The BEyond Yonder Virtual School for Community Deathcaring in Canada's core program is a unique shared learning opportunity for students to deepen their community deathcare practice by participating in coursework online.
Students will learn how to facilitate the reclamation community centred deathcaring in our families and communities and in our culture at large.
Capacity building focuses on how to be present to serve others and how to hold space for dying, deathcare and grief. We learn by sharing wisdom as opposed to simply imparting knowledge.
The core program consists of 10 modules of study taught by recognized Canadian leaders in the field:
12 week sessions of our core program commence in September and January each year.
Each session includes 10 weeks of coursework plus introduction and conclusion weeks in addition to 2 week long breaks, so the entire duration of the core program is 14 weeks.
Coursework is offered for groups of 9-13 students to learn together in an online virtual classroom.
Many of the school's students will be seeking to enrich an existent professional practice such as nursing, massage therapy or bereavement support etc. Others will be looking for information and encouragement to help them serve their families and communities in personal ways on a volunteer basis. Some will be answering a calling to establish or enrich paid vocation in some area of community deathcare.
Those students who complete the requirements of the core program by remaining open and engaged throughout the duration of the program will be offered a certificate of completion (which is not the same as certification).
The BEyond Yonder Virtual School for Community Deathcaring in Canada's core program is moderately rigorous in nature, requiring a commitment of approximately 3hrs per day to complete program requirements, which are:
Anyone who is genuinely interested to learn about community based deathcaring is welcome to apply for the BEyond Yonder Virtual School for Community Deathcaring in Canada's core 12 week program.
Though we focus on Canadian content, the educational offerings are useful and relevant for anyone who wishes to participate in the cultural reclamation of dying, deathcare and grief.
Cassandra Yonder BA Gerontology and Sociology, M Architecture, Cert. Grief and Bereavement
The first week of the core 12 week program is dedicated to finding one another in relationship within the virtual community we share. We will get comfortable using the online education platform and introduce ourselves to each other, allowing our personal narratives to become enmeshed as we embark upon a deepening of our community centred deathcaring practices. We'll talk about the community deathcare movement in general; what it is and what brings us as individuals and communities to this field.
RCC - Registered Clinical Counsellor, DipC, MEd, BEd, International Training in Art Therapy Counsellor
"My world has focused around building close relationships with others - humans and other than humans. I continue to practice sharing honestly and listening deeply, being curious about, and honoring difference. I am passionate about supporting others in finding their beauty and the unique gifts that they bring. As a counsellor, teacher, partner, mother, daughter, lover of the wind and wild, artist....I want to share what I have learned with others." - Sue
Olga Nikolajev RN, MA
"I hope that this brief introduction provide you with the initial steps in how to give patient-centred care with compassion, dignity and care. In addition, I hope this module facilitates for you a self-reflective process into your own feelings, thoughts and beliefs about being with dying.” - Olga
Students will be able to witness and assist with providing holistic support and care to patients and their caregivers during their final months, weeks or days along the dying journey.
