We will be talking with Cassandra Yonder about the pan death experience and some thoughts about how home funerals help with the grieving process. We will talk in particular about the concept of death midwifery.
Bio of Cassandra Yonder:
“I live with my partner, 3 children and livestock (including horses, dairy goats, rabbits, chickens, cats and dogs) in the forested highlands of Cape Breton at North River, just off the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia, Canada where we are developing a self sufficient homestead using timber framing and cordwood building techniques. I have a master degree in architecture which was preceded by a BA in gerontology and sociology. After living and practicing in downtown Toronto, Ontario for several years following graduation, I sought a more rural and environmentally conscious lifestyle.
As the daughter of a veterinarian it was important for me to reconnect with animals and nature. I went back to school to study grief and bereavement (through King’s College and The University of Western Ontario’s thanatology department) and also became certified as an animal assisted therapist, hypnotherapist and lay horse trainer.
Recognizing the therapeutic potential of the homesteading lifestyle, we moved to Cape Breton in 2006 where I intended to seek work as a rural bereavement coordinator while establishing a retreat for grieving families. The unexpected death and resultant home funeral of a close friend and neighbour precipitated a deepening of my consciousness in the field of death and dying, and as a result I went to Final Passages in California in 2009 to become certified as a home funeral guide. I kept up my volunteering and am currently the chair of the Victoria County Hospice Society, secretary of our local Community Health Board, a member of the Grief Nova Scotia working group and a board member of the National Home Funeral Alliance, as well as founding member of the developing organizations Beyond My Will and Canadian Community for Death Midwifery.
I’ve started a private practice in death midwifery through which I offer education and consultation services around home funerals, bereavement support and disposition alternatives. I’m passionate about palliative care and choices at end of life; particularly post death care and disposition alternatives such as green burial, and have been asked to speak about the potential value of family centred post death care to healthy grief processes at conferences, radio engagements and other venues.
My past employment as a research assistant with Dalhousie Family Medicine conducting telephone surveys for an After-Death Bereaved Family Member Interview was rewarding. Currently I’m seeking to enrich my private practice through collaboration with others in this field by developing a holistic, comprehensive advance care planning toolkit for Canadians as well as some private writing projects and a national Community of Practice organization for Death Midwifery.
My long term vision is to live closely with death in a self reliant way here Beyond Yonder Homestead, which I hope will become an interpretive centre for death and dying and a school or interpretive centre for practices related to death midwifery.”