Resources for community death care, planning, grief support, books, films & more!
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COMMUNITY DEATH CARE
National Home Funeral Alliance
NHFA is a non-profit with a mission to educate communities how to care for their own dead. A great resource for home funerals.
“…the only magazine on conscious, holistic approaches to end of life…Our vision is to provide education that can lead to a cultural shift in which death is embraced as a natural part of life.”
“A painless way to organize help. With the help calendar, you can post requests for support-things like meals for the family, rides to medical appointments, or just stopping by to visit. Members of your community can quickly find ways to help, and Lotsa will send reminders automatically so nothing falls through the cracks.”
“The goal of the Funeral Consumer Alliance is to ensure consumers are fully prepared and protected when planning a funeral for themselves or their loved ones. We do this by offering objective facts about funeral planning so families can plan a meaningful goodbye that fits their needs and their budget.”
HeartLight Center (Denver Metro Area)
Local grief support groups, including Tawnya of Dear Departures’ Bereaved Sibling Support Group. Check out their calendar of events. “HeartLight Center provides affordable grief education and support for the Denver metropolitan community.”
Judi’s House (Denver Metro Area)
For children who have experienced a death. “Judi’s House is the only free-standing organization in the Metro Denver area devoted solely to providing research-based care to grieving children and their families.”
Grief literacy training, grief writing workshops, and more. “Being here, human was birthed from the belief that what is needed when deep in the throes of grief is not intervention nor professional interference, not advice or unsolicited opinions of what to do and how to get over that which will never leave you, but a safe house. A place to land and pause and allow the full impact of what has been lost to breathe and take root deep in bones and cells and flesh.”
“It’s ok to not be ok. If your life has exploded into a million little bits, you don’t need platitudes. You don’t need cheerleading. You don’t need to be told this all happened for a reason. Some things cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.”
Death & grief blog, workshops, resources, and more.
How do you help a grieving friend – YouTube video by Megan Devine
“It’s so hard to know what to do when your friends are hurting. The thing is, you can’t cheer someone up by telling them to look on the bright side, or by giving them advice. It just doesn’t work. Watch this video to learn the one thing that will improve all of your ‘I’m here for you’ intentions, and be that supportive friend you most want to be.”
“The Conversation Project is a public engagement initiative with a goal that is both simple and transformative: to have every person’s wishes for end-of-life care expressed and respected. Too many people die in a manner they would not choose, and too many of their loved ones are left feeling guilty and uncertain…our free Starter Kit is a useful tool to help you have the conversation with a family member, friend, or loved one about your – or their- wishes regarding end-of-life care.
(Medical Order Scope of Treatment)
Organ and tissue donation registry and FAQ
Free website and app where you can make your medical wishes known. “Emergencies can happen at any time, leaving you too injured or ill to communicate decisions about your medical treatment. MyDirectvies helps you create your own emergency, critical care, and advance care plan for your family and doctors so they can make decisions on your behalf.”
DEATH AWARENESS MOVEMENT
“The Order is about making death a part of your life. Staring down your death fears—whether it be your own death, the death of those you love, the pain of dying, the afterlife (or lack thereof), grief, corpses, bodily decomposition, or all of the above. Accepting that death itself is natural, but the death anxiety of modern culture is not.”
“At a Death Cafe people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death. A Death Cafe is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session.”
“We invite you to gather friends and family and fill a table. Click Get Started to plan a test dinner. We call it a test dinner because trying out this process in no way commits you to follow through with an actual dinner.”
“We believe all people should experience the end of life in a way that matches their values and goals. Our goal is to create a shift that supports new collaborations, systems, protocols, and products…a shift that fosters new and existing networks of support to make the end of life more human-centered for all.”
“The medical Pause is a practice implemented after the death of a patient. The practice offers closure to both the medical team and the patient. It is a means of transitioning and demarcating the brevity and importance of the moment.”