Guiding the Soul Home
Sharon Pulvermacher BFA, B Ed
"Psychopomp, an unfamiliar term in our culture, deserves to be better known. Psychopomp comes from the Greek psuchopompos: psyche (soul, breath, life or mind) and pompos (guide, conductor). Psychopomp, an ancient and sacred practice, means to guide the soul of the dead to the invisible realms. In community centred deathcaring, it is both a service and a great privilege to offer psychopomp to the dying." - Sharon
Planning in advance of Death
Judith McGill MA
Barb Phillips (www.barbphillips.ca) BA Physical and Health Education
“In this module you will broaden your imagination of what constitutes planning in advance of death. There is so much that we can do in advance of death to prepare ourselves inwardly for our own death and for the death of our loved ones. In our society there is a great deal of fear and anxiety around death and this leads us to postpone those critical conversations that help us to make sense of death and make good decisions at end of life.” – Judith
"It is not easy talking about dying and death. Advance care planning and the documents that support these plans, is a multi-faceted endeavour that invites contemplation, exploration, communication and documentation of past, present and future beliefs and values which will influence how you imagine being cared for at the end of your living days and beyond." - Barb
Exploring Family/Community-Directed After-Death Care
Rochelle Martin RN, BScN, MDiv, CPMHN(C)
"Family-directed after-death care has healing, community-building potential. While the typical Canadian experience of after-death care for a loved one is compromised solely of making a call to a funeral home, there are more meaningful, sustainable, and ecological deathcare alternatives. Even in circumstances where families do not choose "home funerals," any brief, limited involvement in the care of a loved one after death can be transformative." - Rochelle
Ethical and Practical Considerations of Family-led Body Care
Kory McGrath Licensed Funeral Director (freelance), Student Midwife, Research Assistant
Don Morris BS Social Psychology, AS Mortuary Science, M.Ed Counselling
"I believe there is an opportunity for profound human transformation through the act of caring for our own after death. Beyond the practicality of "dealing with human remains", family-led body care has the potential to awaken and/or renew individual and collective understandings of interdependence, autonomy, agency and self-determination." - Kory
"I want to teach this course as I am passionate about facilitating enlightenment and social change around death, specifically where our needs and the environment’s needs meet. This is important for I believe we grow in sanity, health and happiness as we embrace a more ecological view of death." - Don
Students who complete this module will build a foundation of knowledge as it relates to considerations of body care, including: law & ethics, permission, logistics, safety, and situations where family-led body care may be complicated or not appropriate. Students will come away with a basic understanding of microorganisms and pathogens that may be present in the deceased human body and how to safely protect oneself and others from biohazards and infectious diseases through practicing universal precautions. Students will learn about rights and choice as it relates to body care across all settings (institutional, commercial, and private) and will have an appreciation for diversity in how we care for our own as historical, cultural, spiritual, and environmental considerations are identified. Finally, students will possess increased awareness of how to advocate and support family-led body care and also how to effectively work with various service providers for 'hybrid' body care.
Considering the Fate of Human Remains
Cassandra Yonder BA Gerontology and Sociology, M Architecture, Cert. Grief and Bereavement
"Disposition represents an important transition in relationships when our living, physical connection with someone drastically changes. The manner in which we choose to dispose of the body of our deceased loved ones is something that deserves consideration on a number of levels that I am interested to explore." - Cassandra
After completing this module students will have a strong grasp regarding the disposition options and alternatives that are available in North America. Not only will students have considered their own personal preferences with respect to what they would want to be done with their bodies after they die, but they will be prepared to journey with others to identify, articulate and carry out their wishes. A strong understanding of the personal, cultural, social, psychological, ethical, legal and environmental factors that influence disposition will be gained.
Community rituals for living, dying and death
Sarah Kerr PhD (www.soulpassages.ca)
Julie Keon (www.juliekeon.com)
"Death has many facets, and as a culture, we aren't well skilled at addressing either the relational or the spiritual (as opposed to the religious) parts of the experience. Ritual work with dying people and their families can help ease the many relational changes that happen between the living, the dying, and the dead, and allow all involved to receive the healing gifts that death offers." - Sarah
"Dying, death and the aftermath of death can be complicated, complex and challenging to navigate. Most of us are ill prepared for the enormity of this very natural yet mysterious process.Humans have incorporated ceremony and ritual into all aspects of the life cycle since the beginning of time because they can be highly beneficial tools in navigating life and death's transitions. Ritual, even those that appear to be simple and plain, can act as a catalyst to accessing, releasing and clearing congested emotional or spiritual challenges." - Julie
Participants in this module will gain an introductory understanding of the role and power of ritual for individuals, families and communities navigating a death. Students will learn about the relationship between ritual, community, and healing, and the underlying energetic architecture of ritual practice. Through examples of individualized rituals for a variety of situations and groups, students will gain confidence and preliminary resources to bring ritual practice into their death midwifery work.
