Death Midwifery & Related Support Systems

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Death Midwifery & Related Support Systems

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overview of Death Midwifery
Death Midwives and Related Support Systems - General, Canada, U.S. and U.K.

Books on Death Midwifery

Pagan Resources
Pagan Death Midwife-related training
Books on a Pagan approach to death

Overview of Death Midwifery

In ancient times, it was most often those who attended births, who also cared for the dying and helped them make the transition beyond. For this reason, the practice of caring for the dying is often referred to as 'Death Midwifery'. In modern times, it is the equivalent of spiritual and physical hospice care (either in a hospice house or in one's own home) but also often includes all the preparations for burial/etc., the funeral/memorial services itself, the burying of remains or scattering of ashes, and grief counselling for those left behind.

A Death Midwife (whether called that specifically or not) may support the family through the whole process from the declaration of terminalness and/or incapacitation, through to (especially) the first year of grieving of family and friends (although it may not be the same people dealing with each stage).However, there is a growing network of Palliative Care nurses and Hospice organizations (providing care in a Hospice unit in a hospital, and for those dying at home or in residential care), and Bereavement Counsellors which may come under one's health care insurance.Therefore, it is likely that a modern-day Death Midwife would be focusing on faciliating the family's ability to care for their loved one as 'hands on' as they are comfortable with through the active dying stage; cleaning and dressing the body; naturally preserving the body so that other family and friends can say 'goodbye', and/or preparing a wake; support with arrangements for the burial (Green or traditional, or cremation); and designing a personalized funeral or memorial.Over the past several years, more and more organizations have been developing specifically to do this kind of work (see links below) and teaching others how to do it (including information on all of the legal issues involved).

The support of Hospice 'in home' service or a Death Midwife allows for the kind of personalized care that may not be possible in a hospital or even a Hospice Home/Unit. Your loved one's specific wishes can be followed whether that involves alternative types of 'comfort care' (such as Reiki, Bedside Singing, etc.), environment and visitation, etc.; and especially if they have completed an Advance Directive/'Living Will' (contact us for information on comprehensive Advance Directives and Expressed Wishes, and Representation Agreements).Equally important is the fact that caring for loved ones as they die is an important part of family and friends truly/emotionally acknowledging the dying process and the eventual death, and opening themselves to the depth of grieving and transitioning through it.Although our culture has been trained to remove themselves from all of the aspects of death, it has been to our detriment: and especially over the past decade, more and more people are choosing to be directly involved with both the dying process both before and after the death (see Other Natural Dying Options & Resources for a wide variety of further support systems and resources).

Death Midwives also help guide the family through the after-death care.Because of our cultural training in death, most people assume that there is no option to the very expensive (and often de-personalized) funeral homes embalming, elaborate coffins, concrete grave-liners (in the ground), cemetery plots, etc. but that is not the case. There are legal requirements for various parts of the death process; but in most regions of North America, most or all of them can be carried out by the family (or Death Midwifing group). There are a growing number of Funeral Celebrants, who focus on designing personalized memorials/funerals including non-religious ones.In some places, the dead can be buried on their own property, as long as certain requirements are met. Many people have chosen cremation to avoid the expensive processes of burial, but these are also often almost as elaborate as a funeral and only slightly less expensive. There is a general assumption that cremation is more ecologically-friendly than (traditional) burial and while it generally is, there are issues being raised about the environmental damage from it as well (see page on Natural and Green Burial options).

Attitudes towards dying and death are changing radically in modern times. More and more people want to die at home with no special medical life-continuing measures, simple funerals/memorials, and Green Burials. Memorial societies across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. as well as Hospice Societies and Hospital Chaplancies, are often supporting the movement towards a more natural dying process.

Death Midwives and related services - each site offers resource information on natural death processes, funeral/memorial services, green burials, etc.

Death Midwifery Live Journal articles, discussion, etc. for those interested in developing Death Midwifery options.
Bedside Singing Resources for Canada, U.S.A. and U.K. see this section on Other Natural Death Options and Resource

Death Midwifery Canada support egroup for those involved in some aspects of the development of Death Midwifery in Canada (contact us to subscribe)
CINDEA Canadian Integrative Network for Death Education and Alternatives resources on pan-death options including Death Midwifery (Advance Care Planning, Post-death Care, etc.)
Journeying Beyond Death Midwifery and 'end of life' consultant services Victoria, B.C. Contact Pashta at or Tel: (250) 383-4065 also En~chanting Beyond Bedside Singing for the dying and Death Midwifery services or E~merging Beyond Transformative/Interest-based mediation, with a focus on helping families through the difficult times around a family death
Remember Network creative funeral/memorial services support to develop them where and how the family wishes Toronto, Ontario.Email:
creative alternative to traditional Funeral Services (related to Remember Network) Montreal, Quebec.
Beyond Yonder Death Midwifery
witness death, dying, post death care and grief Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Contact Cassandra at


