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The Deathwives Blog 

Deathwives, Death Cafes And Death Doulas. Learning To Live By Talking About Death - Forbes Magazine


“To die will be an awfully big adventure.” Even Peter Pan, the mischievous little boy who refuses to grow up but rather spends his never-ending childhood adventuring on the island of Neverland, attempted to see death in a positive light.

But things were different in 1902 when Peter Pan first appeared in the book “The Little White Bird.” We saw death differently then and treated it more as a part of life. Is it because we believe we’re more likely to avoid it for longer in the 21st century that we seem to shy away from talking about it? Or is it because we have removed ourselves so far from the reality of physically dealing with the dead. 


Whatever the reason, a reluctance to face or even talk about dying is largely an American phenomenon. And though there are many and varied ways for families and friends to honor their dead, we don’t seem to want to talk about it until it’s too late. And then we pay others to handle most of it.

But people like Lauren Carroll are trying to change all of that. Carroll and her partner, Erin Merelli, formed Deathwives in hopes of forging a cultural shift which encourages people to think and talk more freely about death. They describe Deathwives as “a collective of professionals who care about the practice of good death.” And they want to educate others about their end of life options which they say should include in-home funerals and death doulas.

“You have the right to a good death,” Carroll said. “We seek to widen the narrative around death and dying and support our community as we remember how to care for one another till the very end.” 

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Aquamation, green burials and doulas: Deathwives want people to look at death differently

Most people don't like to think or talk about death, but there’s a group of professionals that hopes to forge a cultural change through the death positive movement, which encourages people to think and talk freely about death.

Their goal is to educate others about their end of life options which can include things like home funerals and death doulas. Erin Merelli became a death doula after years of working as a hospice volunteer and a birthing doula.

“I saw a common thread,” she said. “There was a greater need for that care at the end of life.”

She's called to sit with individuals in their last moments and create a sacred space around the dying process.

> Watch the video above for a look at green burials in South Carolina.

Merelli is one part of the Deathwives Collective, a group of professionals that educates others about the alternatives to typical funerals. This Sunday, they're hosting a workshop called "Home Funerals 101" at the Lumber Baron Inn & Gardens in Denver.

Home funerals are an option many people don’t know is available to them, the group said. 

Under Colorado law, 24 hours after death, the body must be either embalmed, refrigerated or laid out on dry ice. 

However, bodies may be kept at home for up to five days to allow for services and then must be removed for burial or cremation.

“I don’t think it’s for everyone,” Merelli said. “We want to empower people to have choices about their care for their dead.”

If the body is kept at home longer than 24 hours, cooling techniques will be required to slow decomposition if embalming is not done.

Techni-ice and other polymer refrigerants are recommended by the National Home Funeral Alliance because they’re easy to use, but dry ice and cooling towels are also options.


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Rituals can bring love, connection, sacredness to those who are dying Glendon Muir Geikie Sr., Special to The Desert Sun

A ritual is a symbolic action intended to connect us to the deeper meaning of important events in our lives. It can acknowledge change, connect us to mystery, celebrate a life, honor a special moment, and more. Joseph Campbell, famed anthropologist and mythologist, said a ritual gives form to the human life, not in a way of a mere arrangement, but in depth. 

In the movie “Field of Dreams,” there was the ending scene where father and son played catch. This powerful scene involved many elements of a ritual and held space for powerful emotions. 

Rituals can connect us to our community, guide our understanding, preserve customs, express future wishes, restore a sense of order, and empower us. They are as central to our lives as they were to our ancestors. Rituals arise out of our cultural heritage, religious beliefs or just something the family has always done. No matter their source, rituals usually involve a transition from one place or stage to another. We are leaving one thing to go on to something else. 

Rituals help us manage the changes brought by endings and beginnings. We leave what was, hold in the middle for a period, then move to a new place. Think of the caterpillar moving to a cocoon and then to becoming a butterfly. It is no different with death.

The dying person is leaving this life and going to another place. He or she also is leaving everyone behind. Connections are pulled apart and the whole system is changed. An end of life doula helps to design pre- and post-death rituals to help the dying person on to the next step of his journey. The rituals bring love, connection and sacredness to the dying person, the dying process and to the loved ones being left behind. Rituals speak to the soul when the body can no longer be cured.

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