The meaning of material wealth during dying, death, and bereavement
Jamie Simpson (www.juniperlaw.ca)
"Financial components of end-of-life care can not only be intimidating but emotionally charged and difficult in unexpected ways. In this module, I hope that considering these issues holistically---that is, not just in terms of logistics but anticipating some of the complex interactions between material and financial matters and the relationships, historical context, and cultural understandings of wealth---will allow you to feel prepared to discuss this aspect of end-of-life care with confidence and compassion." - Diana
"Wills and other legal issues associated with the end of our lives and those of our loved ones can be tricky issues to navigate. Sometimes they’re complicated with legal jargon and often they’re emotional topics to discuss. What about the law concerning physician-assisted dying? Can we have a ‘living will’? What is a ‘power of attorney’? Jamie will provide a basic back-ground on some the legal issues associated with end-of-life, and give students feedback on questions they have." - Jamie
Estate planning doesn’t tend to garner as much interest as other areas of community deathcare even though it is a crucial element of individual’s, families’, and communities’ experiences during dying, death and bereavement. In this module students will gain a basic understanding of estate planning in order to get one’s own affairs in order and also to consider assisting others who may need to do so. The deeper meaning of material wealth at the time of death will also be explored.
Supporting Healthy Bereavement through Community Centred Deathcaring
Roy Ellis MDiv. Bereavement Coordinator, Nova Scotia Health Authority
"Grief is the powerful set of phenomenon which gather around the fires of loss, change and death. Grief and the worldviews it cultivates create the core energy in which we, our societies and our ecosystem are sustained and nourished. The deeper we reflect upon, embrace and nourish our human sorrows, the more connected we become to the essence of being alive and responsible.” - Roy
You will have made a deeper cultural examination of grief with emphasis on Western predicaments: you will have asked yourself why we have become so detached from death and bereavement. A basic understanding of why and how grief theories have been constructed, and how they help/hinder our care. Students will gain a basic understanding of what it means to support healthy bereavement without acting as grief counsellors. Students will possess increased awareness of their own grief and have reflected upon how the development of compassion, community and closeness are core skills of human care . Students will learn how the practice of community centred deathcaring has the potential to foster healthy bereavement for ourselves, our families and our communities.
Cassandra Yonder BA Gerontology and Sociology, M Architecture, Cert. Grief and Bereavement
Our last week together in the core program will be spent setting intentions for our individual and collective work in the field of community deathcare. We will review the ways our practices have deepened, acknowledge the competencies that have been developed and the relationships that have been nurtured. A certificate of completion will be offered to those students who have remained open and engaged and met the requirements of completion for the BEyond Yonder Virtual School for Community Deathcaring in Canada's core program.
Each one a passionate leader in the community deathcare movement, we are honoured to have the following experts as teachers in our core program:
Sue Muirhead is a lover of deep connections, with others, the wind, the wild. She is committed to sinking into the profound and meaningful aspects or our human existence – hence her longing to share her life lived knowledge and experience of dying, death and home funerals. She is committed to providing others with awareness of options related to their own dying and death and the death of loved ones. She believes in living fully and facing dying and death with awareness and curiosity.
As a child, Sue did not have many opportunities to get acquainted with the experience of dying, death and grieving as a natural part of everyday living.
She believes this experience is very common in our Western world. She sees a prevalent, contemporary theme that continues to seep into every aspect of our culture, a theme that affects our relationship with death and dying. It comes in the form of a focus on staying young, in the form of hiring others to attend to all aspects of dying and death care, with the end result being a continued distancing from the natural process of living and dying. Sue sees an ever-prevalent fear and dread around aging, illness, grief, dying and death, the end result being very few of us now deal with death directly.
Sue's experiences around dying and death shifted dramatically at the age of 18 when she married her first husband who was First Nations. In his community she experienced a drastically different frame around dying, death, and after deathcare. Here the issues of death and dying were addressed communally and with deep involvement. Here Sue saw what it was like to honor the loss of someone openly and celebrate and grieve as a community with death as an accepted part of life. She witnessed how families and community members were asked to help support people who were sick, aged, dying and dead and how this was considered an honor and a privilege.
