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Death Becomes Us

Narrated by: Lisaun Whittingham
Length: 7 hrs and 51 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (17 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Almost everyone with a pulse fears death, but not everyone fears life. With crippling social anxiety, I feared both. But after an accidental call to a funeral home during my mid-life crisis trip to grad school, I reluctantly embarked on a journey to explore professions that dealt with death in order to come to terms with my own mortality. 

The result of this quirky trip is Death Becomes Us, a humorous memoir about what happens when a middle-aged, anxiety-filled, life-avoider attempts to investigate the last taboo of American culture. And lives to tell the tale.

©2015 Pamela Skjolsvik (P)2018 Pamela Skjolsvik

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Take it from a funeral director, this is amazing

I got this book because I am a funeral director, and death is quite lterally, my business. I always try to keep up with new ideas or get different perspectives on death and dying. Death Becomes Us is a fantastic look into the way that death affects us. It touches all of us at verious points in our lives, and there is no escaping it. Still, in this country, no one wants to consider their own mortality or the death process in those they love. This book looks at some hard cases, and some touching ones. It is real. That is the main thing I want to say. This is authentic. That comes out from the interviews, and the author's heart.

When I listened to this book all I could think of was this would make a great class for some CEU's for funeral directors from a hospice. Then, I thought this would make for great reading at a hospice! Families could benefit from this book. I may be getting a copy or two for my own funeral home!

As for the audible portion, this was narrated perfectly by Lisaun Whittingham. You almost feel that she speaks with the author's voice, as this is as much her story as it is Skjolsvik's. She carries a lot of sympathy and empathy in her tones, and with just some slight intonations she really tugs at your heartstrings.

Even though I did receive a promo code for this review it in no way influenced my considerations of the material, and in fact, inspired me to be more honest. In fact, getting a code generally makes me harsher as a reviewer as I am more often concerned what someone like Me will decide based on my review.

If this review helped, please press the YES below. Thank you immensely!!!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Surprisingly Humorous

I picked up this book because I too deal with death in my daily life; though my profession was not covered in this book. (Sequel?) I am aware that when dealing with death on a regular basis that at some point humor is almost a given. The heaviness that relates to the topic itself for most people eventually requires an outlet. I was pleasantly surprised to find is that Ms. Skjolsvik included humor in her writing as effortlessly as she did for someone who feared death and living as much as she did.

This book had me hooked right from the beginning. The wrong number scene had me laughing out loud and the ongoing saga of not wanting to face the death of a child had me tearing up. Ms. Skjolsvik did an excellent job exploring that manners of death and how people deal with it both before and after the event.

Ms. Whittingham also did a great job with the narration. Frequently while reading this book I had to remind myself that it was not the author herself speaking. Ms. Whittingham made it sound so natural and as though she herself had been in each of those situations.

I certainly recommend this book for those who want a real reflection of death and how different professions and types of people handle the inevitable.

I was provided with a free copy of this audio book for my honest review. The views expressed here are entirely my own.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Engaging, addictive, inspiring, and relateable

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I would recommend this book to friends, family, anyone who is curious about death, afraid of it, or is passionate about it. This book offers many different perspectives on death and grief as well as the author's journey of fighting through social anxiety, aging, facing mortality, parenting, love and loss.

What other book might you compare Death Becomes Us to and why?

Death is a subject that makes many people uncomfortable. Death Becomes Us stands on its own. There are elements that could be compared to Smoke Gets in your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty and The Chick and the Dead. All three books are a personal narrative of their journey in the death world with elements of comedy. These books, however, are written by Death professionals. Death Becomes Us offers the perspective of your average person who lives with fears that many in American society have.

Which scene was your favorite?

I really enjoyed each scene/chapter. One part that stood out was her story on how the book came to fruition. One phone call changed the course of her life forever. That is something that hit me hard and I think anyone who reads/listens to this book can relate to that. I feel like every person has had a phone call or have met someone that did the same.

I am known as a crazy cat person and when Pamela mentioned cats, my heart was touched. She speaks about her 20 year old black cat Spooky. I've been lucky to be blessed with two black cats. Coincidentally, one of them is named Spooky. My first cat Patches died unexpectedly at 18 years old. After him, I got a kitten named Xena and she died unexpectedly of a rare kitten disease a few months after I got her. I then got Ninja and Spooky, and rescued a feral kitten a few months after I got the boys. Not only does Pamela have compassion and empathy for people, but cats and dogs too. She shares how attached she was to spooky and the difficulty with his passing. She also discusses how she adopted a kitten from the humane society and rescued a prison cat to help her friend. This made my heart sad and happy. I thought of my own experiences with losing my feline friends and rescuing the ones I have now. This really warmed my heart.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I am not an emotional person but this book sparked many emotions. Throughout the book, I found myself laughing wherever I was listening to it. On Easter, my family sat through and listened to the rest of it. There were times where my eyes welled up with tears when the author brings up the death of a young child and the process the family went through, step by step. My wife and I laughed when the author ended up in anxiety inducing situations and she addressed her thought process during those times. My wife and I live with anxiety issues and we laughed because we could relate to what she was dealing with.