“An international, professional organization formed to decolonize Death Studies and radicalize death practice.”
“A calm and focused presence at the bedside, with gentle voices, simple songs, and sincere kindness, can be soothing and reassuring to clients, family, and caregivers alike. “
A production of the National Home Funeral Alliance, this podcast “demystifies the tasks related to after death care through hearing stories from people who have ventured into culturally unfamiliar territory and cared for their own deceased loved ones at home, chose a natural burial or both. Hearing what’s possible and how lives have been transformed by engaging in this final act of love is one path towards changing our culture and our relationship to death.”
Our Favorite Episodes:
Grief to a Five-Year-Old (CW: Child Death)
Loving Grace (CW: Fetal Death)
Alpha Wolf (CW: Strong Language)
“Real talk about life and death.” -Karen Wyatt
“You know how when someone asks “How are you?” you just say “Fine,” even if you’re totally dying inside, so everyone can go about their day? TTFA is the opposite of that. Nora McInerny asks real people to share complicated and honest feelings about how they really are. It’s sometimes sad, sometimes funny, and often both.”
“Funny people talking about death and grief” –Cariad Lloyd
“Dare to Listen invites conversations about the dying process, self-discovery, and our connections to the unseen.” –Nameh Marsin
The film showcases three families’ home funeral stories. “It is both a critical look at the American relationship with death and an inquiry into the home death-care movement.”
“A dying man searching for a final resting place becomes involved with the green burial movement.”
“Moving away from the idea that grief is a problem that needs to be “fixed,” Speaking Grief validates the experience of grievers and guides those wishing to support them. There is no “right” way to grieve. By sharing diverse representations of bereavement, Speaking Grief illustrates that grief is a universal, yet individual experience.”
“Facing an inevitable outcome, terminally ill patients meet extraordinary medical practitioners seeking to change our approach to life and death.”
“The beauty and grace of African-American funerals are brought to life.”
This film explores Oregon’s “Death with Dignity Act,” which allows physicians to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to the terminally ill.
This film documents an extraordinary hospice program where dying inmates are cared for by other volunteer inmates.
Steven Jenkinson on how “he has made it his life’s mission to change the way we die – to turn the act of dying from denial and resistance into an essential part of life.”
This film demystifies the nature of souls wounding in veterans, explains how environment can trigger past trauma in patients, and reveals how the caregiver can create a safe environment conducive to healing.
A film about a doctor’s decision to stop eating and drinking to ease his death and die with grace.
This is CW series where terminally ill people share their stories.
This is a Showtime series that “offers an unflinching, intimate look at remarkable people facing their own mortality.”
Its Ok You’re Not Ok: Meeting Grief & Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand by Megan Devine
When a painful loss or life-shattering event upends your world, here is the first thing to know: there is nothing wrong with grief. “Grief is simply love in its most wild and painful form,” says Megan Devine. “It is a natural and sane response to loss.”
The Five Invitations: Discovering what Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully by Frank Ostaseski
Life and death are a package deal. They cannot be pulled apart and we cannot truly live unless we are aware of death. The Five Invitations is an exhilarating meditation on the meaning of life and how maintaining an ever-present consciousness of death can bring us closer to our truest selves.
The Good Funeral: Death, Grief, and the Community of Care by Thomas Long & Thomas Lynch
Long & Lynch “discuss several challenges facing ‘the good funeral,’ including the commercial aspects that have led many to be suspicious of funeral directors, the sometimes tense relationship between pastors and funeral directors, the tendency of modern funerals to exclude the body from the service, and the rapid growth in cremation.”
Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial by Mark Harris
Grave Matters details the embalming process and the environmental aftermath of the standard funeral. Harris also traces the history of burial in America, from frontier cemeteries to the billion-dollar business it is today, reporting on real families who opted for more simple, natural returns.
