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Our First Virtual Death Café Thanks to COVID 19

20 people from MD as well as NH, MT, WI and PA joined us for Threshold Support Circle’s 1st Virtual Death Café on May 2.  Conversations in the 5 Zoom breakout rooms were rich and varied, with several participants sharing resources.

We learned about an upcoming book by JH Bloomberg School of Public Health adjunct professor Dan Morhaim, MD.  Preparing for a Better End: Expert Lessons on Death and Dying, can be preordered on Amazon.

And the workbook ReSurfacing: Techniques for Exploring Consciousness by Harry Palmer is the source for the “Releasing Fixed Attention” exercise for times when we get stuck in anxiety and fear, especially during the pandemic. This workbook can be found at avatarbookstore.com/resurfacing.

Look for our next virtual Death Café in June and bring a friend!

Creating the New American Buddhist Funeral

Below is a beautiful article from  Trident Magazine in which they interview Amy Cunningham, a New York State-licensed funeral director and death educator trained in overseeing at-home funerals.

How the at-home death movement can provide a dignified, personal, and meaningful send-off (whether we’re Buddhists or not).

The last time death rites became a matter of national interest was in the 1960s, when journalist and civil rights activist Jessica Mitford dealt a heavy blow to the unscrupulous, multibillion-dollar funeral industry. Since then, there has been a steady pulse of distress over the idea of allowing businesses to dictate how we care for our dead. Today’s undertakers may no longer be charlatans trying to upsell fancy caskets, but as a service industry, it has failed to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of a graying demographic.

One of the most influential voices for reform is Amy Cunningham, who is working to bring dignity, reverence, and intimacy back to the end-of-life experience. Cunningham, who was lauded by The New York Times for her back-to-basics, family-centered approach, is a New York State-licensed funeral director and death educator trained in overseeing at-home funerals. Coming off the coattails of a 35-year editorial career, she’s emerged as an earnest advocate for making memorial services more hands-on, personal, affordable, and sustainable.

Tricycle recently cozied up with Cunningham at Green-Wood Cemetery’s historic crematory chapel in Brooklyn to discuss her latest pioneering endeavor, the New American Buddhist Funeral, and how methods and attitudes toward end-of-life disposal should honor faith-based principles, which will lead to more meaningful send-offs.

There is a faint but growing movement in the U.S. to reclaim the home funeral. What have we lost in the dying process that leads more people to seek at-home services?
We’ve allowed death and the whole dying process to become a medical event. In our communal sadness, we’ve become very insecure in hospital settings and often forget to think of our own wishes and demands, letting ourselves be buffeted about by hospital policies or funeral home pronouncements. Before we’re even cognizant of it, we find ourselves moving mindlessly along the conveyer belt that is the $14 billion funeral and death care industry. Continue reading…

Conscious Dying

Caring_for_our_own
“Conscious dying” is a term used to describe the process of preparing for a peaceful transition. It acknowledges that each of us is going to die and that contemplating what a “good death” means can help us prepare to leave this life with a sense of acceptance, completion, and peace of mind.

Though there is more benefit in beginning this practice and preparation early in adult life, often it is done after receiving a terminal diagnosis.

The path of conscious dying is unique for everyone, but there are common elements in each person’s journey:

  • Pre-planning: completing Advance Directives
  • Making informed choices: Life Support/Death Support
  • Releasing attachments & Healing relationships
  • Understanding the physical and emotional stages of dying
  • Sitting vigil with the dying
  • Religious/spiritual rituals at the time of death
  • Planning music and sacred singing at the deathbed
  • Choosing options for after-death care, funerals, and final disposition

The work of conscious dying may call for the skills of a clergy person, therapist, death midwife, or the generous listening skills of a compassionate family member of friend.  Assistance in identifying and working with difficult emotions such as fear, shame, or other unresolved issues can lift the burdens from the heart, mind, and spirit of the dying person and contribute to a more graceful, peaceful passage.