Home Funeral Directory list of services offered in the U.S., state by state (more than below and updated)
National Home Funeral Alliance new alliance of Home Funeral (and Death Midwifery) organizations providing advocacy on the value of home funerals, green burials, etc.
A Sacred Moment Char Barrett Seattle, Washington state
Red Cabin Wellness
Joyce Barron Washington State, Lake Tapps (Death Midwife, Birth Doula, and Clutter Clearing services)
Beyond Hospice
Death Midwifery and Home Funeral Guides training in Texas (connected to Crossing Care Circle)
Ceremonies for Life's Thresholds Nora Cedarwind Young (ordained Priestess and Hospice Chaplain) Olympic Peninsula in Washington state
Crossings Elizabeth Knox Takoma Park, Maryland
Crossing Care Circle Donna Belk and Sandy Booth Texas and Texas Home Funerals including training available in Austin and other citities in Texas
Doula for the Dying Austin, Texas Deanna Cochran, RN, BA Certified Hospice & Palliative Nurse Emial: deanna(at)aGentleGuide(dot)com
Final Passages or Natural Death Care Project
(same site)
Jerrigrace Lyons, based in California training available
Sacred Crossings Olivia Bareham Los Angles, California
Soul's Journey Services Marilyn Strong Washington state
Thesholds Barbara Kernan and Eric W. Putt Lakeside, California


Soul Midwives Foundation including a registry of trained Soul Midwives and training courses Email:

Books or Instructions on Death Midwifery

The Art of Death Midwifery - An Introduction and Beginner's Guide, Authored by Joellyn St. Pierre DDiv Publication Date:Apr 27 2009 ISBN/EAN13:1439229066 / 9781439229064
Caring for the Dead:Your Final Act of Love by Lisa Carlson
Gentle Dying - a simple guide to achieving a peaceful death by Felicity Warner
Midwife for Souls: Spiritual Care for the Dying, by Kathy Kalina
The Pagan Book on Living and Dying by Stawhawk,with M. Macha Nightmare and the Reclaiming Collective death rites for various situations
ComfortDying list of books on home funerals, etc.
A Neo-Pagan Natural Burial instructions on post-death care and natural burials for Pagans


Pagan Resources

As the Pagan community grows older, our members will have face all the issues of how they chose to die, what rites they want performed and how, and what they want done with their remains. In a mini-survey on death that PPO conducted (for an inter-faith panel on Death), most Pagans stated that they would prefer a Death Midwife (or group), no embalming, a Pagan requiem or memorial, and for their remains to return to the Earth in the most ecological way possible.

The Pagan Book on Living and Dying by Stawhawk,with M. Macha Nightmare and the Reclaiming Collective death rites for various situations
Pagan Transitions (U.K.) various articles on dealing with death (bereavement, natural death processes, green burials, books, poetry/prayers, rituals, etc.) from a Pagan perspective.
Immarama Pagan Death-midwifery and burial instructions directed at neo-Pagans, but applicable to all religious (and non-religious) faiths covering natural burials, preparation of the body, shrouding, preparation of gravesite, concerns, etc.
Echoed Voices Macha Nightmare's overview of Pagan death processes
Tryskelion variety of Pagan options
Sacred Flame circle funeral rites
Ivy's Pentacles Pagan Requiem
Moon Dragon various death rites
Pagan Transitions various death rites and links to more

Pagan Death Midwife-related training

Cherry Hill Seminary is a specifically Pagan seminary, offering a variety of pastoral training programs with some on-line courses.We are looking for Canadian students who would be willing to write a testimonial on Cherry Hill's programs - please contact usSee Cherry Hill Testimonials

Cherry Hill course list of particular interest to those involved with pastoral care

Call of the Dark Mother: Working with the Dying, Death and Grieving - PMC611
A survey course in death, dying and grieving to better prepare Pagans who hear the call to this sacred work, and also those who encounter it as part of their overall priest/esshood.

Introduction to Pagan Pastoral Counseling
This course will explore a variety of Pagan and other models of pastoral counseling. Each student will develop a personal understanding of what pastoral counseling means to them, within the context of their own Pagan beliefs and community. We will also examine some of the typical situations in which people seek the counsel of their clergy, and some helpful approaches to dealing with these situations. (and further electives in pastoral care).

Survey of Chaplaincy - PMI620, PCA620
This class will explore the issues faced by Pagan clergy who minister to the religious needs of our people within non-Pagan institutional settings, such as college campuses, hospitals, military bases and prisons. Each of these situations presents specific spiritual challenges. Chaplains also need to work with non-Pagan colleagues and administrators, some of whom are clergy of other religions, and to comply with institutional procedures and other requirements. By keeping their balance, Pagan chaplains bring spiritual support and guidance to Pagans in unusual situations.

Books on a Pagan approach to death

The Pagan Book of Living and Dying
the Reclaiming Collective. An excellent book including meditations and reflections on death and dying, funerals, supporting carers and the bereaved, poetry, and much more. Highly recommended.

The Druid Way by Philip Carr-Gomm is all about the journey of life-and-death and has a sample funeral.

A Druid Funeral (booklet published by The British Druid Order), available from The Druid Network.

The New Book of the Dead by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki
A book of rituals and meditations for the process of dying, coming to terms with grief, and funeral rites.

A Witch Amongst Us by Lois Bourne
Includes some excellent and very interesting material on her time as a nurse, when she spent a lot of time nursing the terminally ill, and saw their deceased relatives coming to guide them on the way to the other world.


Blessed Be