Ep. 23 Unseen Impact: Understanding Death Notifications with Dr. Teresa ‘Lilly’ White

Forensics Found

09-11-2023 • 43 mins

We've all experienced moments of loss and grief, but few of us ever consider the emotional toll it takes on those who deliver the news. Join your host, Katharine Pope as she interviews Dr Teresa “Lilly” White. Lilly takes us through her intriguing journey from the world of forensic anthropology to cultural anthropology, and in the process, opens up about a common aspect of the death industry—death notifications.

Lilly’s unique perspective, shaped by her studies at the University of Montana, her intensive research, and her challenging internship at a coroner's office, provides a fresh take on the emotional, physical, and mental complexities involved with death notifications. They touch on the responsibility, distance, and memories intertwined in these painful announcements.  Gain valuable insights into the subtle empathetic and compassionate nuances that are critical during such moments, and how they are more than mere one-time events - they involve delicate family dynamics that perpetuate long after initial contact.

As they discuss the path of Lilly's research impact on death notification training, they explore the profound emotional toll on investigators, and the crucial role of grace, decision-making, and bonding during these heart-wrenching times. Kat and Lilly also address the importance of effective coping strategies, reaching out to those who've experienced similar losses, and self-care in managing the emotional and physical challenges. This conversation is a deep dive into the living side of the death industry, and will undoubtedly make you reconsider how we navigate death and loss.

Topics Covered

Exploring Forensic and Cultural Anthropology

Death Notification

The Impact of Death Notification Training

Emotional Impact of the Death Industry

Coping and Support in Challenging Times

Links Mentioned

Peer Support Email List

Privacy Agreement

About Lilly White

Dr. Teresa ‘Lilly’ White received her BSLS in 2005 from Montana State University-Billings where she focused on death, dying, and medical ethics. In 2011 and 2013, she graduated with high honors from the University of Montana, with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Forensic Anthropology. Her master’s thesis focused on factors affecting human decomposition including scavenging, mummification, variable microenvironments, and forensic entomology. In 2019, she earned her PhD from the University of Montana. Her dissertation focused on death notification interactions.

In 2013, Teresa and her husband Samuel (also a PhD in Anthropology) established Bone & Stone Anthrosciences, L.L.C. where they provide Anthropological & Archaeological Consulting Services and Educational Workshops/Webinars to clients worldwide. From 2015-2018, Teresa created and facilitated a Medicolegal Death Investigation Conference at the University of Montana, where she provided continuing education to hundreds of attendees.

Dr. White is a Medical Investigator and Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT) member with HHS and NDMS, where she can be deployed for transportation accidents, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and pandemics such as Covid-19. Most recently, she was deployed to New Mexico to assist with covid deaths. Teresa also works with Kenyon International Emergency Services as a Family Assistance Team Member where she provides human-centered disaster response to victims and families. In 2020, at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, she was deployed to New York City, to assist them with transporting decedents to temporary morgues. She was also deployed with Kenyon to Florida. Dr. White has worked as an Adjunct Instructor at the University of Montana, teaching Fundamentals of Forensic Science. She is also an instructor for Tri-tech Forensics Training, where she teaches courses on: Cultural and forensic anthropology; human osteology; death notification interactions; human decomposition; forensic entomology; forensic discovery,

documentation, and recovery of scattered human remains and burials; ethnographic methods including observation and interviewing techniques for investigators or researchers and other fascinating topics. Teresa is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS), the Association for the Society of Death & Society, the Dying and Bereavement Interest Group: A Special Interest Group of the Society for Medical Anthropology, Phi Beta Kappa Society, and Lambda Alpha.

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*All conversations between guest and host represent the opinions of the participants and do not reflect official statements or facts from any represented agencies.

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