Donna Belk 
Austin, Texas

I have had two major influences which lead me to my work with death and dying. I became interested in funerals following my father’s death when I was 16 years old. His military funeral was to me a loud, meaningless, and empty affair. Now I work to offer people alternatives to that type of  death and funeral.

Donna presenting at hospice volunteer training

In 2005, I became a Certified Celebrant through the Celebrant Institute in order to officiate at funerals. I then organized a second funeral ceremony for my dad, forty years after the first one. A do-over. I invited my mother, my sister, my daughter, and a few close friends, and performed my own funeral for my father. This ritual finally enabled me to come to peace with his death. From this I also learned the benefits of a personal, meaningful funeral conducted by, with, and for the living.

The second major influence for the work I do was a beautiful, life-changing, near-death experience in my mid-30s. I joke that I flunked dying because “death” caught me by surprise! I freaked out rather than letting go into the glorious experience I was having. Now I work to show people how … when they are ready … they can let go into death with beauty, grace, and consciousness.

I believe that if you are prepared, and have some sense of what’s involved, then the transition from life to after-life can be smooth. This education, and the tools involved, also benefit the living family and friends of the dying by de-mystifying the process and helping them be more at ease with what is happening.

Donna leads workshops in how to provide after-death care to a loved one

I have trained with home funeral guides Jerrigrace Lyons of Final Passages, and Elizabeth Knox of Crossings. These two women, and others such as Lisa Carlson, and Nancy Poer, have pioneered bringing back this simple tradition of families caring for their own. Our great-grandparents practiced home vigils and funerals, and to me it seems quite natural that, if we care for our own while they are living, we can care for them as well in their death.

Additionally, I am a founding member and currently serve on the Executive Board of Directors of the National Home Funeral Alliance, a non-profit organization for the purpose of educating the consumer about the intrinsic value of a home funeral. We also promote education and professional development, networking and community building among home funeral guides, green funeral advocates, and all those who support the rights of families and communities to care for their own dead. In this capacity I have published two books,

photo of Donna Belk
Donna serves as officiant or ‘Celebrant’ at funeral celebration

I am a Certified Life Coach through The Life Coach Institute (2009). I specialize in topics that pertain to death and dying. I feel that everyone can benefit from End of Life Coaching whether they are facing an immediate health crisis or not. In looking at these issues and facing our fears about death we can live more freely and joyfully in the present. Our life seems to have more meaning and beauty when we have also looked at death and the afterlife.

Now I spend my time working in the field of death and dying, and balancing that work out with lots of time with my young grandchildren; traveling and attending conferences and workshop.  I’m blessed whenever I work at either end of this spectrum of life and death.

Currently my curiosity and studies have taken me into becoming a spiritual director (or spiritual companion), and also to bring the topic of the afterlife into casual conversation (however people perceive that to be individually).

~ Donna