Being a part of this community Sue has sat with many individuals in their transitioning from life to death. She has grown to honor accompanying someone in his/her final hours and in supporting his or her loved ones after death. The opportunities to form a different relationship with dying and death have continued to present themselves
One could say she learned the art of 'death midwifery' from the Tl'atz'en people. She believes that midwifing death is part of our human make up – that it is in our bones and is committed to living this in her own life and sharing this with others.
Sue works as a Registered Clinical Counsellor in BC and helps facilitate courses internationally. In her work as a counselor she works with people in a wide range of ways. Some of her main focuses with clients are around grief and loss, working on healthy relating and creating passionate, soulful lives in service to others.
Kathi Kelly has worked in the line of End of Life Care in several capacities as a Social Worker, Occupational Therapist, and Chaplain.
Her work as a Family Support Coordinator at Hospice Simcoe in Barrie for 14 years, led her to the Death Midwifery field as she now supports people in their homes, when it is invited and supported.
She presently works with the Huntington's Society in Simcoe County and as a Group Facilitator at Grieving Children at Season's Center.
She recently spoke as a guest at Illuminating Conversations where she introduced the audience to home death planning, delivery and funeral support.
Olga is thrilled to be part of the BEyond Yonder faculty and to have been given the opportunity to educate and guide others in the area of death, dying, loss and bereavement.
Olga gained first-hand knowledge and experience in hospice palliative care working as a community palliative care nurse in Ottawa. She was also a very active volunteer with Friends of Hospice Ottawa for over 5 years. Olga's educational history includes a bachelor degree in Anthropology and Psychology, a Master's degree in Religion and Culture, and an interdisciplinary certificate in palliative care. Olga is also an apprentice with the Sweet Medicine SunDance Path, and integrates much of her Shamanic knowledge into her everyday life. She is a death educator and Shamanic counselor, and continues to gain knowledge in the field of spiritual care, death, dying and living.
Olga is thrilled to be part of the BEyond Yonder team and looks forward to contributing her experience, knowledge and passion. For more information about Olga please visit her website at www.dyingmatters.ca
Sharon has spent most of her life in the Land of the Living Skies, Saskatchewan. The pull of the natural world, with its cycles and seasons, has always held a spiritual connection for her. When she discovered shamanism, approximately eight years ago, she began a focused, mystery-filled exploration of the human connection to compassionate helping spirits, both of the land and of other realms. She learned how to work with them and, more importantly, to allow them to work through her, for the most benevolent outcome.
Sharon began her shamanic studies with Gizelle Rhyon Berry through Michael Harner's Foundation for Shamanic Studies. She then continued with FSS faculty members Nan Moss and David Corbin in Madison, Virginia. David transitioned into the spirit world just as Sharon's cohort was finishing the Three Year program. This was a great and humbling gift, and it directly informs how Sharon understands Death at this time.
Sharon has also studied with Betsy Bergstrom, Bill Plotkin and other faculty of the Animas Valley Institute, Ana Larramendi, Norma Gentile and Jill Purce. She is familiar with Saulteaux/Anishnaabe and Plains Cree spiritual practices. Sharon has done three vision quests and a mentorship with Huichol trained elder and transpersonal psychologist Tom Pinkson, in California. Dr. Pinkson helped set up the second hospice program in the United States.
Art has been an integral element both in Sharon's life and in her shamanic practice. Her visual creations are a tool for healing and a way to explore the liminal places of connection between life and death, humans and other-than-humans, and ordinary and non-ordinary realities. Sharon also uses shamanic song to soothe, empower and assist clients, be it for their ongoing health and wellness or at the time of their death and thereafter.
Sharon has an active shamanic practice and performs soul retrieval, extraction, compassionate depossession, curse unraveling, power animal retrieval, psychopomp, ceremonies and other assistance , as instructed by her Helping Spirits. She is a member of a psychopomp circle, which performs monthly distance psychopomp. She and her husband also co-host a monthly shamanic journeying circle.
