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Natural Awakenings Boston

Respecting Life and Creating Meaningful Rituals After Death

Jan 30, 2013 12:26PM ● By Ruth Faas

People who are passionate about protecting the environment often spend a lot of time and energy investing in green lifestyle practices. What they may not realize is that these practices are just as important when life is over. It can be shocking to learn about the environmental impact that a person’s burial and cremation can have on the planet, consuming valuable resources and creating more pollution.

Fortunately, people are becoming aware of alternatives that are better for the environment, including green burials. Green cemeteries are a wonderful way to preserve habitat and restore respect for the cycle of life and death that’s often missing from contemporary burial practices. Along with the emergence of alternative burial practices comes a change in the way people are arranging funerals and memorial observances.

While houses of worship have been traditionally been the first choice for those planning funerals, many people now choose to create their own rituals and ceremonies. These events can be layered with meaning and reflective of the life that has ended and the lives left behind. Rituals that contradict the values held by the person who died can leave mourners feeling more alienated than comforted.

Websites such as FuneralCelebrantCeremonies.com offer resources to help people identify personally meaningful ways to commemorate a loved one. This may include holding a funeral at home, in which case HomeFuneralAlliance.org can offer guidance and ideas. Home funerals actually represent a return to an American tradition rather than the creation of something new. Peg Lorenz, founder of Peaceful Passage at Home, launched the organization after her involvement with hospice care revealed that the continuum of care could extend beyond death. Likewise, Heather Massey created In Loving Hands Home Funerals after seeing how such services can can help survivors to adjust to death at a slower, more humane pace.

The nonprofit Funeral Consumer’s Alliance protects a consumer’s right to choose a meaningful, dignified and affordable funeral, and their annual meetings are open to the public for educational purposes. FCAEMass.org features information on their March 2013 meeting and speaker.

As Virginia Morris says in her book, Talking About Death Won’t Kill You, the fear of death is “less paralyzing” when people can discuss it openly and reclaim their power to “make it a more loving and rich experience.” Making environmental considerations part of one’s death, and designing after-death rituals that are better for the earth and people’s emotions, creates a lasting legacy that goes a long way to honor life.


Ruth Faas is the owner of Mourning Dove Studio, 485 Massachusetts Ave., 2nd Flr., Arlington. For more information, call 781-290-7356 or visit MourningDoveStudio.com.

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