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On this page (click on the link below to jump to section)
Journeying Beyond Death Midwifery
services for Victoria and Vancouver Island
B.C., Canada
  Once upon a time — A Family Undertaking
CINDEA/Journeying Beyond Terminology
A Good Death
Mandate of Journeying Beyond
Details of A Death-Midwifed Death
Practical Pan-death-care Issues
Journeying Beyond 's Death Midwife Services
  7 Stages of the Pan-Death Process

Once Upon A Time — A Family Undertaking

Once upon a time — actually up until the 20th century — death was a family/community undertaking.   The Death Journeyer most often died at home, surrounded by family and friends.   The community-at-large provided for their practical needs; clergy/shamans/etc. supplied spiritual support; and the local midwife often provided both practical and spiritual support at the bedside throughout the whole of the pan-death journey.   A family member or friend may have made the coffin or shroud.   The local spiritual advisor helped the family plan the funeral service.   Vigils, lying-in-state and wakes were arranged by the family or community — according to their traditions.

Family and close friends washed and dressed the body — often under the guidance of the midwife.   Members of the community dug the grave, and filled it in again once the body was placed within it; or built the open-air funeral pyres which the body would burn on.   And the community-at-large offered on-going grief support — both individually (and practically — by preparing food, taking care of chores, etc.) and within the community's traditions, or according to the Death Journeyer's specific wishes.

With the modern advent of hospice and palliative care, the facilitation of pan-death providers, and green burials and supplies, this kind of family/community-based approach to the pan-death experience is once again possible.   Those who wish to do pre/post-death care themselves may do so (and are legally allowed to)CINDEA offers instructions for the whole of the process on its Post-death Care/Home Funerals page.

Especially in an urban environment, where the Death Journeyer may not have a large family or community available — and this is often particularly true in Victoria, as a retirement city — the support of a Death Midwife can make it possible for smaller groups of family and friends to do all of the pan-death care themselves.   Although Journeying Beyond endeavors to support the wishes of the Death Journeyer and their family, its focus is towards natural and ecological options throughout the pan-death process (environmentally-friendly supplies, Green Burial, etc.) wherever possible.

[Note: for those who would like to see a modern 'Family Undertaking', see PoV25 trailer of the movie "A Family Undertaking".]

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CINDEA/Journeying Beyond terminology

Death Journeyer
  — the person who is making the journey through life-threatening illness, terminal diagnosis, active dying, death, and beyond (however they understand 'beyond')
 
Family
  — includes blood and marriage family members, but also any individual or community members that the Death Journeyer considers to be their chosen or functional family.
 
Pan-death
  — includes the three major stages of dying/death
    before (life-threatening illness and terminal diagnosis)
    during (active dying and death), and
    after (post-death care, final rites, burial or cremation, funeral or memorial, bereavement)
 
Death Midwife
  CINDEA only recognizes and lists Death Midwives who have successfully completed the CINDEA-recognition process. The symbol to the left designates someone who has been formally recognized as a Death Midwife.
 
Pashta MaryMoon is a member and one of the co-directors of CINDEA; as well as one of the developers of its Death Midwifery recognition program.
She is also a CINDEA-recognized Death Midwife — evaluated by a non-CINDEA medical practitioner, to avoid bias.
A more detailed description of Journeying Beyond 's approach to Death Midwifery can be found at the CINDEA pages on Pan-death Movement, Death Midwifery, CINDEA Recognition, and Post-Death Care.

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A 'Good Death'

All of us hope for a good death — although that means very different things to different people, depending on their medical conditions, family traditions, and lifestyle.   Part of a Death Midwife's role is support the Death Journeyer to explore what a 'good death' personally means to them, and then help them find ways to achieve it in their remaining time.

A 'good death' might simply mean accepting that one is dying; and integrating this sense of transition — that may bring significant changes to their priorities and choices, and which can also lead to a sense of empowerment that they might not have experienced before.   As well, it may mean choosing less pain medication in order to be conscious throughout most of the 'active dying' stage as possible.

Strangely enough, Death Journeyers are sometimes intensely alert and focused just before their death, and able to reflect upon their life in ways not possible before.   In a sense, they may end their life finally having a clear sense of who they are — all the facets of their life woven into a single 3-dimensional tapestry.   Death Journeyers often have very meaningful insights at this time — about their reality in that moment or about their life in the past — but may articulate them in very strange ways.   It often requires some considerable 'teasing out' to discover the meaning of these statements (see the book 'Final Gifts' for stories about these strangely-worded insights or requests).

It is also a time for last significant connections — sharing hopes/dreams/blessings for one's loved ones, and/or making amends and forgiveness (of both self and other).   As well, a good death includes the dignity of the Death Journeyer being able to make choices about their remaining life, including practical decisions (as much as they desire to do so).

