Frequently Asked Questions

What is “Family Directed Choice?”

Family-Directed Choice means you have the right to care for your loved one through death at home; and to make educated, informed decisions about the death and dying process.

Just what is a Death Midwife?

Death Midwives and their history are as old as birth and death itself. Sometimes we are also known as a doula, using the analogy of companions for women in childbirth. Most cultures have some form of caring for the dying and death rituals. These positions were usually held by women, but not always. Some cultures utilized shamans or tribal priests to help the transition of dying to be aligned with their beliefs and practices. Many cultures embrace some aspect of comfort measures, nurturing, bathing, prayer, song, family or ancestral connection, farewells and ritual preparation of the body once the person died.

When approaching death, people often experience fear, loneliness and isolation. Well-prepared midwives or doulas can minimize the sense of isolation, provide emotional comfort, assist with practical concerns and advocate on behalf of people with life-limiting illness. We are proud to reclaim this title, as there are similarities between the sensitive care required at birth and approaching death. Midwives offer emotional, spiritual and social support, comfort, companionship, advocacy, and experience with paperwork and working relationships with area funeral providers and cemeteries.

How will a Death Midwife and Home Funeral Guide help me?

There are many aspects you may seek assistance with, or only one. Each and every experience is unique and treated with the dignity and respect such an experience deserves.

Some of the assistance a Death Midwife offers is:

  • Education, preparation and pre-planning
  • Guidance with family members to care for your beloved deads body
  • Providing a cremation container or instructions to build a simple wood casket
  • Assistance with paperwork such as medical signatures and death certificates or other requirements.
  • Escorting a family member who chooses to handle the paperwork
  • Permit and transportation assistance for ceremony, cremation or burial.
  • Strong working relationships with area funeral homes and cremation providers.
  • Ceremony or co-created ritual of remembrance or release.

What kind of help do a I need for a memorial?

My first commitment is to meet with you and your loved ones. I will listen to and embrace the story of the loved one’s life. Learning about their true spirit is the first and foremost thing necessary to create a meaningful and beautiful ceremony. After meeting with you, I can:

  • Create a complete memorial service.
  • Assist family in writing eulogy or memorial verses, memories and shared stories.
  • Facilitate a complete experience, from space arrangements, setup through breakdown.
  • Assist with the selection of musical offerings, sacred readings or special prayers.
  • Guide the group in a meaningful ritual act such as candle lighting, bouquet creating, tree planting or even making a wind chime as part of the memorial service.
  • Introduce other speakers or deliver personal messages for those unable to speak.
  • Ceremony in any environment, from home, to park, church, grange or graveside.
  • Help with annual acknowledgement of a beloved’s crossing anniversary.

What is a Home Funeral?

A home funeral is a funeral held in a private home or any place of choice instead of a funeral facility or church. The deceased remains in the love and comfort of their home typically for two to five days. Family members can bathe, dress, anoint or drape the body, or can ask for the guidance and support of a death midwife or home funeral guide. Rather than embalming, dry ice is used to help the body remain in a natural state while loved ones care for it and say their good-byes.

Jerrigrace Lyons, a rebirther of the modern Death Midwife movement and one of my teachers, shares: “We care for our loved ones when they are living; there is no reason why we should not care for them when they are dead.” Final disposition of the body can be with direct cremation or burial, including green burial and graveside services.

Why home and family?

As baby boomers continue to age, we recognize that we have aging parents, aging partners and a few gray hairs of our own. We also know that death can call at any time and is not reserved for the the terminally ill with fair warning.

Baby boomers tend to be educated consumers and want to be able to determine what is a good fit for their budget as well as for the stewardship of the earth. Embalming is not mandatory after death under the majority of circumstances, although many consumers are lead to believe that it is. The average basic funeral today ranges from $6,000 to $10,000! Home funerals have substantially reduced expenses, which removes an additional layer of stress from the family.

We must educate ourselves on the truth about the laws regarding death in our own states. The rebirth of the home funeral movement is providing families with a slowed down, carefully planned for, hands-on experience. Family members can decorate a cardboard cremation casket or build a simple wood coffin. Some choose to transport the body themselves and even observe cremation or participate in the digging of the grave and returning the soil to the grave. These are age-old traditions. People are beginning to remember that they offer healing, peace and comfort at a time of loss.

Why do I even have to learn about this stuff?

We know we won’t last for ever, and education is empowerment!
Most people today know more about downloading a podcast for their iPod than they know about caring for the death of a loved one. We must all learn our rights as they pertain to our last rites, and be prepared, educated consumers. By educating ourselves we are much more capable to deal with necessary actions including legal responsibilities, create order and calm which allows us to be prepared and ready for processing our loss.

What do I do now?

Breathe Deep.

Take a deep breath and know if you want to be more in control of what happens to your body after death, or would like to explore ways to care for a loved one’s body after death. Know you have choices.

Take a deep breath and know that if long for options other than the standard funeral practices of our day, and desire a simple burial . . . Know you have choices

Breathe deep and know that if you would rather have end-of-life and after-death care centered in family and community life . . . Know you have choices.

Breath Deep and imagine your desire to talk about these and other Family Directed Choices at End-of-Life, and you would now like to plan for them . . .Know you have choices.

You have choices. Some may be alternative. Some may be standard. They are yours. You choose.

“There is no reason if we care for our loved ones in life, that we shouldn’t be able to care for them in death too.”
— Jerrigrace Lyons, Director Funerals for Families, Sebastapol, CA