A Death Doula is a person who supports the needs of the dying individual and the loved ones during the dying process and after death. Death Doulas have varying skills, abilities and backgrounds but all Death Doulas provide emotional, spiritual, and practical support up to the moment of death and after the death of the loved one.
During a time of high emotion when preparing for or with a sudden death, individuals or families may require planning help or guidance for funeral options. As a death doula I can assist you to make decisions that best support your needs.
What is a Death Reclamation?
For millennia, families and communities around the world have cared for their dying and dead loved one in the home. This included caring for the body after death. Sending the body of a loved one to a commercial, for-profit provider for final preparation and burial is a relatively recent, largely North American convention. Death reclamation is the process of returning care of the dying individual up to and after death to a place of importance; that of the the home, family, and community. Death reclamation is a way of accepting the inevitability of death and restoring the value and significance of this most important final event in the journey from “birth to earth”.
Why a Home Funeral?
Most cultures still practice some form of home funeral, which most simply is keeping the body of a dead loved one at home so family and community can come together to grieve and commemorate. Home funerals are generally a more intimate, personal, often creative and less costly alternative to commercial for-profit funeral services. In the past century and a half, dying and death in modern, western culture has moved away what once was a significant, intimate transition from an impersonal and for-profit commercial service.
Grief can be complex, and we all express grief differently, most commonly as tears. Home funerals and final preparations of the body provide more time and opportunities to process these complex feelings and respectfully memorialize the now deceased loved one.
There are no laws in Canada preventing families from having home-based funerals. Your body or that your beloved deceased family member can safely remain at home for several hours to several days after death. This allows families, friends, and communities time to properly grieve and say their “good-byes”. Even if a loved one died somewhere other than the home (eg. hospice, hospital) the body can be returned home for final preparation. Final preparations for the body of the deceased is very much the same as the tender care you or a loved one received during their dying days. Final preparations of the body commonly include:
- Washing, drying, styling hair and facial shaving
- Cloth and basin bathing the face, body, limbs, hands or feet
- Gently drying, caressing, massaging and/or anointing the skin with scented oils or lotions
- Dressing, wrapping, adorning the body
Photo Credit: Sam Caplat, licensed by Creative Commons