Sharon is bilingual (French/English) and holds a BFA and BEd from the University of Saskatchewan. She is a mother, grandmother, sister and daughter, roles which have infinitely informed her abilities both as a shamanic practitioner and death midwife. Sharon lives in Regina, SK and shares a passion for shamanism with her husband of forty years, Bernard Laplante.
In the words of her mentor, Tom Pinkson, "I am a sacred, worthy, luminous being. I am love and my love is for giving."
The more time we take to learn about and reflect on the key decisions that we may be facing at death the more likely we are to be able to engage our loved ones in those decisions and understand the implications of each of the decisions. The more involved we and our loved ones are in the process of dying the more meaningful and transformative the experience is for everyone.
Death can we a powerful initiatory experience. It brings us into connection with life’s great mysteries and our own purpose. It helps us to ask big questions about what really matters to us and how we choose to live our life right until the end. There is so much that can be done at end of life to open up the possibility for transformation and healing. Much of what happens to crack us open at death is to do with how we meet each stage of dying and how we navigate through the various decision points.
As a Death Midwife, there is a key role we can play in supporting the dying person to clarify their vision, values and beliefs around death so that they can engage meaningfully in the decisions they are facing along the way. In our role, we can assist the person and their family to create a safe context for shared decision making and speaking about what matters. We need to be very clear ourselves why it is important to do advance planning and what it may entail and have experience ourselves in preparing for our own death.
One can never know in advance of dying what decisions you will be faced to make. Some of the decisions pose huge ethical and moral dilemmas and we as Death Midwives must find a way to help the individual and their loved ones navigate these decision making processes as soundly as possible. This entails helping them understand and appreciate as fully as they can what the knowable consequences are of each decision and how their vision and values pertain.
Another significant role we can play as Death Midwives is to support the dying person to consider what legacy they want to leave behind and what it will take to create that legacy with the time they have left. It also may involve helping the person and their loved ones reflect on which ceremonies/rituals they find most meaningful and how they would like to have their life honoured by others.
Barb Phillips (www.barbphillips.ca)
Barb has lived in Northumberland County of Ontario for the last 35 years and for the last 14 years has been steward to 199 acres of beautiful forested property in the rolling hills between Warkworth and Roseneath with her artistic and creative husband Robert and four furry companions.
Barb loves the outdoors and her land, rug hooking, wild foraging, herbs, animals and golf.
Her travels and experiences following a dear friend’s terminal diagnosis in 2007 brought her to a road that has led her to her passion and vocation as a Thanadoula/Home Funeral Guide/Life-Cycle Celebrant.
In 2010 she met Stephen Jenkinson and began her studies at the Orphan Wisdom School as a scholar and continues to attend his school and learn the many ways it is to be human and approach dyng and death by living more deeply.
In 2011 Barb graduated from The Institute of Traditional Medicine’s Contemplative End of Life Care Practitioner program where she met Jerrigrace Lyons of Final Passages and travelled to California to complete the Level 3 Home Funeral Guide certification. She now assists Jerrigrace Lyons when she comes to teach the Level 3 course in Toronto.
In 2012 Barb founded and is a member of a community support group called “Last Breath”.
In 2014/2015 Barb completed the Wedding and Funeral Celebrant certification courses with the Celebrant Foundation and Institute in New Jersey.
For 1 1/2 years she stayed below the radar researching and building relationships in her community with those in the death trade so she could lay a path for individuals and families to complete their own death care. Having completed 3 very unique family-directed home funerals, advocating / assisting families and officiating many funeral services, Barb is learning what is being asked of her in this role and is always in awe of the beauty, grace and challenges that show up at each and every occasion.
Rochelle lives in the reviving downtown of Hamilton, Ontario in a Victorian-era home filled with religious art, antique medical specimens, and taxidermy. She grew up in inner-city Chicago in the 1980's, which afforded an early schooling in the realities of racial tension, poverty, and gang violence. Being the child of a Mennonite minister meant that the prospect of life being be cut short by the imminent second-coming of Jesus was as likely as cold war nuclear annihilation or gun violence on the street. Having made it to adulthood still feels to her like an unlikely gift, and informs her passion for all things deep and beautiful. In retrospect, it seems only natural that she found her way to community deathcare - a mix of the practical and profound, actualized in the context of community.
