these stories and being taught about other cultures at an early age, I quickly noticed that there were similarities and differences between those deities and the God of the Christian Bible. I couldn’t help but wonder what made this God so special that he warrants such prevalence today.” she recalls.
Mandisa has many media appearances to her credit, including CBS Sunday Morning, CNN.com, and Playboy, The Humanist, and JET magazines. She has been a guest on podcasts such as NPR’s Code Switch and 1A, as well as the documentaries Contradiction and My Week in Atheism. Mandisa currently serves on the Boards for American Atheists and the American Humanist Association, and previously for Foundation Beyond Belief, and the Secular Coalition for America. She is also an active speaker and has presented at conferences/conventions for the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Secular Student Alliance, and many others.
Mandisa, a Humanist celebrant, is the recipient of the following awards:
- 2022 – Irving and Anabel Wolfson Award (Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester)
- 2020 - Harvard Humanist of the Year (along with Sikivu Hutchinson and Ijeoma Oluo)
- 2019 - Freethought Heroine (Freedom from Religion Foundation)
- 2019 - Backbone Award (Secular Student Alliance)
- 2018 - Person of the Year (Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association)
As the president of Black Nonbelievers, Mandisa encourages more Blacks to come out and stand strong with their nonbelief in the face of such strong religious overtones.
"The more we make our presence known, the better our chances of working together to turn around some of the disparities we face. We are NOT alone."
VIRTUAL VISITING HOURS:
Linda Mercadante PhD
Spiritual but not Religious (SBNR)
Views on Death and Beyond
It used to be commonplace for people to fear going to hell when they die, but Dr. Linda Mercadante’s extensive research on “spiritual but religious” (SBNR) populations shows that these views have changed dramatically. She will share the results of hundreds of interviews focusing on what SBNRs believe, why they claim to be “nones,” and their views on an "afterlife.” She will also ask us to take a step back and consider in what ways the rapid decline of organized religion may change our society -- whether for better or worse. One CE hour Read More >
Dr. Mercadante is Distinguished Research Professor Emerita MTSO, an international speaker, author of the award-winning Belief without Borders: Inside the Mind of the Spiritual but not Religious (Oxford University Press), an ordained minister, and founder of HealthyBeliefs--HealthySpirit.
Linda serves as an interpreter between two distinct cultures—those who identify as spiritual but not religious (SBNR) and those for whom organized religion is home. She speaks at colleges and churches, to sociological and psychological organizations, to news professionals, and is frequently interviewed by media about the rise in SBNRs.
Linda's groundbreaking research for Belief Without Borders was widely lauded. In the academic journal Secularism and Nonreligion, reviewer Donovan Schaefer writes, “The rich collection of interviews offered in Belief Without Borders makes it a treasure chest of data about the SBNR movement…an indispensable handbook for research in this field.”
VIRTUAL VISITING HOURS:
Pesach Eisen, MCH-LP
In Orthodox Judaism, mourning follows Torah-and-rabbinically-prescribed laws, customs, rules, rituals, and timelines, with little or no emphasis on one's unique grieving process. Pesach will explore both the purported benefits and the possible drawbacks of an externally-prescribed, one-size-fits-all bereavement paradigm, as well as implications for folks who have left Orthodox Judaism and are in the process of redefining their relationship with death, grief, and belief. One CE hour Read More >
Pesach was raised in an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish faith community, from which he gradually departed during his 20s. Growing up, bereavement—the period following a loss during which grief (internal/covert/subjective) and mourning (external/overt/objective) occurs—centered almost exclusively on mourning, and was expressed by following very specific, Torah-and-Rabbinically-prescribed laws, traditions, prohibitions, rituals, timelines, etc., with little or no emphasis on grief. In his talk, Pesach will explore both the purported benefits and the possible drawbacks of an externally-prescribed, one-size-fits-all bereavement paradigm, as well as implications for folks who have left, are in the process of leaving, or are contemplating leaving Orthodoxy, and are in the process of de/re-constructing their conceptual framework of, and redefining their experiential relationship with, death, grief, and belief.
Pesach Eisen is a psychotherapist, researcher, and artist. Pesach explores the intersection of religious disaffiliation and mental health, and is passionate about helping improve the quality of life of religious exiters and religious trauma survivors. Both personally and professionally, he grapples with themes such as dignity, faith, humanity, identity, loss, meaning, morality, mortality, religion, spirituality, trauma, values, death, grief, and belief. Pesach holds a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and neuroscience, as well as a Master of Arts degree in mental health counseling, from CUNY Brooklyn College.
