Provided below are resources you may find helpful and inspiring on your exploration of a good death.
NOTE: I have included these resources to provide information, inspiration, and food for thought. State and local regulations may limit the availability of some options, such as recomposition, nontraditional caskets, and methods for hastening death.
What Does it Feel Like to Die: A gentle, informative video about the body’s processes as our bodies die.
Voluntarily Stopping of Eating and Drinking (VSED): An article on hastening death by fasting, published by the Death with Dignity organization.
VSEDResources.com: This web site provides in-depth information on Voluntarily Stoping of Eating and Drinking. Although its intended audience is the Northwest U.S., the information provided is useful to anyone considering VSED.
Final Exit Network: This organization provides information to terminally ill people who wish to end their suffering but live in states where Medical Aid in Dying (MAID) is not legal or people who do not qualify for MAID. Read this article in The Atlantic for some perspective on the organization’s history and experiences.
End of Life Options New Mexico: This nonprofit organization was formed to provide support to people seeking to implement the Elizabeth Whitefield End-of-Life Options Act in New Mexico and provides information on all legal end-of-life options in the state. Their web site provides details about the law, how to access medical aid in dying, residency requirements, and much more.
American Clinicians Academy on Medical Aid in Dying: This nonprofit organization is staffed by clinicians and supports patients and clinicians with information on MAID.
The Best Possible Day by Atul Gawande: In this New York Times article, Dr. Gawande tells the story of a family friend with a terminal diagnosis and her journey to discover the activities that enriched her final days with happiness and meaning.
Alternatives for the Body
Recomposition: This new facility in Washington state provides facilities for human composting by placing the body in organic material and allowing it to decompose naturally. At this time, recomposition is available Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Vermont. In California, the bill is awaiting signature by the governor at this time.
Parting Stone: This innovative and thoughtful company is located in my home town, Santa Fe, NM, and creates beautiful stones with your loved one’s cremains.
Natural Organic Reduction aka Human Composting: This article, published by Herland Forest Natural Burial Cemetery, discusses options available for human composting. The cemetery is located in Washington state, but can assist with transportation to their cemetery.
Ten Uses for Your Body After you Die (CNN article)
Going Out Green (article by the Green Burial Council)
Alkaline Hydrolysis (article by Funeral Consumers Alliance of Minnesota): Also known as liquid cremation, this method reduces your carbon footprint by more than 75% and uses 1/8 the amount of energy of traditional cremation.
Eco-friendly caskets (Green Burial Council)
Eternal Reefs: This nonprofit organization in Florida embeds cremains into a reef ball (a concrete form) that is then placed in the ocean to encourage coral reef growth. Loved ones of the deceased are encouraged to attend the entire process, participating in the casting with hand prints, etc. and placement of the reef ball. Reefs are offshore in Galveston, TX; North Myrtle Beach, SC; Topsail Island, NC; Ocean City, NJ; Ocean City, MD; and Sarasota, Fort Lauderdale, and Pensacola, FL.
Too Damn Young is a web site for teens and young adults who are navigating death and grief. It’s founder, Vivian Nunez, lost her mother when she was ten and her grandmother when she was 21. When her grandmother was dying, Vivian found herself having to make end-of-life decisions and funeral arrangements for her. These overwhelming experiences led her to create this web site and provide a safe, resourceful space for others.
How Grief Changes Over Time is a brief, poignant BBC video (linked to FaceBook) that describes how grief changes over time, or more how we change around grief.
Advice for Future Corpses by Sallie Tisdale
From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty: A fascinating account of Caitlin’s travels around the globe, studying death rituals and customs.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: & Other From the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty: A fun recounting of Caitlin’s journey into the business of death and her early days at a crematory.
Let’s Talk About Death: a TED talk by Rochelle Martin
Writing Final Letters: The Stanford Letter Project is an initiative to encourage adults to prepare for the future and bring resolution by writing letters. (Whether you deliver them is up to you, of course.)
How to Help a Grieving Friend: This is a short, poignant video by author Megan Divine on how to provide support to someone who is grieving.
Liquid Light Glass: This glass studio is located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and offers glass-making classes. In one of the classes they offer, you can bring some of your loved one’s cremains and incorporate them into a heart or paperweight. Or, if you’re not in Santa Fe, you can ship them the cremains, and they will make the custom piece for you.
Touchwood Memorial Rings: Nicola and David Finch make beautiful rings, pendants, and pins of wood embedded with your loved one’s cremains (both human and furry).
Conscious Clay: Hayley Bangham is a potter living in Dunsborough, Western Australia, who has developed a ceramic glaze that incorporates cremains. She hand-throws custom candle holders and plant pots and then finishes them with the glaze. Although Hayley can ship her custom pots internationally, there is some red tape to sending cremains to her. If you are interested in her pots, contact her for guidance on shipping.
Carpet of Life: If you are struggling with what to do with your loved one’s clothing, these talented women will transform the clothes into a beautiful tapestry.
Diamonds from Cremains: This article describes the process of turning cremains into diamonds and provides a list of companies that provide this service.
Preserving Handwriting: This article has beautiful, poignant ideas for preserving your loved one’s handwriting, such as framed recipe cards, scrap books, cutting boards etched with a recipe card, and more.
Advanced Directives: This article by Katy Butler provokes deeper thought on what care you may or may not want in the event of dementia. However, the questions it poses are insightful and helpful for everyone.
End-of-Life Documents and Checklist: This article was written by Karen Silby, registered nurse and patient advocate, and has been vetted by attorneys. The article clearly explains essential end-of-life documents and includes a link to an easy-to-use checklist.
Funerals and Memorials
Last Dance Shrouds: Located in Shutesbury, MA, Dina Stander makes hand-crafted shrouds using organic or recycled cotton. She stocks a few designs that are available for immediate purchase, or you can have one custom made.
Garments for the Grave (Dr. Pia Interlandi): Located in Australia. Makes beautiful, creative burial garments.
Stir the Pot: A YouTube video of Dr. Pia Interlandi discussing the beauty and intention of burial shrouds.
About Home Funerals (YouTube video)
Parting Stone: This innovative and thoughtful company is located in my home town, Santa Fe, NM, and creates beautiful stones with your beloved pet’s cremains.
How to Memorialize a Beloved Pet: Preparing for the loss of our furry family members and creative ways to remember them.
Resources for Children
25 Children’s Books that Explain Death and Grief (Huffington Post)
Friends of Aine is a nonprofit organization that provides support for children who are experiencing loss.
Grief Films for Children: This New York Times article provides the intended age range and a detailed synopsis of each film to help you determine which ones are best suited to your needs.
Sesame Street: Helping Kids Grieve: This website contains numerous activities and tools for helping children grieve.