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Green Burials, Death Midwifery and Home Funerals

In the book "Generation Ageless: How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Live Today... And They're Just Getting Started", Smith and Clurman state, "Boomers will fight to make sure they continue to matter and have their say. They intend to go the distance... with a continuing engagement with life". The Boomers are not only changing the way we live, but are changing the way we die, care for the dying and care for the dead.

LEES + Associates created a beautiful green burial site for Royal Oak Burial Park in Victoria BC; OUR Ecovillage, in the Cowichan Valley, explores alternative options for caring for the dead, and on the east coast of Canada Cassandra Yonder teaches about death midwifery and home funerals.

As health care professionals, do you know what is available? Do you know the options in your community? How can you support people who do not want to die (or be buried) as their parents, neighbours and friends have been? As a professional in the funeral profession, are you ready to support individuals who may want your help but may want a unique combination of services?

Have a look at the projects and links provided in this month's e-newsletter. We invite you to share your comments and questions with us by email, on Facebook or on the blog.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!  Looking forward to seeing some of you in Ontario if the fall.

Warm regards,

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Our mission is to create resources that help front line caregivers, including Personal Support Workers (also known as Health Care Assistants, Nursing Assistants and Hospice Aides), provide excellent care for the dying person and their family.

If you are new to hospice palliative care then we hope that the website, newsletter, videos and podcast library will provide you with a foundation of understanding.  If you are experienced in hospice palliative care, we hope that you can use these resources to support, teach and mentor your colleagues.

If you are an educator we hope that the materials will reinforce what you know, and that the Instructors Guide will help you prepare education sessions that will stimulate your students learning, and facilitate you sharing from your rich experience while meeting the education standards and vocational learning outcomes.

Brandy Gallagher of O.U.R. Ecovillage (Shawnigan Lake, BC, Canada) relates how land trusts are protecting land for future generations by providing spaces for green burials. 

Green burials are an environmentally-conscious alternative to costly and toxic funeral products and processes. For our final act, we can "use our dying for the living."
the one washcloth project
The One Washcloth Project

One Washcloth hopes to encourage and facilitate involvement in the healing act of care for a loved one after death, by providing individuals, communities, and institutions with gift-able washcloths.

These cloth giftbags contain a hand-made washcloth that can be offered to bereaved families and friends at the bedside, as an invitation to take part in washing the body of their loved one immediately after death. This physical and intimate act of care creates a positive, tangible connection to the person who has died, and helps bridge the gap between life and death, by nurturing a continuing bond.

One Washcloth is a charitable initiative, currently serving the USA and Canada.
Nominations are now open for
The Life & Death Matters Hospice Palliative Care Award for Personal Support Workers.
As absolute fans of Personal Support Workers, this bursary is to acknowledge the incredible work that PSW's do and to honour them with a day of education at the 2015 PSNO Conference. 
Click here for more details and/or to apply for the bursary.

Green Burial has become an option available to families looking to minimize their environmental footprint when a loved one passes away. Being green and environmentally conscience has become a way of life.

What are considered alternative funeral rights and rituals?

In the past we saw traditional funerals, whereby every person was embalmed, dressed, placed in a casket and put on public display for viewing. The funeral ceremony would follow the next day with a long procession out to the cemetery. The casket would then be buried in the grave in a concrete vault and the top of the grave would have a granite headstone.



Guest blog post by Susan Benesch – owner, and licensed funeral director, of Earth’s Option Cremation & Burial Services in Victoria, BC.

The Green Burial Society of Canada was founded by a small but passionate group of people, working in
disparate disciplines, but sharing a common cause in providing for those undergoing end-of-life, death and bereavement. 


What is Green Burial?

Green Burial is a statement of personal values for those who seek to minimize their impact on the local and global environment. For people who are mindful of the cyclical nature of life, green burial is a spiritually fulfilling alternative to conventional burial or cremation. It is an environmentally sensitive practice: the body is returned to the earth to decompose naturally and contribute to new life.  

There are 5 essential criteria that should be present to properly qualify an interment as a 'Green Burial'... READ MORE

Dying to Know Day, on August 8th, is an annual day of action dedicated to bringing to life conversations and community actions around death, dying and bereavement. 


  • Organise an event in your local community
  • Host a Death Cafe
  • Take a personal action such as writing your will or having a conversation with a loved one.

