Books

Below are several books and other media that address different aspects of death and dying.

Home Funeral Ceremonies

HFCeremonies_coverHome Funeral Guides and funeral celebrants, Donna Belk and Kateyanne Unullisi, have midwifed the dying, the dead, and the grieving many times. They know how important and healing it is to intentionally mark a transitional time with ceremony and ritual. This simple yet powerful guidebook, Home Funeral Ceremonies, will help you with ceremonies to make the journey through a death — from being with the dying person, to preparing the body, vigil, leave-taking, disposition, and beyond. Weaving the practical with poetry and insight, these ceremonies guide with intention and clarity, to bring ritual into the room where death dwells. As Dorry Bless writes in the forward, “As you companion your loved one, let this book be your companion.”

During a home funeral, we are challenged to blend three elements: physical (where will the body lay in honor, are there enough chairs in the house, when is the memorial service, etc.); emotional (grieving, regrets about things left undone or unsaid); and spiritual (bringing the mystery of life or the sacred into the space). The ceremonies in this book are tools for weaving together the physical, emotional and spiritual elements into a process that honors and serves everyone who is involved.

  • Caitlin Doughty, mortician, author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, writes, “Having benefited from Donna Belk’s clear-headed wisdom in my own work, I am thrilled that she and Kateyanne have created ceremonies that will be available to a wider audience. The important work of re-invigorating ritual around death and dying must be shared and passed on.”
  • Dr. Karen Wyatt, physician, and author of What Really Matters: 7 Lessons for Living from the Stories of the Dying writes, “To accompany a loved one through life’s final passage at home is the greatest gift of love you can bestow. Home Funeral Ceremonies provides the guidance needed to create sacred space, honor the life of the beloved, and usher them through their transition with compassion, beauty, and grace.

Home Funeral Ceremonies is a book that can be adapted for any faith, in any situation. You can use the ceremonies as they are written, or customize them with your values and beliefs.

It’s a book you will want to own, and to give as a gift to someone facing a last goodbye.


Undertaken With Love: A Home Funeral Guide for Families and Community Care Groups

CoverNHFAv2In most of the US, a family may care for its own dead until burial or cremation without involving licensed funeral professionals. It requires a willingness to be something of a pioneer in today’s hands-off society, but those who have chosen to reclaim this historical tradition confirm that the process is enormously healing and meaningful.

While a motivated family can acquire the legal knowledge and practical skills to arrange a home or family-directed funeral, the process is eased considerably when a group assists. Undertaken With Love was created to help families and community care groups learn ways to continue caring for their loved ones all the way to the cemetery or crematory. This manual will teach you how to research state laws and identify your legal rights and responsibilities; how to handle, bathe and transport the body; and how to create and sustain an effective community care group.

This book was the brain child of Holly Stevens who knew she was dying and wanted to leave a legacy for others. She believed very strongly in home funerals and this book is a tribute to her and a recognition of her vision and dedication. Before Holly died she asked Donna to take over the publication and distribution of the book so it would continue on. In 2016 Donna republished the book through the National Home Funeral Alliance where it will provide educational information for families under their guidance going forward.


Beyond Hospice, Online Course

Donna offers an 88-hour Certificate Course for those who wish to become End-of-Life Guides or Home Funeral Guides, Sometimes the term Death Midwife or Death Doula are used to describe this work as well. Beyond Hospice.com offers information about what is involved in the course, and includes a 148-page workbook. The entire course can be completed online.