Supporter Spotlight: Joél Simone Anthony

Atlanta-based funeral director, sacred grief practitioner, educator and member of Compassion & Choices’ African American Leadership Council JoéI Simone Anthony answered a calling to help people navigate issues around dying — and prioritize talking about it.
August 18, 2021

“It’s not something initially that we want to deal with emotionally at all,” Joél Simone Anthony, better known to her thousands of social media followers as The Grave Woman, acknowledges about death and dying. “People can tell you where they’re going on their next vacation, the dream home or the shoes they want. But you ask someone about what their plan is or their thoughts on preparation for their death, and they don’t want to think about that. That’s something to worry about another day, way down the road.” 

Anthony notes that the concept of planning for death is particularly taboo within the black community because, as she sees it, culturally it is a population often fighting for survival without the luxury of planning for the future. “Then when it comes to alternatives like medical aid in dying or green burial, it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s white people stuff. That’s not what we do.’” she says. “But what we do is not working.” Religion isn’t necessarily a motivator for planning either. “In many cases we’re taught to think about the afterlife. You’re promised streets of gold and reconnection with your loved ones and eternal peace,” says Anthony. “But we skip that step of transition to the afterlife. It’s a lot of avoidance.”

So how did she rise above that tendency of many people to sidestep confronting death? “Honestly, I feel like this is my purpose,” Anthony says. “I’m here to have these conversations with people and to help them understand that it’s OK to talk about it and to do things differently and to approach things from a different lens, even if it’s not what you’ve traditionally known or grown up with. I can’t say it was a decision I made, because it’s not. The only decision I made is to be obedient to the promptings that were coming from within, and I can only credit those to God.” 

“I just want people to know that it’s OK to be afraid to have conversations about death. I feel like there’s this misconception that because I work in death care I’m not afraid of death or of losing a loved one, that I don’t grieve the way everyone else does. And that could not be further from the truth,” says Anthony. “I have fears about passing away. I have questions. But it’s OK. Even after you make all your plans, you’re still going to have questions about your mortality, and that’s fine. But it’s so important to just have conversations. And think outside the box, literally; you don’t have to choose what you know. Choose what’s personal to you. People don’t understand what a gift preparation is. In all of the chaos, your loved ones will have the peace of knowing what you wanted.” 

Hear more from Joél Simone Anthony at Compassion & Choices’ 2021 signature event, Purpose, Power and Promise, this October. 

Also known as The Grave Woman, Anthony is a licensed funeral director, embalmer, death care educator and sacred grief practitioner. She specializes in creating educational APFSP certified CE resources for death, health and end-of-life professionals. She passionately advocates for cultural competency concerning the care of BIPOC decedents and their families. For over a decade she has used her unique skill set to assist individuals families, businesses and governmental agencies in navigating uncomfortable and difficult conversations about death, dying, end-of-life, funeral and burial planning. 

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VICTORY: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed the improved End-of-Life Options Act.