Rochelle is a Registered Nurse with specialty certification in Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing. She holds a Master of Divinity degree from the University of Toronto, and has experience in emergency and acute psychiatry, palliative care, and spiritual care. Rochelle teaches individuals, families, and professional and community groups about death-related care. In her work as a crisis-care RN, she supported families during the sudden death of a loved one in ER.
Currently collaborating on a number of death midwifery-related projects, Rochelle is working to establish a conservation burial partnership in Hamilton, Ontario, co-founded the international One Washcloth initiative, served on the education committee of the National Home Funeral Alliance, and is a founding member of Community Deathcare Canada. She looks forward to returning to the earth and the ether, when the time is right.
Rochelle is thrilled to teach the “Funeral Alternatives” (home funeral care) portion of the BEyond Yonder Virtual School for Community Deathcaring in Canada program.
Kory is a freelance funeral director and has been licensed between BC and Ontario since 2008. Currently, she is a student midwife in the Midwifery Education Program (MEP) at Ryerson University.
Prior to entering the Midwifery Education Program, Kory spent much of the last 25 years working in the health care sector in end-of-life care, as a funeral director, elder planning counsellor, and hospice volunteer.
These experiences combined with several years as a birth doula and editor of the Doula Services Association of BC led to her work in education and research surrounding perinatal bereavement. She is an active volunteer, and believes that her time spent with the David Suzuki Foundation, BC Hospice Association, Casey House, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network, and recently as co-chair of the Association of Ryerson Midwifery Students have provided her with a strong understanding of ethics, confidentiality, advocacy and empathy. These experiences inform her practice in working with individuals and families of those in various stages of transition, from the newly born to the newly departed.
For the past two years, she has engaged in qualitative and quantitative research projects at Ryerson University as a research assistant and student researcher in the Midwifery Education Program. Her research experience has enriched her approach to learning and teaching, critical appraisal of research literature, and project management.
Kory is very passionate about community, wellness and whole person-centered care. In her spare time, she writes on the subject of perinatal bereavement and home funeral practices, most recently as a contributing editor (with collaborators from across Canada) on “Beyond My Will: A Holistic Guide to Funeral Alternatives in Canada.” Her contribution on “Body Care Considerations” from this practical guide and advanced directive will underpin the module that Kory will facilitate as part of the Death Midwifery course.
Kory has been fortunate to travel and live in many cities across Canada and Internationally, which has informed her understanding of diverse individualities and cultural sensitivity. Kory and her partner are the parents to 4 wonderful children. She is grateful to you for allowing her to take part in your learning journey.
Don is an emerging pioneer in the field of death and dying in Canada.
Thwarted by childhood grief, his love for life led him to work toward the transformation of end-of-life practices in North America. He combines his background as a former funeral director, cemeterian, and psychotherapist with his deep love for nature to accomplish this mission.
Don brought the Green Burial Council to Canada in 2010. In 2011 he served as a consultant to CINDEA.ca, and O.U.R. EcoVillage’s Green Burial Initiative. In 2012 he opened Canada’s first Death Cafe in Victoria. Don is currently helping birth two pioneering initiatives: the Canadian Community for Death Midwifery and a conservation-linked Cremation Memorial Forest, deep in the woods of BC. As a death midwife, he received one hundred contact hours participating in, Being With Dying: A Professional Training Program On The Compassionate Care of the Dying, with Roshi Joan Halifax. In the 1980’s he studied with Nancy Jewel Poer, the “grandmother” of the American home-funeral movement. He was also an early graduate of Final Passages Home Funeral Training.