However, we must not assume that dying in a coma or with dementia is a 'bad death'.   For some Death Journeyers, letting go of consciousness and resting in the cradle of a coma or dementia can be a good death.   We can continue to support them in this last resting place before death — with their favourite music or poetry (or other writings), bedside singing, blessings, giving them permission to die or join other deceased loved ones, and simply talking honestly and openly to them.   There is a huge amount of anecdotal evidence that people can hear what is said to them in a coma; and even occasionally, people with end-stage dementia 'come back to us' (temporary improved cognitive ability) just before they die.   The environment we create for them can make a significant difference to the state in which they die, although we may never specifically know what that means for them.

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Mandate of Journeying Beyond services

Journeying Beyond 's mandate is to provide a continuum of support to the Death Journeyer and their family/friends throughout the whole of the pan-death process.   Our primary focus is on supporting those who choose to die at home, and/or have their family/friends be directly involved with the post-death care and arrangements.   However, Pashta will also work collaboratively with funeral directors — if that is the family's wish, and/or the particular circumstances (unexpected or questionable death) require the services of a funeral home.   [Note: the law does not require the body to be taken to a funeral home: families and friends are legally able to handle all of the post-death care on their own, or with the support of an alternative death-care provider.]

Like CINDEA, Journeying Beyond is committed to supporting personal choices/values and meaningful alternatives in pan-death care — with concerns for the sustainability of our planet — throughout the whole of the pan-death process.

Here in Victoria, we have an excellent hospice/palliative-care program, which allows for many more people to die in the comfort of their own homes.   However, there are restrictions on time and availability of services in a city which has a higher population of elderly and dying than most others in Canada.   Although in some cases, funeral-home services are appropriate (or possibly, necessary), many people are questioning the conventional services they offer as not necessarily relevant to their values and lifestyle.   Many have concerns about the conventional ecology of death (ex. embalming, cremation, traditional burial) — all of which have a significant carbon-footprint.

Other people may be more focused on the emotional/spiritual side of dying — both
  a) for the Death Journeyer — dying at home; surrounded by a familiar environment; cared for by those they love; addressing their particular emotional/spiritual needs (elements of a 'good death'); and knowing that their personal wishes will be carried out after their death.
b) for their families — participating directly in caring for their loved one, and healthy grieving through a direct 'hands-on' approach before, during and after the death; being able to organize vigils/lying-in/wakes according to their own values and timing at home; being able to involve children who might otherwise be left with long-term confusions about death and their responsibility for it; and generally being directly involved/in-control-of their last offerings in honouring their loved one.

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Details of A Death-Midwifed Death

A death-midwifed death allows for the Death Midwife and family to explore options (especially those that most people don't know about) that may be particularly meaningful to the Death Journeyer and their family throughout the pan-death process.    This includes making it possible for the Death Journeyer to participate in plans for their death (and afterwards), should they choose to do so.   The continuum of the Death Midwife's involvement means that these explorations can generally be made earlier on, and revised as necessary over time — without having to re-explain the family traditions/values and history to multiple servicers.   Such explorations are done with regards to the particular time-frame and needs of the family and/or their religious or cultural traditions — with a focus on both the emotional/spiritual and practical aspects of the death, including exploring and planning for whatever a 'good death' means to them.   A Death Midwife is also generally able to organize their schedule to suit the family's needs — whether during the day or evening/night.

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Practical Pan-death-care Issues

All of the post-death care can be legally done at home — although some individual funeral-home services might be required (such as transporting the body, if family/friends don't have an adequate vehicle).   The washing and dressing of the deceased loved one can actually be less complicated than when they were alive — and can easily be done by the family (with some general instructions — see CINDEA's 'Post-death care' page): in many cultures (both ancient and modern), this task is considered the final act of respect and love for their loved one.   A Death Journeyer can also be brought home from the hospital/hospice or a residential care facility shortly after death, so that the family can control all aspects of any vigils/lying-in-honour/wakes that they wish to have.   Properly-placed dry ice will keep the body at the temperature required by law (again, see CINDEA's 'Post-death care' page for instructions).   Simple coffins can be built or bought and decorated — in a personally meaningful way — at the home, and allow for family and friends to personalize them with artwork and/or written blessings/farewells; or personalized shrouds can be hand-made (for green burial or cremation — CINDEA will soon have 6 designs available with graphic and written instructions).   Journeying Beyond has copies of most of the documents required to register the death, and can inform the family of where to get the others (through Vital Statistics).

