The Funeral Consumers Alliance
The FCA is a national advocacy and educational organization with local chapters. In Massachusetts we are very fortunate to have two knowledgeable and active chapters in eastern and western Mass. Both local websites offer unique and valuable information such as a funeral director survey about services offered, with specific questions on green burial options. You will find links to state regulations and information about many pertinent issues.
We also highly recommend the Before I Go, You Should Know" planning guide, available from the FCA national headquarters at www.funerals.org.
The Funeral Consumers Alliance of Eastern Massachusetts
Planning Ahead - the What If Workbook
This is my favorite planning ahead guide because it succinctly, yet thoroughly, covers a wide range of information that would be useful for a number of situations. Because my dad died unexpectedly I know what a difference this makes. Come into the studio to see this and other planning guides, and pick one that will work for you!!! Please do it now!!!
The What If Workbook
Planning Ahead - the Engage with Grace movement
Visit this website to find a "one-slide" presentation of questions to answer for yourself and then discuss with loved ones. Founder Alexandra Drane encourages this from personal experience, following the death of her sister-in-law, Rosaria Vandenberg. Furthermore, Engage with Grace encourages us to use Thanksgiving dinner as a time to have these conversations. It can make such a difference in the future, and even in the moment...
Engage with Grace
funeral planning resources
This is a listing of local businesses and information for Boston area funerals as well as links for planning a funeral in specific other cities. The website includes sections of poetry and other resources.
Having a funeral at home
People choose home funerals for emotional, economic and/or environmental reasons. This time can be as public or private as desired. Remember there is always the additional possibility of a future memorial service (that is, without the body laid out).
In Massachusetts as well as in 44 other states, family and friends are legally allowed to provide all of the after-death care. (Our friends in CT would like us to clearly state that home funerals do occur there, though funeral director assistance is required.)
Listed in other sections below are organizations that offer resource guides (often free and downloadable) that have helped many home funerals occur without any other assistance. You can contact Mourning Dove Studio for more information, of course, and we have a number of books on the topic.
In Massachusetts (and other states), people serving as home funeral guides are also available to provide education and emotional support for the process of caring for a loved one at home after death. A link to a national directory of home funeral guides can be found in the following section. Funeral directors are able to help facilitate a home funeral, and you can request assistance with specific tasks only, for example, with filing paperwork. The FCA link above can help you identify funeral directors for this, and many others would be willing to help if asked.
Understandably, there are state-specific laws and regulations which must be followed. For Massachusetts, you can follow the link below to read the regulations straight from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health website.
Taking care of your loved one after their death offers the opportunity to grieve this loss at your own pace and in a variety of ways. It has been described by Lisa Carlson as "your final act of love" and reminds me of having heard a Rabbi describe the physical act of shoveling dirt at a graveside as "the final thing we can do for our loved one". For the survivors, being at home with their loved one who has died allows time and space for emotions to ebb and flow in a natural way. It can help with the slow process of coming to terms with a death, which is always momentous, even when expected. The term "instrumental griever" may be used to describe someone who mourns through physical actions, such as by providing care. Home funeral advocates remind us that these expressions of grief and love are possible for all of us.
Mass. Department of Public Health Guidelines
CROSSINGS - home funeral information
Crossings is one of the very first nonprofit organizations that has worked to increase awareness of this option after the founder, Beth Knox, experienced the sudden death of her daughter. They offer a free resource guide to support families and friends in carrying out a home funeral on their own, and Beth will come to your local area to facilitate a group training workshop. Her empowering, practical, and compassionate expertise includes the advice to "let love lead" - truly words to live by, as well.
Following a friend's death and home funeral in 1994 and based in California, Jerrigrace Lyons has been involved with over 150 funerals and also offers training workshops.
Undertaken With Love
In addition to information and an overview, a self-description of their resource guide follows below. You can download the guide for free, or link through their site to buy a printed copy from Amazon for $15.
Undertaken With Love is a manual and study guide written by a group of home funeral advocates across America for:
-Congregational committees that form to support home funerals for their members
-Pastors and other spiritual leaders contemplating a home funeral ministry
-Death education and counseling practitioners
-Secular social groups that form to support home funerals for their members
You can choose to help replenish the ocean reef habitat - a wonderful legacy and way to commemorate a loved one who has been cremated. Ashes of one or more people (and sometimes pets, too) are poured into a concrete ball that serves as the seed for a new reef. Eternal Reefs manages the practical considerations and also supports families and friends in being as involved in the process as they would like to be. The newsletter link below gives moving examples of what these choices and this experience has meant for families.
Eternal Reefs newsletter with link to website
Blue Light Coffins
Denise Baxter has created beautiful pieces in North Scituate, Rhode Island for a number of years. She greeted us as kindred spirits, rejoicing in the expansion of options for people, and helping to mentor us. Her integrity and grace radiate from all of her work, including her lovely coffins.
Bury Me Naturally
This link takes you to a thoughtful article featuring green burial information and the experiences of a company called Bury Me Naturally (as well as 2 other companies also based in Ashland, North Carolina). You can link to the companies through this article.
Here at the studio we have both this cardboard coffin (tapered at head and feet) and a cardboard casket (rectangular shaped) with a beveled top, from Bury Me Naturally. (You can buy direct from this company, but you will also pay the shipping costs). Both are perfect for a very artistic, personal way to keep the focus on honoring our loved ones, while not shying away from the economic and environmental issues involved.
Esmerelda Kent was inspired to begin making ceremonial and functional burial shrouds, used throughout the country. The following podcast gives us a thoughtful and quite interesting glimpse into her knowledge, compassion and experiences, including having one of her shrouds used on the tv show, Six Feet Under.
link for podcast interview
Natural Burial Company
Cynthia Beal imports a number of our products. She's also an eloquent writer, and you can find a synopsis of her upcoming book, Be A Tree, on her website.
Jae Rhim Lee
Jae Rhim Lee is an artist and a visionary who really, truly would like to make a version of the Mushroom Burial Suit she's invented available to use for actual burials.
July 2011 TED talk
The Mosaic Oasis
After seeing the mirror pictured here (described in the Tribute Ideas section under the heading "mosaic scrapbooking"), I invited Betsy Rodman, the artist and co-owner of The Mosaic Oasis, to let others know about this option and their business, where both classes and open studio time are offered. Here are more of her thoughts about mosaic art, in general:
Mosaics offers a creative outlet which encourages recreating beautiful designs and images using cut tiles, broken shards, and almost anything else one may want to include. Both in theory and concept the process is about putting pieces back together to create a meaningful finished piece of art.
With this in mind, mosaics can be a powerful way to work through grief and find a way to make sense of what has been lost by delving into the various parts that make up the whole. Focusing on the idea of “legacy” we have found a wonderful way to honor loved ones and bring bits and pieces of their lives back into our world.
The Mosaic Oasis, Arlington, MA
Chronic Care Community Corps
This organization has a lot to recommend it, but most of all I appreciate this:
"The Arc of Illness is designed as an organizing strategy for information, tools, and resources to help caregivers and friends of caregivers."