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Glossary of Terms

For those looking for a little more clarity as to what some of the most commonly used end-of-life terms are and their definitions, you’ve come to the right place!

The end-of-life care and after-death care professions are still very much in their infancy–or at least I’d like to think so. Sure, we’ve had our current elder care model of assisted living and nursing home facilities for centuries, in one form or another, and the hospice movement gained a foothold in the U.S. in the early 1960s. Our after-death care model has not changed much since the Civil War when we began embalming bodies and using funeral directors to care for our deceased loved ones. However, all of this is shifting–and rather quickly–to include updated concepts and ideas. As a society we are calling for more humane end-of-life treatment and ecologically-sound after-death care practices. The death positive and green burial movements were born out of the desire to accept death as a part of life instead of denying it, like we have been for so long. All of this has given rise to an entirely new host of professionals and services in the form of death doulas and home funeral guides. Since these fields are so new, practitioners are auditioning different terms to see what suits them best. For example, look at the diagram below and you will see thirteen different names for an end-of-life doula. Needless to say, it’s going to take some time to get these relatively new concepts and terms cemented into the commonly accepted vernacular.

Those of us in the field take for granted that the general public does not know what the word “doula” even means and most people probably haven’t a clue as to what a home funeral guide is or does. To help with this, I’ve included the video below by Francesca Arnoldy. She does an outstanding job of clarifying and providing a well-rounded definition of what a death doula is and what services they provide for their clients

Terms and Definitions for End-of-Life Service Providers
There is an overabundance of confusing terms in the death care industry but luckily some standards have been set to help the general public better navigate who does what. After careful consideration of the data and research from a wide variety of resources and individuals, the National Home Funeral Alliance (NHFA) has chosen to employ the following terms and they are the ones that I have adopted for my business:

  • Death and Dying Guide —One who works with the dying person and family to accompany them throughout the death experience, facilitates family-led after-death home or facility care, and may attend to spiritual and ceremonial needs as requested
  • End-of-Life Doula — One who accompanies a dying person and/or family and friends through a personal, intentional, and conscious dying process to achieve a conscious death
  • Home Funeral Guide — One who empowers families and/or friends to care for their own dead, including educating, consulting, and guiding them through after-death care
  • Celebrant — One who works with family and/or friends to co-create a highly customized ceremony (for funeral, memorial, celebration of life)

Terms and Definitions for Advocates and Educators

  • Home Funeral Advocate, Home Funeral Educator — While not included in the lexicon of end of life care providers who educate families through consulting, coaching, demonstration and myriad other means privately, home funeral advocates/educators do vitally important work by educating publicly through presentations, workshops, local tabling opportunities, and other events aimed at developing a global understanding of the home funeral movement.

(Glossary respectfully taken from The National Home Funeral Alliance. http://www.homefuneralalliance.org/what-we-call-ourselves.html)

Conceived and designed by Donna Belk. http://www.homefuneralalliance.org