Facilitating conscious dying and home funerals is Don’s greatest privilege. Believing in the value of volunteering, he makes hospital visits for Victoria’s Jewish Family Services, serves the Chevra Kadisha (Holy Burial Society) and provides counselling at the Esquimalt Neighborhood House. In May of 2015 he and Kory McGrath rolled out Canada’s first Canadian Home Funeral Practicum in New Hamburg, Ontario.
Don walks the path with patience and profound gratitude to the Beloved. He is married to Elizabeth Friesen of Swift Current, SK and they reside near the ocean in beautiful Victoria.
Cassandra lives with her partner, 4 children and lots of animals (including horses, goats, rabbits, chickens, pigs, ducks, cats and dogs) in the forested highlands of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia at North River where they are developing a self sufficient homestead using timber framing and cordwood building techniques.
She has a masters degree in architecture which was preceded by a BA in gerontology and sociology. After living in downtown Toronto, Ontario for several years following graduation Cassandra sought a more remote and environmentally conscious lifestyle since (as the daughter of a veterinarian) it was important for her to reconnect with animals and nature in the wilderness.
In 2002 Cassandra returned to school to study grief and bereavement with The University of Western Ontario's thanatology department and also became certified as an animal assisted therapist, hypnotherapist and lay horse trainer. Recognizing therapeutic potential in the homesteading paradigm, Cassandra's family moved to Cape Breton in 2006 where she intended to seek work as a rural bereavement coordinator while establishing a retreat for grieving families.
The unexpected death and resultant home based post death care of a close friend and neighbour precipitated a deepening of Cassandra's consciousness in the field of dying and deathcare, and she became a home funeral guide in 2009 while she was working as a research assistant with Dalhousie Family Medicine conducting telephone surveys for an After-Death Bereaved Family Member Interview.
Always an active volunteer, Cassandra has served on boards and been involved with the Victoria County Hospice Society, Community Health Board, the National Home Funeral Alliance, Grief Nova Scotia, Beyond My Will, The Order of a Good Death, One Washcloth and Community Deathcare Canada.
Cassandra administrates a large facebook group called Death Midwifery (aka Community Deathcare) in Canada and maintains a private practice called BEyond Yonder Death Midwifery through which she offers public and private education, home funeral guidance and bereavement support. She is often busy in the social media sharing, writing articles about alternative deathcare and preparing for interviews and presentations, but most of her work in the field is focused on being the executive director and administrator of this BEyond Yonder Virtual School for Community Deathcaring in Canada.
Cassandra's long term vision is to live closely with death in a self reliant way at Beyond Yonder Homestead, which she hopes may become some kind of interpretive centre for death and dying and disposition alternatives.
Sarah is a healer, by vocation and by disposition, and her death midwifery work is a calling that feeds her soul. She’s drawn to be with those human experiences where love, pain, joy and sorrow are exquisitely intertwined and genuine. Her own personal journeys through darkness and difficulty, into healing and resolution are integral to her practice.
Sarah has a Masters Degree in Environmental Philosophy, a Masters Certificate in Energy Medicine, and a PhD in Transformative Learning. A long-time student of cross-cultural shamanic healing, she has had the honour of studying with many gifted indigenous and western teachers.
Her lifelong studies and interests have allowed her to explore social healing practices that help humans develop a healthier way of being with each other and our living world. Sarah’s research focuses on eco-psychology, rites of passage, indigenous healing practices, and consciousness studies. Her dissertation explored the ways modern westernized people can use ritual, dreams, and sacred art to heal our relationships with Nature, the Spirits, and the Ancestors. She loves sharing her experiences and learning from other convivial folk, wherever they may be. She hosts, for example, a regular new moon ritual in Calgary, which has evolved into a heart-full community gathering, rich in laughter and good food.
As a fourth generation Albertan of Celtic descent, Sarah draws her strength from the prairie landscape and her ancestors. As a painter, sculptor, and textile artist, she integrates the power of art and beauty into her healing work. As an educator and ritual facilitator, Sarah creates spaces where participants can heal, learn, and grow.
Sarah offers herself in deep service, to the seen and the unseen world, and for the healing of both the living and the dead.