Til Death Do Us Part: American Ethnic Cemeteries as Borders Uncrossed
Till Death Do Us Part: American Ethnic Cemeteries as Borders Uncrossed explores the tendency among most Americans to separate their dead along communal lines rooted in race, faith, ethnicity, or social standing and asks what a deeper exploration of that phenomenon can tell us about American history more broadly.
My Father’s Wake: How the Irish Teach Us to Live, Love & Die by Kevin Toolis
“Toolis unforgettably describes his own father’s wake and explores the wider history and significance of this ancient and eternal Irish ritual. Perhaps we, too, can all find a better way to deal with our mortality–by living and loving as the Irish do.”
Remembering Well: Rituals for Celebrating Life & Mourning Death by Sarah York
Remembering Well offers family members, clergy, funeral professionals, hospice workers, and other celebrants ways to plan services and rituals that honor the spirit of the deceased and are faithful to that person’s values and beliefs, while also respecting the needs and wishes of those who will attend the services.
From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty
Fascinated by our pervasive fear of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty set out to discover how other cultures care for the dead. From Here to Eternity is an immersive global journey that introduces compelling, powerful rituals almost entirely unknown in America.
Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal & the Sacred Work of Grief by Francis Weller
Noted psychotherapist Francis Weller provides an essential guide for navigating the deep waters of sorrow and loss in this lyrical yet practical handbook for mastering the art of grieving. Describing how Western patterns of amnesia and anesthesia affect our capacity to cope with personal and collective sorrows, Weller reveals the new vitality we may encounter when we welcome, rather than fear, the pain of loss. Through moving personal stories, poetry, and insightful reflections he leads us into the central energy of sorrow, and to the profound healing and heightened communion with each other and our planet that reside alongside it.
Passed On: African American Mourning Stories: A Memorial
Passed On is a portrait of death and dying in twentieth-century African America. Through poignant reflection and thorough investigation of the myths, rituals, economics, and politics of African American mourning and burial practices, Karla FC Holloway finds that ways of dying are just as much a part of black identity as ways of living. Gracefully interweaving interviews, archival research, and analyses of literature, film, and music, Holloway shows how the vulnerability of African Americans to untimely death is inextricably linked to how black culture represents itself and is represented.
For African Americans, death was never simply the end of life, and funerals were not just places to mourn. In the “hush harbors” of the slave quarters, African Americans first used funerals to bury their dead and to plan a path to freedom. Similarly, throughout the long – and often violent – struggle for racial equality in the twentieth century, funeral directors aided the cause by honoring the dead while supporting the living. To Serve the Living offers a fascinating history of how African American funeral directors have been integral to the fight for freedom.
The Light of the World: A Memoir
Elizabeth Alexander finds herself at an existential crossroads after the sudden death of her husband. Channeling her poetic sensibilities into a rich, lucid price, Alexander tells a love story that is, itself, a story of loss. As she reflects on the beauty of her married life, the trauma resulting from her husband’s death, and the solace found in caring for her two teenage sons, Alexander universalizes a very personal quest for meaning and acceptance in the wake of loss.
Who Dies: An Investigation of Conscious Living & Conscious Dying by Stephen Levine
Who Dies? is the first book to show the reader how to open to the immensity of living with death, to participate fully in life as the perfect preparation for whatever may come next. The Levines provide calm compassion rather than the frightening melodrama of death.
Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul by Stephen Jenkinson
Die Wise does not offer seven steps for coping with death. It does not suggest ways to make dying easier. It pours no honey to make the medicine go down. Instead, with lyrical prose, deep wisdom, and stories from his two decades of working with dying people and their families, Stephen Jenkinson places death at the center of the page and asks us to behold it in all its painful beauty. Die Wise teaches the skills of dying, skills that have to be learned in the course of living deeply and well. Die Wise is for those who will fail to live forever.
American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford
Only the scathing wit and searching intelligence of Jessica Mitford could turn an exposé of the American funeral industry into a book that is at once deadly serious and side-splittingly funny. When first published in 1963, this landmark of investigative journalism became a runaway bestseller and resulted in legislation to protect grieving families from the unscrupulous sales practices of those in “the dismal trade.”