VIRTUAL VISITING HOURS: Sunday, July 9th, 2:30pm-3:30pm Eastern time
Harold Ivan Smith PhD
How the Prosperity Gospel Causes
Pain for Bereaved Christians
“Prosperity theology” espouse a theodicy which insists that God wants every believer to be wealthy, healthy and to live long lives. 17% of American evangelicals & tens of millions globally embrace this theology, and grievers in prosperity-focused congregations may be shamed or rebuked for their pain as a sign that they "were not faithful enough." One CE hour Read More >
Harold Ivan Smith is thanatologist and independent scholar. For 18 years he served on the teaching faculty of Saint Luke’s Hospital, Kansas City, Missouri, where he created innovative storytelling groups for grievers and worked in training hospital and hospice chaplains. He earned his doctorate at Asbury Theological Seminary (D.Min.).
A Fellow in Thanatology recognized by the Association for Death Education and Counseling, he currently conducts Celebration of Life services for Forest Lawn Mortuary in Cathedral City, California.
His writings include: A Decembered Grief, On Grieving the Death of a Father, Grieving the Death of a Mother, When Your People Are Grieving: Leading in Times of Loss, Friendgrief: An Absence Called Presence (Baywood) and Borrowed Narratives: Using Historical and Biographical Narratives with the Bereaving (Rutledge).
VIRTUAL VISITING HOURS:
Terri Daniel, DMin, CT, CCTP
The Stubborn Persistence
of Grief Stage Theory
Bereavement professionals who keep up with current research have wisely discarded the “five stages of grief” in favor of more functional models. But the stage theory has stubbornly persisted, despite a steady stream of criticism in academia and countless commentaries on the dangers of using it in bereavement counseling. One CE hour Read More >
Learn more about Dr. Daniel's topic HERE
Terri is an inter-spiritual hospice chaplain, end-of-life educator, and grief counselor certified in death, dying and bereavement by the Association of Death Education and Counseling and in trauma support by the International Association of Trauma Professionals. She conducts workshops throughout the U.S. and is an adjunct instructor in thanatology and chaplaincy at Marian University, the University of Maryland and the Graduate Theological Union. She is also the founder of The Conference on Death, Grief and Belief, and the Ask Doctor Death podcast.
Over the years Terri has helped hundreds of people learn to live, die and grieve more consciously. Her work is acclaimed by hospice professionals, spiritual seekers, counselors, theologians, and academics worldwide. She is also the author of four books on death, grief and the afterlife.
Terri has a BA in Religious Studies from Marylhurst University, an MA in Pastoral Care from Fordham University, and a Doctor of Ministry in Pastoral Care and Counseling from the San Francisco Theological Seminary.
Heather Stang, MA
Case Studies: The Effects of Toxic Religious Beliefs on the Grief Process
A healthy adaptation to life after loss requires rebuilding a shattered assumptive world. But what happens when religious beliefs are so stringent that they impede this natural process? Heather will review examples of toxic religious beliefs and share meditation, movement and journaling practices to help clients move toward cognitive flexibility and peace. One CE hour. Read More >
Heather Stang, MA, C-IAYT, is the author of Mindfulness & Grief and the guided journal, From Grief To Peace. She is the creator of the Mindfulness & Grief System that is featured in the Handbook of Grief Therapies (2023) and is the foundation of her online grief support group, Awaken. Heather also hosts the Mindfulness & Grief Podcast, and offers mindfulness-based grief support online through her organization, the Mindfulness & Grief Institute.
Her work is grounded in a heartfelt desire to relieve suffering, and in honor of her Uncle Doug who died by suicide when she was a child. Heather holds a master’s degree in Thanatology from Hood College and is a Certified Yoga Therapist in the Phoenix Rising tradition. Learn more about Heather and her upcoming workshops at mindfulnessandgrief.com.
Frank Feldman and Dan Beecher
Thank God I'm Atheist
Hailed as a "breath of fresh air" by its listeners, the Thank God I'm Atheist podcast tackles the issues of the day and recasts them in an Atheist light. Frank and Dan are two former Mormons offering up their perspective on politics, current events, and all things religious or otherwise. They are returning to us this year after their triumphant debut at last year's conference. Read More>
DETAILS TO COME
Rev. David Hayward
Grieving the Relinquishment of Religion
More and more people are leaving the church, and despite the freedom of relinquishing harmful theology, there is a type of grief that comes with leaving religion's sense of belonging. Why do we grieve something we chose to leave? This talk will expolore that grief using a blend of words and the nakedpastor cartoons and illustrations. One CE hour Read More >
A former pastor turned cartoonist,David is known as "the Naked Pastor. "After 30 years in the church, he left the ministry to challenge the status quo, deconstruct dogma, and promote critical thinking. David has been running the nakedpastor blog since 2005, where he posts provocative cartoons and articles that address personal authentic freedom, the power to change our own lives, community, and the creative spirit to make our world a better place.
More to come!
Subscribers receive our monthly newsletter and a free digital copy of
Terri Daniel's book, Grief and God: When Religion Does More Harm Than Healing
Or call 971-236-1541