The Year of Action Resource Guide

The Year of Action is here, deathlings.

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Do you feel like our current death system is a wee bit broken?  Would you like to see death and funerals be more inclusive, more intimate, more meaningful?  You are very not alone. In fact, you are part of a movement of people all across the world.

Maybe you know you want to help things change, but don’t know how to help.

Our advice: just start. The action you take can be simple, creating your own death plan and helping others do the same. It may be tempting to think, “If I’m not becoming a mortician or starting a conservation burial site or investing in a resomator so I can aquamate my hometown [after they die], then what am I even doing?” But those huge undertakings (pun intended) aren’t the beginning and the end of the movement. If all you ever do is work with your family (parents, chosen family, online family, whoever they are) to create death plans with them, you’ve done something that is vital and exemplary. Throughout the year we’ll be rolling out inspiration, ideas, and concrete things you can do during this Year of Action. When the right bit of inspiration comes to you, you’ll know it!

A warning: Once people find their passion in the death community, they tend to become very involved. But we want you to be happy, balanced advocates with income and sanity and meaningful relationships. When considering how you take action, we only ask that you are truthful with yourself about how much you can handle and how far you can push yourself. Truly, the best way you can promote the movement is by taking action in a way that best serves YOUR strengths, passions, and talents.

A second warning: Again, while becoming an alternative mortician may seem glamorous (kidding, no one thinks it’s glamorous) it’s not for everyone. WatchEASY STEPS to becoming an Alternative Mortician” before you decide you want to pursue a full career in this work.

Below is a list to get you started. It is by no means complete or exhaustive. There’s a ton of specific good opportunities out there we couldn’t list, like “Wix for Death” website builder or “The Organization for Death Positive Arabian Horse Owners, Manitoba Chapter.” (Ok we made those up.) Maybe those are your calling. Whatever it is, we’re excited to see how you choose to take action.

Yours in life and death,

Caitlin, Sarah, & Louise

 

Hospice Training

Whether you’d just like to volunteer or if you are seriously considering pursuing a career in hospice care, volunteering with seasoned professionals is the place to start. Hospice training requires long hours and a commitment to serve people on both their good and bad days. While hospice workers must be comfortable with working in close proximity to death and dying, being comfortable with mortality is not the only requirement. A hospice worker must have a genuine desire to serve people, be both emotionally engaged but also keep a professional distance; have sympathy for people at their best and worst; not pass judgements on how a person chooses to die.

Hospice work is grueling, both mentally and physically taxing, and takes a huge time commitment. Hospice volunteering is not quite so intense of course, but it still asks for a similar level of emotional and mental fortitude.

 

Some hospice organizations to look into in the United States:

National Hospice and Palliative Care Foundation

Hospice Foundation of America

Art of Dying Institute

LGBT Aging Center

Hospice Training UK

Hospice UK

St. Christopher’s

 

Grief Support/Supporting Others in Grief

The methods to support someone in grief are rather simple. But simple, as our friend Megan Devine has said, does not necessarily mean easy. Having something like a “script” can help. More likely than not, there will come a time when we would like to be there for a loved one who is grieving. Educating oneself in how to be a companion to someone in the midst of grief could be one of the most useful things you can learn as a death positive advocate.

Refuge in Grief

How to Help a Grieving Friend, Megan Devine

Train as a Home-Funeral Facilitator

Home funeral facilitators may do a variety of work, including being present during the actual dying process or coming into help support a family to care for a body at home. As this role is unlegislated there is no official national certifying board or “certification,” but there are many workshops and classes you can take to help understand the laws and learn how to care for a body.

Our funeral home Undertaking LA, offers home death care workshops. Learn more here.

National Home Funeral Alliance, list of teachers in United States, Canada, and New Zealand

Post-Death Care Education

Canadian Integrative Network for Death Education and Alternatives (CINDEA)

“Post-Death Care at Home” Video Series

General Timeline for Post-Death Care and Arrangements PDF

Post-Death Physical Care PDF 

Death Doula  

Order member Cassandra Yonder shares her story about the experience that inspired her to become a death midwife and start her  BEyond Yonder Virtual School For Death Midwifery 

Quality of Life Care

training and certification

Open Center, End of Life Doula Training

Death Doula Training in the UK

Living Well Dying Well

Get Involved as a Funeral Assistant UK

Poetic Endings, funeral service (London)

 

Pet Hospice and Palliative Care Training

Unless you are a licensed veterinarian, you cannot become a certified pet hospice and palliative care practitioner. However, if animals are important to you, that does not mean that you shouldn’t educate yourself in what is involved in pet hospice and palliative care. A clear understanding of how an animal experiences death can only benefit future pets or animals you help.

International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care

Certification

Webinars

Webinar archives

Spirits in Transition, “options in end-of-life care for our companion animals”

Maria Ionova-Gribina’s Natura Morta

Green Pet Burial

Not everybody knows that green burial is an option for their beloved pets, a lot of your work will be getting the word out. Getting involved with a green pet cemetery could mean volunteering with an actual burial ground, raising awareness by talking with veterinarians or other animal organizations, or it could mean helping with fundraising.

