(Did you know I am currently pursuing a degree and career as a funeral director? Keep an eye out for some posts about that in the near future!)
Focusing on community building is one of the most important things you can do to prepare for your own good death. Here are six things I am doing to build a death-informed community in Vermont and beyond:
1. Talking about death and asking you to do the same.
Talk about death, talk about dying, talk about your thoughts and feelings, hopes and fears, any questions you have when you think about the end of life. Explore how death relates to other transitions in your life- like changing careers- and how these can offer a chance for us to practice what we need for dying. You can find me doing just that at most Thursday night meeting of the Montpelier Death Cafe. You can learn more about Death Cafe at DeathCafe.com The Montpelier Death Cafe meets on the 2nd Friday and 3rd Thursday of each month. To learn more email the Montpelier Death Cafe
2. Planning for death.
By now most people have heard of advance directives and how they allow you to plan for your own death. In Vermont, the Vermont Ethics Network (VEN) an advance directive form and resources that includes medical, personal, and social decisions you should consider. It is often helpful to work directly with someone to complete an Advance Directive that is reflective of your values for living well includes plans for after you die. Coming into relationship with your own mortality is a necessary step before you can plan for your own death. If you want support for values-based end of life planning explore what VEN offers, or email me to help you find someone.
3. Promoting different models of end of life support.
End of Life Doulas now exist to serve as a non-medical compliment to hospice care. There are many definitions and training programs for End of Life Doulas. Make sure the person you find is comfortable with the “core competencies” defined by the National End of Life Doula Alliance (NEDA) so that you not only find someone who is the best fit for you, but can be confident that they will help support you in the best way for you. Birth and Bereavement Doulas are specially trained to support families through the loss of pregnancy. The Institute for Birth, Breath, and Death is an excellent source of doulas trained to support families at any stage of pregnancy, loss for any reason, and the difficulty of saying goodbye before you have had a chance to say hello.
4. Challenging the concept of “good death.”
Many people talk about a good death. But what does that mean? An important question to ask is “a good death for whom?” The Collective for Radical Death Studies is a group of scholars, death work practitioners, activists and students who view death work as synonymous with anti-racism work, and are actively working toward dismantling oppression as a way to validate cultural and social life among marginalized groups. I am honored to be a founding member of this group and contributing to its work to decolonize death practices. I have always believed we define our own good death, now I am working to make that accessible to all.
5. Remembering the environment.
In a time of climate crisis it is easy to overlook that something as simple as our disposition choices can have a positive impact on the environment in addition to contribution healthy social and emotional mourning. At Green Burial Vermont we strive to educate Vermont individuals, communities, and cemeteries about socially and environmentally responsible burial practices. If you’re considering cremation, or the mushroom suit, be sure to visit our website or email Green Burial Vermont and schedule a by-donation workshop for community- often given by members of your community- and learn how you can play a role in making green burial an accessible option for all Vermonters.
Here my blog “Your Own Good Death.” I reflect on working with death, share some of my experiences, review books I’ve read, talk about my journey and what I am learning about how I want to live and die. I don’t write as often as I would like so please subscribe to make sure you never miss a post. I encourage you to write to- whether for yourself, on a blog, or for a publication writing helps us better understand and share our own experiences.