featured Uncategorised

Dealing with death the way we used to: Family-led funerals and green burials

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Nothing is more devastating than the death of a loved one. You’re not thinking clearly, and it’s not a good time to make practical decisions.

Thankfully, you can call a funeral home, and they will take care of everything for you.

Well, maybe that’s not always the best option, says Roxanne Walsh, who lives in Halifax and helps people plan funerals and supports survivors through the grieving process after a death occurs.  

Engaging a funeral home may not provide survivors with the full opportunity to grieve that they need at that time, says Walsh, who suggests a less clinical approach may ultimately be more beneficial.

“A family-directed funeral is an opportunity for the family to get together and say goodbye in am more meaningful and intimate way, and that helps them through the process of accepting that a death has occurred,” she says.

“It is a more organic experience. You are there with a dead body that is not embalmed, and you get to spend as much time as you need. It makes for a healthier relationship with death. I see death as being a teacher, and as an opportunity to learn from that experience. Grieving is a healing response, and when we can support that grieving process in a healthy way we come out in a better space. It is the way we used to do it,” says Walsh.

The need to embalm a body, a common practice in most funeral home funerals, should be questioned, says Walsh. There is no legal requirement to do so, and keeping a body cool or refrigerated can accomplish the same, while avoiding the use of toxic and even cancerous chemicals. These chemicals will eventually be released in the environment.

Just as there is no legal requirement to embalm the body, there is also no legal requirement to engage a funeral home. The only time you need a funeral home is when you want cremation, Walsh says.

Bypassing the funeral home may also save money, Walsh suggest, and even offer some protection from unethical practices when people are at their most vulnerable. A 2017 joint investigation by the Toronto Star and CBC’s Marketplace of an Ontario funeral home chain, with a presence in Nova Scotia as well uncovered high pressure sales tactics and outrageous markups.

Green funerals are slowly getting established in the province, Walsh says, with a dedicated space in Burlington, some two hours from Halifax. A Lower Sackville cemetery has set some space aside that may offer a similar opportunity.

“Many people are convinced that a green burial is a more natural way to put the body back into the earth and allow it to nurture a forest or a meadow.Typically people are buried in an organic shroud or a blanket, or a simple wooden box. It is not supposed to last forever, it’s about returning your body to nature,” Walsh says.

No matter what the approach, a family-led funeral is not something that can be arranged at the last minute.

“One of the things the funeral home counts on is that you didn’t do your homework. So what are you going to do when a death occurs? Your only option is to call a funeral home and let them take care of things.”

“So make sure to do the planning in advance. It will give you the best options and the best cost savings,” she says.

Check out Roxanne Walsh’ website here.

If you can, please support the Nova Scotia Advocate so that it can continue to cover issues such as poverty, racism, exclusion, workers’ rights and the environment in Nova Scotia. A paywall is not an option, since it would exclude many readers who don’t have any disposable income at all. We rely entirely on one-time donations and a tiny but mighty group of dedicated monthly sustainers.



One Comment

  1. can a person be buried on their own private land in Nova Scotia? If so, what would be the requirements? Who would need to approve this? Thank you.

Comments are closed.