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Journeying Beyond
's Death Midwife Services

Pashta MaryMoon is committed to offer a continuum of support to the Death Journeyer and their family/friends through the pan-death process, via the following Death Midwifery services — according to the specific wishes of the Death Journeyer and family. [Note: although Pashta is Canadian-born and unilingual in English, she is quite open to working with Death Journeyers/families from other cultures.]   She offers:

  A general support through the dying stage — developing a 'death plan' (exploring what the Death Journeyer and family would wish to happen and pre-planning to fulfill those wishes), supporting the Death Journeyer's spiritual advisors (if appropriate), processing anticipatory grief, exploring and supporting whatever a 'good death' means to the Death Journeyer, etc.
  B access to alternative support therapy (such as Bedside Singing — Pashta was a founder and trainer for the Bedside Singing program at the Victoria Hospice unit at the Royal Jubilee hospital — or other non-medical/non-traditional therapies)
  C support in negotiating hospice/palliative care services
  D arrangements for life-story telling (written, audio, video) and/or preparing for a memorial pamphlet
  E family meetings (to ensure that everyone's needs are being met), or initial mediation re internal family issues (Pashta is also a trained mediator)
  F 'gatekeeping' (helping the family to arrange visitation, according to the needs of the Death Journeyer and family)
  G education on post-death care (washing and dressing the body, and ensuring that it remains at the legal temperature for preserving a dead body), enabling the family to do it themselves if they so choose
  H support in accessing the chosen coffin or shroud — including ecologically-friendly coffins used for green burial and/or simple ones appropriate for decorating (as well as blueprints for families who choose to make the coffin themselves, or shroud patterns for those who wish to sew them)
I planning whatever services/ceremonies are wished for during the pan-death process (a 'life celebration' or 'last farewells' before death, death vigil, lying-in vigil/visitation, as well as the funeral and/or memorial ceremonies and possibly a wake)
  J writing/coordinating and leading the funeral and/or memorial service (unless the family chooses another Funeral Celebrant, Clergy, etc. to lead)
  K general support with arrangements with a funeral home, if that is necessary in the particular circumstances of the death or the family choose to use one; and/or negotiating individual services (such as transport of the body if the family does not have access to an adequate vehicle)
  L helping the family make final arrangements for cremation or burial, writing an obituary, and/or using an online memorial guestbook
  M providing or accessing all required official documents, and helping the family to fill them out
  N initial post-death grief/bereavement support — as well as support to access counsellors who specialize in this field (if necessary or desired)
  O initial plans for the scattering of ashes or visitation of the burial site (sometimes done at the first anniversary of the death), and/or initial plans for a first anniversary gathering
   

For clarifiation of contract details and fees
for Journeying Beyond Death Midwifery or Advance Care Planning services,
contact Pashta directly by email or phone 250-383-4065.

Note: the initial meeting with the Death Journeyer and their family/friends is free of charge. The first payment of fees for Death Midwifery services will be due at the signing of the contract.

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7 Stages of the Pan-Death Process


Journeying Beyond provides support for all of the CINDEA-identified 7 Stages of the Pan-Death Process — although it is likely that a Death Midwife would be called in close to the actual death. It is entirely up to the Death Journeyer and their family/friends what is done in any stage — a Death Midwife's responsibility is to inform them of the range of options within each stage of the pan-death process, and help facilitate the fulfillment of their wishes.

  1. 'End of life' — advance-care planning with comprehensive and personalized Advance Directives and Representation Agreements; support considering both health and personal care choices; writing a life-story; caregiving needs/plans and available support-systems (see also the CINDEA page on Advance Care Planning)
2. Immediately after terminal diagnosis — Support to plan for 'quality of life' for the Death Journeyer's remaining time; beginning to write an initial obituary (especially if the Death Journeyer wishes to participate in this); facilitation of family meetings to plan for eventualities; dealing with anticipatory grief (the grief of knowing that time with your loved one is limited); and supporting plans with hospice/palliative care agencies [Note: Pashta is also a trained mediator, and offers mediation sessions for families who need extra support to resolve issues.]
3. Active Dying — Support with planning appropriate visitation by friends (including 'gatekeeping'); vigils; finding alternative pain relief practitioners; and emotionally/spiritually processing the imminent death
4. Death Transition — Support for the continued upholding of a death vigil (using prayers, poems, music, etc.); and soul release (if the Death Journeyer believed in this), and contact with any officials (doctors, hospice, coroner, etc.)
5. Immediately after death — Support for the continuation of any vigil or soul release process; information on washing/dressing and otherwise dealing with the body's needs; ensuring that all required documents are accessible and filled out; finalizing an obituary and funeral or memorial services; informing other family and friends of the death and planned services
6. Final Arrangements — Support to finalize the funeral and/or memorial services and ensure that they are as the Death Journeyer wished for; and planning for transportation of the body to cemetery or crematorium; and acting as Funeral Celebrant, or helping the family find someone (spiritual leader/etc.) to officiate at the service
7. Initial Grief and Bereavement support — Support to the family/friends in dealing with the emotional/spiritual aftermath of the death; helping to plan a first-year anniversary or time/ceremony to scatter ashes (or — for example — plant flowers on a green gravesite); finding an appropriate long-term grief/bereavement counsellor (if needed)

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