There was a time in the not-so-distant past when death and funerary practices involved the entire family and community. Death was an ever present part of daily life; people died in the home, were honored in the home, and buried in small familial, church or community cemeteries.
Like everything else, death was professionalized, and by the mid-20th century, the funeral director became the exclusive overseer of the dead. Today most of will die within the walls of a hospital where our bodies will be transferred by a professional mortician, embalmed and buried in a large cemetery. Some people however, are actively trying to change this process.
For our #TalkDeath episode, we interviewed one such person: Cassandra Yonder. Cassandra is a Community Deathcare Practitioner who wants to reclaim death practices, and bring back a community-centered focus. How might community-centered deathcare impact bereavement? What are the differences between 'death midwifery', "death doula", "thanadoula", and "soul midwifery"?
What is Community-Centered Deathcare?
Death Denial & Death Positivity
Meet Cassandra Yonder, co-owner of BEyond Yonder Virtual School of Community Deathcaring.
Cassandra is a prominent contributor to the alternative deathcare movement in Canada, which spans the humanities, social sciences, science, and medicine. Her expertise and leadership in deathcare practice in Canada have been recognized nationally, and she frequently appears in the national and international media. For example, she has been interviewed and referenced in Maclean’s, The Guardian, The National Post, CBC, The Coast, Media Co-op, The Chronicle-Herald, The Stranger, and The Huffington Post.
Cassandra has an academic background in Sociology, Gerontology, Architecture and Grief & Bereavement. Her family of 6 are homesteading in the forested highlands of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia with over 70 animals, where the realities of birth and death are ever present. Cassandra is a leader in the movement to reclaim family and community centred care of the dying, dead and bereaved. In addition to assisting with the home funeral and home burial of her friend and neighbour, Cassandra is a member of the Order of the Good Death, has represented Canada on the board of directors for the National Home Funeral Alliance, is currently the chair of Community Deathcare Canada, and has started the BEyond Yonder Virtual School for Community Deathcaring in Canada with her partner.
She also hosts the world's largest online community for alternative deathcare on her facebook group with more than 4000 members. Cassandra's spoken and written words help us to articulate the need for a cultural re-connection with death. You can find her at her website: deathcaring.ca.
Ask Cassandra Yonder Your Questions
Have a question about home funerals, green death and alternative funerary practices? Want to know what Cassandra Yonder thinks about the future of deathcare? Curious about the process of preparing a body? Ask your questions in the comments below, or on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter (with the hashtag #TalkDeath), and Cassandra will answer them.