Having time with a loved one’s body after death is a great opportunity. It is a time of tremendous intimacy, a time of peace. It also offers the chance to educate children
that death isn’t something horrible, that it’s an integral part of our lives and has its own particular beauty.
The fear of death, like other fears, can be lessened if it is faced with an open heart.
This, too, is a gift.
We learn nothing about death when we run away from it and leave it in the hands of the professionals. Our culture has brought us to a place where we have little experience or mentoring around death. If we reclaim the natural process of dying, we allow death itself
to educate us.
Below, I set out the considerations that loved ones face when death occurs. Home death is a beautiful way for family and friends to find closure with their departed, so I like to take every opportunity to educate people about this possibility. Having time to spend with our loved ones after death can also be arranged in hospitals and at nursing homes.
The hours after death
If the death has taken place at home, the law requires that a doctor, registered nurse, or medical investigator come in person to declare the death.
Contact close friends and loved ones. News travels fast on social media. You don’t want them to find out by seeing a post online.
Washing and anointing the body is an age-old ritual that can be performed by family and friends who want the closure that this ceremony can bring. It is possible to do this even if death has occurred in a hospital. I have had this experience after the deaths of three of my closest friends, and I can attest to what a difference it makes in one's grieving process. It is an amazing, tender way to say goodbye.
Dress and position the body in preparation for receiving mourners. Flowers and meaningful items can be placed around the body.
This is a perfect time for ceremony. Whatever religion or spiritual path the deceased followed can be invoked during this sacred time.
Only when all present feel ready does the funeral home need to be called to come for the body. Home burial is also an option in many states, including New Mexico.
There are many options for what to do with our bodies after death: everything from
the traditional burial of an embalmed body in an expensive casket, to aquamation (water cremation), to green burial, to having our ashes flown into space. If wishes have been made clear in advance, the bereaved have fewer decisions to make at this difficult time.
Loving Exit can clarify your options for you, either as advance planning or in a time of immediate need.
Note: Veterans are eligible to receive financial assistance with burial costs.
Your body is away from me
But there is a window open
from my heart to yours.
From this window,
like the moon
I keep sending news secretly.