Conscious Dying

“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.




Frequently Asked Questions About Green Burial

Have questions about green burial? Thanks to our friends at the Green Burial Association of Maryland (GBAM), we have some answers and steps you can take to support green burial!

What About Funeral Homes?

Part of the mission of the Green Burial Association of Maryland is to engage and educate funeral homes in Maryland about green burial as an option. Our goal is to reach out so funeral homes and cemeteries will be better informed and situated to offer green choices to interested Marylanders.

What If A Loved One Has Asked For a Green Burial?

Be sure the funeral director or home funeral guide understands that the body should not be embalmed, but rather preserved using other methods such as dry ice. The body will should also be placed in a non-toxic or biodegradable shroud or casket.

How Much Does A Green Burial Cost?

Funeral home and cemetery costs for a green burial, as for a traditional burial, are established by each funeral home and cemetery.

What are the Effects of Green Burial on the Earth?

Soil and medical science suggest that a body buried using green methods does not contaminate soil or water supplies as long as sound burial practices are followed. Green cemeteries will not contribute lawn-maintenance fertilizer or pesticide run-off to streams and the Bay. In a green burial the body returns to earth, adding nutrients to the soil and completing the natural cycle of life. For a comparison of the effects of Green and Traditional burial on the earth, please refer to Green Burial Council factsheet.

What About Cremation?

While cremation remains take up smaller space, each cremation uses the fossil fuel equivalent of a 4,800 mile car trip; crematory ovens are heated to 1,400-2,100 degrees for two to three hours. Cremations release greenhouse gases such as Co2 and sulphur dioxide, as well as mercury into the atmosphere. For these reasons, cremation is not in keeping with the desire to minimize our final impact on the environment.

What Steps Can I Take To Support Green Burial In Maryland?

– Call cemeteries and funeral directors and ask if they have a green burial option
– Public advocacy: Show up at meetings and legislative hearings where green burial is being considered.
– Make your wishes known to family members
– Pre-plan your funeral and burial options
– Become a member by joining the Green Burial Association of Maryland (GBAM) on our Contact page


We Don’t Have as Much Time as We Think!

By Sharon Moore

“The trouble is, you think you have time.” – The Buddha

Western culture lends itself to the belief that if we plan for tomorrow, tomorrow will come and we will be alive and well to meet it. Although the concepts of time and the future are useful for organizing our lives to some degree, we must be cautious not to allow our busy planning to lead to the belief that death is only a distant and abstract idea that can be addressed “later.”  Author Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, in her groundbreaking book On Death and Dying, wrote that “It is inconceivable for our unconscious to imagine an actual ending of our own life here on earth…”

However, the voices of our ancestors and those who have walked the Earth before us can attest to the fragility and impermanence of human existence. We truly never know the date and manner of our death and to assume that it is in the distant future denies us and our families the opportunity to prepare for and explore this transformative and sacred process.

Choosing today to embrace the inevitability of our transition from human existence offers us deep freedom.  Through acknowledging and embracing our mortality, death is no longer seen as a daunting shadow waiting to ruin our lives at some random point in the future.  Instead, we give ourselves time to contemplate our living and dying.  This process not only promotes a peaceful relationship with death as a natural step in our life cycle, but provides the space and knowledge to choose, where possible, how our final days will be spent and how we will be honored by our beloveds.