Our guest for this week is Zenith Virago, an educator, facilitator, consultant, speaker, author, marriage celebrant, and Deathwalker.

Zenith has been working as a Deathwalker for the past 25 years, meaning that she has provided emotional support as well as legal and practical assistance to the families in her community who have either suffered or were about to suffer a tragic loss. She uses a somatic approach to consult the members of her community and educate them on the subject of death and dying. She believes that all of us have the capacity to comprehend and deal with death and her work is built around that notion of reconnecting with those secluded parts of our soul. Zenith has also co-founded the Natural Death Care Centre, an incorporated association and a registered Charity, founded around the belief of living well, dying well and experiencing loss well.

Zenith has co-authored a book titled “The Intimacy of Death and Dying”, a book full of practical strategies and heartfelt advice on dealing in situations concerning death. From understanding personal grief to providing support for others in their time of need to approaches in educating children about the concept of death.

In 2015, a documentary was made about Zenith titled “Zen & the Art of Dying”. It follows her story and reveals insight into her dealings as a Deathwalker of the town Byron Bay, Australia. The movie provides a great opportunity for reexamining the way we live, love and die while encouraging us to take a more active role in all three.

Connect with Zenith:

Zenith’s Story of Inspired Evolution

“Death is a natural and sacred part of our lives.” – Zenith Virago

Zenith has a professional background of working in law, more precisely as a paralegal. She lives in Byron Bay, which is a coastal town in the southeastern Australian state of New South Wales. It is there where she became a marriage and death celebrant and she has performed the services and the role of a Deathwalker for the past 25 years. A Deathwalker is a person who provides assistance and support to those who are dealing with death either through the passing of a loved one or who are expecting to die themselves.

“I come and I offer them whatever I can in experience.” – Zenith Virago

As a community, with Zenith’s help, the people of Byron Bay have managed to create their own culture around the process of dying. They are well acquainted with the legalities and their rights which makes them empowered when it comes to dealing with death. Each year they organize a festival called “The Day of the Dead” in celebration of life, death, love and with a goal of providing comfort and closure to those who have lost an important person in their lives.

“My currency is kindness. So I’m trading in kindness every day, all day and the rewards, internally and externally, and in ways that I never even know, in a ripple out effect are boundless.” – Zenith Virago

Zenith describes how and why she became a death celebrant. She had lost a dear friend and her death was very unexpected. She proceeds to explain the whole process including the preparation of the body to be buried, all the way through the actual burial ceremony. Zenith points out that all of the steps you go through in terms of preparing the body of a loved one to be laid to rest has a sort of a therapeutic effect on everyone involved.

“We reclaimed that death process with her and it really changed the way we experienced her loss. So we were sad and we were shocked but we felt empowered because we’ve given her the sort of ceremony that she would’ve wanted and that we needed.” – Zenith Virago

The Death Equation

“Each death has an equation… It depends on who that person is and how they die… who you are, and your relationship to them, and your experience of death so far.” – Zenith Virago

Death of a loved one leaves a mark. It affects our lives from that moment on. What that person or creature meant to us will be the first part of the equation that will determine the outcome of that effect. How they died is another. It’s not the same if we lose someone in an instant, unexpectedly, or due to a long illness, when we got a chance to live with the expectation of losing them. Finally, our understanding and relationship the death will mold everything together. How we perceive death, what we think happens, will shape the way we receive the information that someone has died and how long will it take for us to accept it. It is exactly this last part of the equation that we can directly work with in a way that allows us to adapt and better deal with the loss we’ve experienced.

Zenith’s Message of Inspired Evolution

Death is a taboo subject for most of us because it bears a lot of uncertainty, it’s connected to the concept of loss and it inevitably evokes anxiety and fear. Zenith’s story shows that there is an alternative. Closing ourselves off for something that is a natural part of the journey each and every one of us is on would be limiting and there is a lot we stand to lose if we don’t open ourselves up. This conversation will hopefully serve as an introduction to the process of getting familiar with death and reclaiming the process while overcoming at least some of our fears. We need to consider all aspects of life, not just the ones that come easily to us. Zenith reminds us that it is our obligation to do so:

“You owe it to people, loved ones, and even people you don’t know, and the planet… everything… to live not just as fully as you can, but as well as you can, in cooperation with others.” – Zenith Virago