Cassandra Yonder, founder of BEyond Yonder Death Midwifery, talks about home funerals and death midwifery.

The mission of Beyond Yonder Death Midwifery in Canada is to articulate and elucidate the potential benefits of community centred and ecologically sensitive responses to dying, deathcare and grief; by supporting and empowering families to reclaim their ethical and legal rights to provide home based deathcare without professional intervention if they so choose.

Music Therapy in Hospice and Palliative Care

Guest blog post by Jennifer Buchanan of JB Music Therapy 

Music Therapy is the study and practice of how music affects people.  Our music therapists use music as their primary intervention when working with all population groups.  The music therapists will incorporate singing, vocalizing, instrument improvisation, exploration of unique sounds and other sensory and sensitive experiences.  Tempo, timbre, melody, harmony, pitch and genre of music are always considered – with the primary aim of supporting the needs of the clients/patients by easing anxiety/stress, opening doors to communication, engaging  and creating opportunity for inclusive social interactions.


Integrating music with supportive care of the dying is becoming more common in hospice and palliative care programs.  Our clinical work has indicated that music therapy in Palliative Care can:

  • Help to Decrease Anxiety.
  • Help with General Feelings of Discomfort.
  • Address Spirituality
  • Enhance Quality of Life.

The NHFA (National Home Funeral Allianceis a non-profit, all volunteer organization that is the leading body of home after after-death care support and education in the USA.

Created in 2010, their members come from 45 states, five provinces, and seven countries. Many of them are home funeral guides who also identify as licensed funeral directors, ordained ministers, educators, body workers, licensed social workers, registered nurses, therapists and counselors, directors of nonprofits, attorneys and physicians.

They aim to empower families and friends to care for their own dead, and to educate the public to their choices and provide clear information.


Upcoming 2015 NHFA CONFERENCE in the Santa Cruz Mountains perched above Los Gatos, CA, USA

The Green Burial Council is the environmental certification organization setting the standard for green burial in North America. They offer environmental certificates for funeral homes, cemeteries and product manufacturers.

GBC believes that the deathcare industry needs to embrace a new ethic for a new era. Their education and advocacy is helping organizations and individuals within this industry understand the environmental, societal and economic benefits of green burial. They hope to make “green” or “natural” burial the new standard within industry.

Visit their website to:
  • learn more about green burials
  • become certified
  • find a GBC approved provider in North America
  • view GBC approved caskets, urns and shrouds
  • plan for your green burial


Upcoming Conferences, Speaking Engagements and Events

Celebrating the Hearts & Hands of Home Care Workers
Victoria, BC, Canada
October 7, 2015
Celebrating the contribution of health care workers and home care workers, including those working in the home setting and long term care. This is the 5th annual celebration complete with food, entertainment, self-care strategies and door prizes.

We’ll be there!

NHPCO 16th Clinical Team Conference and Pediatric Intensive
Grapevine, TX, USA
October 13 – 17, 2015
Kath Murray will be presenting a keynote address for the Nursing Assistants and launching the American text and companion resources.

We’ll be there!

PSNO Conference: Change, Challenge & Opportunity
Markham, ON, Canada
October 20, 2015 
Ontario’s largest meeting ​for the professional development of Personal Support Workers working in home care, long term care, community care, hospitals and supportive housing. We love to meet with this group! If you are a PSW and you want to apply for the bursary to cover registration, see posting above.

We’ll be there!

OCSA Conference: Leading the Shift: The Power of Thinking Differently
Markham, ON, Canada
October 21-22, 2015
Ontario’s largest home and community support conference. 

We’ll be there!

Train the Trainer Workshop
Toronto, ON, Canada
October 23, 2015
For college instructors and workplace educators using the “Integrating a Palliative Approach: Essentials for Personal Support Workers” resources.
Email to reserve your space

We’ll be there!

CAPNE 2015 Canadian Association of Practical Nurse Educators
Markham, ON, Canada
October 26 – 28, 2015

We’ll be there!

Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association (CHPCA) Conference
Ottawa, ON, Canada
October 29 – November 1, 2015

We’ll be there!

Train the Trainer Workshop
Ottawa, ON, Canada
November 3, 2015
For college instructors and workplace educators using the “Integrating a Palliative Approach: Essentials for Personal Support Workers” resources.
Email to reserve your space
We’ll be there!

If you would like to connect with Kath Murray when she's in your area,
please drop us an email