Green Pet-Burial Society

 

Volunteer at a Green/Natural/Conservation Cemetery

As a volunteer at a green/natural/conservation burial site there are number of things you could end up helping accomplish. You might help set up for a funeral, you might help run a funeral, you may actually help bury a person. You could be photocopying programs or putting up flyers. Point is, you may actually get to work in the cemetery, you may not. Most places will likely let you get involved on the grounds if you ask. But realize that there’s more than just burial involved in operating a smoothly running cemetery.

Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery

Greensprings Natural Cemetery Preserve

Green Burial Massachusetts

Green Burial Council International

Green Burial Council (USA)

contact

 

Cemetery Preservation

Not only will you learn a lot about the history of graves, headstones, and cemeteries, but you will see firsthand how badly some cemeteries need to be protected. Although the first thing that comes to mind regarding cemetery preservation might be tasks like scrubbing graves, clearing overgrowth or garbage, or repairing headstones, there are many different ways to contribute. From transcribing old handwritten cemetery records so they can be accessible to historians, genealogists and families online, to fulfilling photograph requests from family members who are unable to travel to visit a loved one’s grave. 

Saving Graves

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training

Chicora Foundation

Find A Grave 

 

Start Your Own Green Burial Ground

Depending on where you live the process could prove to be quite complicated, but completely worthwhile if you’re up for a challenge.

Start up tips, guidance

Order member, Pia Interlandi

Creating Shrouds

Creating your own or someone else’s shroud can be a meaningful experience that adds a personal touch to mourning. Shrouds can be as simple or as personal and elaborate as you wish.

CINDEA, Designs and Sewing Patterns for Shrouds

 

Getting into Funeral Service or Attending Mortuary School

American Board of Funeral Service Education

FAQ

Directory of Programs

 

Planning a Funeral, Planning for End of Life

The death positive movement is obsessed with helping you help inside your own community. Talking about death, thinking about death, planning for death, making sure your loved ones are taken care of – these are the things that are at the core of the death positive revolution. This could be some of the toughest action you could take, but also the most important. And if you plan for death and talk with people about it, you might embolden and inspire others to do the same. Look at you advocating for a death positivity!

The Order’s Funeral and End of Life Planning Resource Guide 

Funeral Consumers Alliance

Undertaking LA Planning a Funeral Worksheet

UK funeral planning, The Natural Death Centre

Australia, Natural Death Advocacy Network

Canada, CINDEA

Getting your end of life documents in order, GYST

“12 Tough Questions to Ask Your Parents”

The Conversation Project Starter Kits (health care proxy, talking to your doctor, conversations with an ill child, Alzheimer’s patient)

 

Donate Your Body, Organs

You may go your whole life never feeling like you got your hands dirty in the death positive movement, but if you willing and able to donate your organs or body to medicine or research, it could be one of the most death positive things you could ever do. Not only could you save a life, but with the gift of your body you might allow scientists to better understand decomposition and how a body reacts in extreme situations. Your death could help solve crimes! It should be noted that not all body donation organizations are the same (and neither are all “body farms”). If you know of a specific way that you want your body to be used for research, take the time to find a facility that does that work. Also, make sure your family knows that they may never get your remains back.

Home Funerals and Organ Donation

Organ, Eye, Tissue Donation

Donate Life America – also Vascularized Composite Allografts (VCAs) “the transplantation of multiple structures that may include skin, bone, muscles, blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue.”

Organdonor.gov

MTF Biologics – Bone, organ, eye, skin, VCAs donation

 

Human Decomposition Research Facilities “Body Farms”

University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center, body donation

Western Carolina University, Forensic Anthropology Facilities

Texas State University, Forensic Anthropology Center

Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility

University of South Florida, Forensics

Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Complex for Forensic Anthropology Research

Colorado Mesa University, Forensic Investigation Research Station

 

You get out there, deathlings!  We’ve got a lot of work to do.

 

 

 

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  • Kaitlyn Walker

    What a great list! Thank you for posting so many great resources!

    I also wanted to say thank you, especially to Caitlin, for all the out reach you do. A few years ago I stumbled upon Ask a Mortician and was so thrilled to see there were so many other people with an interest in death and, what we now call, death positivity.

    I didn’t know where to share this but I wrote a blog post about my first sorta hands on experience with a dead body this past year. I wanted to share it with you as my way of saying thanks and to possibly inspire others to step out of their comfort zones as well!

    https://handbookfortherecentlydeceased.wordpress.com/2017/10/03/my-first-sorta-hands-on-death/

  • Vanessa Walker Johnston

    Any chance you could link INELDA.org (International End of Life Doula Association) to the “Death Doula” section above? Their training program is amazing and affordable. I’m an EOL Doula and have found their organization extremely helpful.