Do you want to feel more deeply to others? To loved ones? To your community? Do you ache to feel a deeper connection to God or to develop a spiritual connection?
I’m going to tell you a little secret: One definite path to Life, to really and truly fully and completely living – is to embrace Death. I don’t mean to die, to kill, or to assist in suicides, of course. I’m talking about getting Death Positive. Connecting to Death. Because I will tell you what, we have suffered from a long and deep disconnection from Death in recent history, and it has not served us well. We keep Death at a distance. It doesn’t mean we, or those we love, live longer – or better. But oh, how quick we are to sweep Death almost completely under the rug, only allowing him to hint at his presence, even when we bury our loved ones.
Until the Civil War, we largely took care of our own dead. When someone died, we bathed and dressed their body, maybe applied oils or perfumes, and set them up for “viewings” or “wakes.” Family and friends would come to the house, spend time visiting the dead, visiting those feeling the loss. There would be food and conversation. After several days, the body would be buried, as folks said their final goodbye.
Today, things are very different. We get rid of that dead body as fast as we can. Someone died at home? Quick, make the call for them to take the body away. Make sure they fix it up real good at the funeral home, so they practically look alive. Whatever you do, let’s ensure we don’t have any kind of real encounter with death. Let’s make them seem as alive as possible – they are just sleepy dreaming, right? Let’s disassociate as much as possible from it, right? Not.
We have lost so much by surrendering death. As many of you know, I work as not only a Death Midwife, but also as a Birth Doula. I work at the bookends of life, and I can tell you – it is through my encounters with Birth and Death that I have come to understand what it is to life; to understand the gift it is to be alive.
When we desensitize ourselves to these intensely moving moments, we shut down a part of what it is to be human, and close ourselves off to the ability to connect deeply to life. It truly is through Death that we can better connect to life.
I know at first thought it doesn’t feel fun to ponder our mortality– and yet science tells us that by doing so, we can actually be happier. I’m here to tell you anecdotally that I’ve seen this proven true, as well.
Increasingly, people are considering the idea of home funerals, and a growing number are actually holding them. Taking care of their dead. Doesn’t something about that ring right to you? Doesn’t it hit you on a deep and visceral level?
What could be more loving, more caring, than to make this one last effort for a loved one? What can be more freeing, than facing our fears, and seeing and understanding Death in a more intimate way, rather than shoving it under the rug?
It isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Sure it takes a bit of work, but it is sacred work. The work of tending a loved one, which most of us have experienced at one time or another. The only difference is that they are no longer living.
There are plenty of resources and supports out there. Guidebooks, too. While you may want to take it completely into your own hands, you also may want to retain a Death Midwife or Death Doula, to provide support and information as you move through the process.
Sure, there are easier and more difficult ways to hold a home funeral, and it is better to explore them before a death, than after. However, there is help to guide you. Even if you retain the help of a pro, a Death Midwife or Doula, you will spend far less than were you to use modern traditional services, such as embalming, expensive casket, and viewings, etc. More importantly, you will be standing fully as the man or woman you are, doing something deeply intimate that you know in your bones you are meant to do. We feel it, we sense it deep inside. There is nothing as intimate or as deeply important as taking on the responsibility of caring for our own dead. Isn’t it time we stepped up as the men and women we are, stare down the thing we’ve been conditioned to fear, and understand that it is not only the right, dignified, and just thing to do, but also the key to freer living?
There are plenty of resources online. We will also be holding teleseminars, courses, and workshops for those looking to explore taking care of their own dead. For those interested in guiding others, we also offer training and certification in our method, so you can work as an End-of-Life, Death or Mourning Doula or Death Midwife.