Julie Keon’s career began in the early 90s as a social service worker. With a strong desire to help people navigate through life’s challenges, Julie became a certified birth and postpartum doula (DONA International) and certified breastfeeding counsellor, founding Mother Nurture Childbirth Services in 1998 to assist couples through labour and childbirth and the early weeks at home with a new baby.
Julie’s career path changed and evolved after becoming a mother herself, in December 2003. While no longer a practicing doula, she continued to educate and support new parents through the prenatal period, birth, breastfeeding and postnatal period. She also created and led workshops for women who had experienced difficult or traumatic births.
An avid writer, Julie began work on her first book, an extension of her essay, What I Would Tell You, in 2011. In May 2015, her book “What I Would Tell You~ One Mother’s Adventure with Medical Fragility” was published and released to the world.
She welcomed a new opportunity in 2012 when she became a licensed marriage officiant for the province of Ontario. After graduating as a Certified Life-Cycle Celebrant® in early 2013 from the Celebrant Foundation and Institute, Julie expanded her services with a focus on end-of-life and funeral celebrations. She specializes in the design and execution of meaningful ceremonies that mark life’s transitions and important events, from the start of life to the end of life, and everything in between.
Julie is a graduate of the Beyond Yonder Death Midwifery in Canada virtual school and aims to educate and support her community in the reclamation of family centred death care. Combining her education with her celebrant skills, Julie offers ceremony and rituals to help individuals, families and communities cope with loss, trauma, death and grief.
Her interests include psychology, health, travel, cooking, writing, and staying vibrant and resilient while holding on to a sense of humour. She shares her life in the Ottawa Valley in Canada with her husband, Tim, and daughter, Meredith.
Diana Samu-Visser is a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Western Ontario, where she is currently finishing her dissertation on the relationship between the corpse as a material, cultural, and aesthetic artifact and contemporary approaches to death and dying. She has also taken the BYVSCDC course as part of its inaugural class and has participated in a number of death cafes and workshops on topics related to community-based deathcare and home funerals. Diana is passionate about connecting the worlds of academe and community deathcare in meaningful, generative ways, and will begin volunteering her services as a death educator in January 2017.
Jamie Simpson is a lawyer based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, with a background in environmental advocacy. He operates Juniper Law, a small general and environmental law and consulting business: www.juniperlaw.ca. Jamie has received several awards for his environmental and community work, including the Elizabeth May Award for Environmental Service from Dalhousie University and the Honour in the Woods Award from the Nova Scotia Environmental Network. Jamie makes time for the things in life that buoy his spirit: paddling a canoe, hiking through forests, climbing rocks, playing his guitar and fiddle, dancing with his partner, and digging in his garden.
It all started with my parents Gordon and Nora who infused within me a deep reverence for spirituality and community. Somewhere along the path of late adolescence I recognized, with a peculiar sense of shame, that I was only really good at talking to people. I took this to be a deficit - a default skill for those who could not count, memorize or build. I began to train as a chaplain and found a teacher/mentor named Hugh Walker who blessed me with his encouragement and bestowed upon me his peculiar and rarified brand of human compassion.
I received a Masters of Divinity at Queen’s University and finished my training as a Spiritual Care Specialist. During my career as a chaplain I worked with prisoners, children of prisoners, people with HIV/AIDS, sick kids, the homeless, people with addictions and finally found my home at a Mental Health Acute Care hospital in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Ten years later I had received a heart-wrenching education on the perils of the human soul in the age of managed care. I made my exit into Palliative Care.
For the past eight years I have made grief my daily diet, and spent my days with those for whom death has made a house call. Around this time, a teacher/teaching was finished gestating within me and I began bringing my soul into groups of the hurting seeking healing and help. As a consultant and teacher I have worked with organization as diverse as DND Military Family Resource Center , Nova Scotia Department of Justice, AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia, Halifax Police and Threads of Life Canada. Four years ago I co-founded a grief camp for kids called Camp Kedooopse. In my spare time I write and direct plays. Presently, I am working on a book about grief.