Any additional comments?

The author Pamela is someone that everyone I think can relate to in some aspect. She has compassion and love for all walks of life whether it be a prison cat or an intimidating EMT. Many of us are afraid of death to some degree. Pamela provides an honest journey through those fears. The book is more than exploring people who work with death. The book is a trans-formative hike through facing fears, coping with loss, meeting new friends, the ethical conflicts of the death penalty, rescuing kitties, battling nicotine addiction, and so much more. The book addresses many hard to answer questions. How do you cope with death? How do you educate your children about death/grief? What types of grief are valid? What about my own mortality?

My wife and I are very death positive and have become friends with death in a way. While we were listening to the book in the kitchen, our son kept finding excuses to walk away from his video games so that he could sit and listen. This book may not be appropriate for a 9 year old as there is some subject matter that may be difficult for them but my stepson loved it. His face showed excitement as he made connections to what my wife and I talk about and what the author was saying.

This was the best book I've read in a while. It was refreshing to step out my usual true crime/death industry collection. I absolutely recommend it to anyone. The voice actor seems to pause a bit excessively in the beginning but as the book progresses, so does she. The voice actor does an amazing job and her voice is very pleasant to listen to. Her tone worked perfectly with the story.

This book created a book high that I am still riding. I'm sad it's over. I hope anyone that reads this book experiences the same joys that my family and I did.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A Treatise on Life's Final Outcome

Where does Death Becomes Us rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I listen to many genres of Audible books. So ranking it against others isn't a fair evaluation. It was interesting to me for several reasons. After a catastrophic health issue I am in a long term care facility.

The industries that Death has generated are many and varied. A few are covered in this interesting audiobook.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The author Pamela Skolsvik. She weaves her own story through the ones about the main subject of the book.

What about Lisaun Whittingham’s performance did you like?

She did an outstanding job! I picture the author herself by Lisaun's voice! She is a good choice for this work. A pleasant voice, easily understood and she lends humor, sadness and the spectrum of the story's points very well.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Both! Sad at the parents who lost infants or adult children. Smiles or sadness at the author's own story.

Any additional comments?

In my opinion, this Audible work is worth the credit and my listening time. It is certainly worth many relistenings!
Thanks for the opportunity to listen and offer my opinions on this work! A review copy was gifted to me at no charge. In return, I am happy to provide an honest review. Also at no charge.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Excellent transitions. Talented story teller.

I could not put this book down. I was drawn to the courageous emotional depths the author was able to eloquently articulate. I experienced feelings I didn't know existed.

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Like catching up with an old friend.

A wonderful story, about how the writer learned to face death. Her recounting the experience, of the death of her pets, was so relatable, it had me in tears. Her anxiety, nervousness, and fears as she faces each step of her journey, makes her tale very human. The writing, along with the soft voice of the reader, felt like catching up with an old friend.

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A Journey into Death & Discovery

Death Becomes Us is a book for everyone as it brings you face to face with death from all aspects of life. I enjoyed this book but wanted it to go a bit deeper into the occupations of some of the people she interviewed. I felt like it was just scratching the surface, which the author alludes to as well sometimes due to her own fears of death and asking those tough types of questions. I give her a lot of credit for jumping into this field and opening herself up for the journey she let us listen to.

To my surprise I really enjoyed the parts about her correspondences and relationships with the 2 prisoners - those stories were very compelling, raw and honest.

Lisaun Whittingham did a good job narrating although at times I didn’t find her as captivating as other narrators I’ve listened to. I think she fit the piece well though.

Overall I would recommend this book and would happily listen to a follow up book by this author.

I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for my unbiased review and opinion - thank you for sharing your work with me.

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Death is a part of life...thought-provoking

Death Becomes Us by Pamela Skjolsvik and narrated by Lisaun Whittingham, is a thought-provoking listen through the subject of death and the elements that surround it, including life. Highly recommend for everyone regardless of your comfort with the subject.

The summary does a good job at touching the surface, yet there is so much more to this book. Other things to expect: How the author came upon the idea for the book, price of funerals/cremation, humor/sarcasm at times, death photography, how death affected her hairdresser, pet death, bio-hazard cleaning, EMT interview, the different ways we grieve, why celebrity death can make a big impact on someone despite no personal relationship with the celebrity, talking with a medium who talks to the deceased, writing letters and talking in person with a death row inmate, a hotel murder in Baltimore, cremation, hospice work, interview with a former prison warden, interview with a chaplain who is with the death row inmates when they die, and an interview with mortician.

