Volunteer Spotlight: Avery Leora Ross

February 18, 2022

Grief counselor and hospice volunteer Avery Leora Ross was raised with an openness around discussing death and is now helping to expand end-of-life options in her home state of New York.

“There’s nothing wrong with being OK with something that you cannot opt out of,” says Avery Leora Ross about death. “I feel like we can participate in it, rather than just allow it to happen to us. By acknowledging it, by talking about it, by having conversations with those that love you and that you love in return, at least you feel as though you have some control over this process.”

A volunteer with the Hospice of New York, a grief counselor and a bereavement facilitator, Ross felt a calling to this work and had a terrific role model in her mother, a single parent who worked as a nurse, on accepting the inevitability of death. “My mother never minced words when it came to death. We had conversations over the dinner table throughout my life about it because she just wanted us to be as aware and as prepared as anyone can get,” says Ross. “She encouraged me to think about death in a positive light rather than as a negative and frightening thing. She would say, ‘Yeah, we die. We let go of these bodies.’”

Ross learned about Compassion & Choices through the documentary How to Die in Oregon, which led her to become a volunteer and now serve on the African American Leadership Council. She considers it being “on the living side of dying.”

“I’ve just gotten to this place where I understand that it’s something that we have to talk about. Everybody grieves differently. But for me, I just feel as though it’s something that you acknowledge, that this is something that happens,” says Ross. ”Acknowledging the complexities and simplicity of grief allow me to live a full life. Sometimes my grief manifests itself as gratitude for another day; sometimes it moves me to help others. When we engage in open and honest conversations about death, we are giving ourselves the tools to manage grief.”

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