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem. For two thousand years, cadavers―some willingly, some unwittingly―have been involved in science’s boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. In this fascinating account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries and tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Stories from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
Armed with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre, Caitlin Doughty took a job at a crematory and turned morbid curiosity into her life’s work. She cared for bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, and became an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. In this best-selling memoir, brimming with gallows humor and vivid characters, she marvels at the gruesome history of undertaking and relates her unique coming-of-age story with bold curiosity and mordant wit. By turns hilarious, dark, and uplifting, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes reveals how the fear of dying warps our society and “will make you reconsider how our culture treats the dead.”
Embracing the End of Life: A Journey into Dying & Awakening by Patt Lind-Kyle
Death is simply one more aspect of being a human being, but in our culture, we’ve made it a taboo. As a result, most of us walk through life with conscious or unconscious fears that prevent us from experiencing true contentment. Embracing the End of Life invites you to lean into your beliefs and questions about death and dying, helping you release tense or fearful energy and awaken to a more vital life now.
Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death by Joshua Slocum & Lisa Carlson
Decades after Jessica Mitford stunned America with vivid accounts of corruption and abuse in the death industry, not much has improved. Families are manipulated into buying expensive goods and services they don’t need or want. Prepaid funeral money vanishes into thin air. Body parts are sold on the black market. Eight states force families to pay a funeral director even if they conduct a home funeral with no need for help. But a consumer movement is no awakening, and Americans are asserting their rights over a key part of life, just as they did in the past with the natural childbirth and hospice movements. The two most prominent leaders of that movement are the authors of this book: Joshua Slocum, executive director of Funeral Consumers Alliance, and Lisa Carlson, executive director of Funeral Ethics Organization. Here they join forces to expose wrongdoing, inform consumers of their rights, and propose legal reforms. The book includes state-by-state summaries of laws, regulations, services, and consumer concerns.
Reimagining Death: Stories and Practical Wisdom for Home Funerals and Green Burials by Lucinda Herring
Natural, legal, and innovative after-death care options are transforming the paradigm of the existing funeral industry, helping families and communities recover their instinctive capacity to care for a loved one after death and do so in creative and healing ways. Reimagining Death offers stories and guidance for home funeral vigils, advance after-death care directives, green burials, and conscious dying. When we bring art and beauty, meaningful ritual, and joy to ease our loss and sorrow, we are greening the gateway of death and returning home to ourselves, to the wisdom of our bodies, and to the earth.
Ghost Wings by Barbara Joosse & Gisselle Potter
One spring, Grandmother becomes thin as smoke. When she dies, Papa says, “When you love someone they never really leave.” But to the little girl, Grandmother seems impossibly far away. Who will sing to her? Who will chase the monsters from under her bed? Then, during the Days of the Dead, something extraordinary happens that brings Papa’s words vividly to life. Ideal for one-on-one sharing as well as a group discussion, Ghost Wings’ poignant message of the endurance of love and the power of memory is sure to linger long after the book is closed. A discussion guide is included.
If All The World Were by Joseph Coelho
A moving, lyrical picture book about a young girl’s love for her granddad and how she copes when he dies, written by poet and playwright Joseph Coelho. This beautifully illustrated, powerful and ultimately uplifting text is the ideal way to introduce children to the concept of death and dying, particularly children who have lost a grandparent.
A beautiful, honest portrait of loss and deep friendship told through the story of two iconic polar bears. Gus lives in a big park in the middle of an even bigger city, and he spends his days with Ida. Ida is right there. Always. Then one sad day, Gus learns that Ida is very sick, and she isn’t going to get better. The friends help each other face the difficult news with whispers, sniffles, cuddles, and even laughs. Slowly Gus realizes that even after Ida is gone, she will still be with him—through the sounds of their city, and the memories that live in their favorite spots.