Lisaun Whittingham, the narrator, was a pleasant surprise. I would listen to another of her books no problem. There was one mispronunciation with the word pertussis (maybe it’s a regional thing?).

What I wish had more detail/or would change: Dr. Huser talking more in depth about feelings and dealing with death on a daily basis. There were a couple times towards the beginning of the book where the author was a bit captious of others she met (didn’t ruin the book and it became less as the book progresses, but wanted to note in case you are listening and are wondering if you should stop listening- I’m here to tell you to continue because it is a fantastic book overall).

Thoughts that came about during my listening of the book (the extremely condensed version): death affects us all, it’s part of the life cycle, death changes us, we continue our bad habits knowing they can lead to an early death, how important closure is, what is proper etiquette with death, even though everyone experiences death at multiple times in their life it doesn’t make it any easier when it happens, we have to go through the emotions or problems can arise from holding it in, if you experience multiple deaths (for people/pets) each year or for consecutive years how does that affect you vs. experiencing a death once every 10 years, how you feel when it’s a sudden loss vs. an expected loss, everyone has a death that stays with them more than others (is it because it’s traumatic, someone you were especially close to, or something else?), Innocence Project (is death row OK? What if it was you or one of your loved ones who is later found innocent? If someone has a mental illness, such as Schizophrenia, should they be on death row?), the author’s family is a typical family, how age changes your views on death, do death row inmates turn to God because there is nothing left for them, why it’s important to make your wishes known on paper (having a will and what you want/don’t want for a funeral), how did the veterinarian miss the fleas, PETA- wow and shame on you, and those of us that work in fields where death happens- we don’t lose feelings, but have to keep a small distance for our own sanity/well-being.

Favorite quotes from the book: “The day you stop feeling is the day you stop doing your job.” and “The challenge of death and dying is not for the one who passed, it’s for the ones who have been left behind.”

Overall I would recommend and would easily listen to a follow up book by Pamela.

Parental guidance/trigger warnings: Death (duh!), anxiety/panic attack talk/experiences throughout the book, therapy, Woody Allen quote, Michael Jackson’s death, body image talk (weight gain/aging), dissecting fetal pig in science class, breast feeding, death right after birth, multiple miscarriages and the struggles involved, child death, unprofessional medical employees, talk of thyroid cancer, murder of family by the father in a hotel, suicide (the father in a hotel, three attempts in prison in detail), mention of an affair (literally a mention), animal death, birth of child, and some talk of God/religion but not preachy/minimal. Words: B!tch x1, hell x1. I do not recall any other swearing, but possible I missed it.

*I was given a free review copy of the audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review. Thank you for allowing me to listen and review the book!

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Death becomes us

This was a very good book.I found all aspects of death exmined very interesting.I had to laugh when the 'cupboards full of empty jars' came up.When my mother died I found those and old plastic butter dishes with lids.lol Lisaun Whittingham was a fine narrotor.I was given this book by the narrator,author or publisher free for an honest review.

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Death Becomes Entertaining

What made the experience of listening to Death Becomes Us the most enjoyable?

I didn't know what to expect when I started Death Becomes Us, which may be partially why I enjoyed it so much. The author's ability to make a tough subject approachable and at times funny made for an entertaining and thoughtful exploration of a subject I've never really considered. She spends the narrative exploring how death affects her (and us) on a personal, emotional level rather than the gruesome side of what happens to us after we depart. The narrator was easy to listen to and brought Pamela's story - which is peppered with a self-deprecating wit - to life.

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  • DubaiReader
  • 09-05-18

Research into death.

I'm glad to see that this book has a number of good reviews because it makes me feel better about being honest - I really did not enjoy this. Not, as you'd perhaps expect, because the subject matter was death, but because I felt as if it was just a rehash of the process the author went through to write her thesis on the subject. I did get a bit more involved about half way through when she contacted an inmate of death row, but the first half was definitely a struggle.

Ms Skjolsvik contacted funeral directors, embalmers and hospice workers. She spent idle hours at a fire station with the emergency crew, ready to go on a call out and she befriended a couple of prison inmates during the final weeks before their deaths. She also spoke to people who had lost family members, including children and then, randomly, attended the birth of her hairdresser's baby, knowing that the family had lost their first child to a choking accident.

My rating wasn't helped by the narration of my audiobook, which was jerky. The narrator kept pausing, as if looking for a word, and this drove me nuts.

One part of the book that I did find interesting was the author's battle with anxiety. Her interviews with the various subjects were not easy for her and she even went on a course to face her fears. Hopefully she benefited from the exercise, but in my opinion, making a book out of her thesis interviews was a step too far.

I should have connected with this book as I buried both my parents this summer, but it left me completely unmoved.