The Immortal Jellyfish by Sang Miao
When a young boy’s grandfather dies suddenly, he feels overwhelmed and confused. They will never see each other again. To his delight, they meet again in a dream, where his grandfather takes him to Transfer City, where our departed loved ones live on through our memories. In this modern, Eastern telling of the afterlife, death is not an ending, but a new start to life, just like the Immortal Jellyfish which is constantly maturing and then regressing, staying as present as our deceased loved ones do in our memories. From the Chinese illustrator, Sang Miao, whose Out Out Away from Here was praised as “superb” by the New York Times, this cloth bound picture book printed on FSC certified paper is as beautiful to hold as it is essential for little kids asking the big questions.
The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown
Picture book of children finding a dead bird and saying goodbye by burying it in the park.
An elementary tale of the life cycle of a tree.
The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
People who love each other are always connected by a very special string, made of love. Even though you can’t see it with your eyes, you can feel it deep in your heart, and know that you are always connected to the ones you love.
Finding Grandpa Everywhere by John Hodge
After Grandpa dies, a young boy finds that the memories of him and his love live on everywhere he looks.
Missing Mommy: A Book About Bereavement by Rebecca Cobb
Honest and straightforward, this touching story explores the many emotions a bereaved child may experience, from anger and guilt to sadness and bewilderment. Ultimately, Missing Mommy focuses on the positive―the recognition that the child is not alone but still part of a family that loves and supports him.
Cry, Heart, But Never Break by Glenn Ringtved
Aware their grandmother is gravely ill, four siblings make a pact to keep death from taking her away. But Death does arrive all the same, as it must. He comes gently, naturally. And he comes with enough time to share a story with the children that helps them to realize the value of loss of life and the importance of being able to say goodbye.
Through the lens of a pet fish who has lost his companion, Todd Parr tells a moving and wholly accessible story about saying goodbye.
I Miss You: A First Look at Death by Pat Thomas
When a close friend or family member dies, it can be difficult for children to express their feelings. This book helps children understand that death is a natural complement to life, and that grief and a sense of loss are normal feelings for them to have following a loved one’s death.
I’ll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm
A family grieves and buries their dog.
Duck, Death and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch
In a strangely heart-warming story, a duck strikes up an unlikely friendship with Death. Death, Duck and the Tulip will intrigue, haunt and enchant readers of all ages. Simple, warm, and witty, this book deals with a difficult subject in a way that is elegant, straightforward, and life-affirming.
Badger’s Parting Gift by Susan Varley
Badger is so old that he knows he will soon die. He tries to prepare his friends for this event, but when he does die, they are still grief-stricken. Gradually they come to terms with their grief by remembering all the practical things Badger taught them, and so Badger lives on in his friends’ memories of him.
Always and Forever by Alan Durant
When Fox dies the rest of his family are absolutely distraught. How will Mole, Otter and Hare go on without their beloved friend? But, months later, Squirrel reminds them all of how funny Fox used to be, and they realize that Fox is still there in their hearts and memories.
Muddles, Puddles and Sunshine by Winston’s Wish
This book offers a structure and an outlet for the many difficult feelings which inevitably follow when someone dies. It aims to help children make sense of their experience by reflecting on the different aspects of their grief, whilst finding a balance between remembering and having fun. This book is a useful companion in the present, and will become an invaluable keepsake in the years to come.
Michael Rosen’s Sad Book by Michael Rosen
With unmitigated honesty, a touch of humor, and sensitive illustrations by Quentin Blake, Michael Rosen explores the experience of sadness in a way that resonates with us all.
Good-bye, Jeepers: What to Expect When Your Pet Dies (Life’s Challenges) by Nancy Loewen
When a pet dies, it can feel like you lost your best friend. What do you do? Whether you had a guinea pig, dog, cat or fish, this story can help you through the tough times.
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