Donna Belk, Home Funeral Guide
I became interested in funerals following my father’s death when I was a teenager and for me the military funeral was a loud, meaningless, and empty affair that left me with no closure. When I became a certified Celebrant in 2005, I invited my mother, sister, daughters, and a few close friends to join me as I performed my own funeral for my father. This ritual finally enabled me to come to peace with his death. From this experience I learned the benefits of a personal funeral conducted by, with, and for the living.
The second major influence for the work was a beautiful, life-changing, near-death experience in my mid-30s. I joke that I flunked dying because “death” caught me by surprise! I panicked rather than letting go into the experience. Now I work to show people how … when they are ready … they can let go with beauty and consciousness.
I believe that if you are prepared, and have some sense of what’s involved, then the transition from life to after-life can be smooth. This education, and the tools involved, also benefit the living family and friends of the dying by de-mystifying the process and helping them be more at ease with what is happening.
I am an inter-faith minister and have also trained as a yoga and Qigong instructor. I find that there are many helpful tools for creating sacred space, and working with the dying in the Qigong practices. The tools of breath-work, balance, awareness and imagination are particularly helpful tools which can help people when their time of dying comes.
I have trained officially as a home funeral guide through Jerrigrace Lyons of Final Passages, and Elizabeth Knox’s of Crossings: Caring for Our Own at Death. These two women, and others like Lisa Carlson and Nancy Poer, have pioneered bringing back this simple tradition of families caring for their own. This is what our great-grandparents practiced and it just makes sense to me that, if we care for our own while they are living, we can care for them as well in their death.
In the last several years I have been presenting workshops to educate families and caregivers about how to act as a midwife to the dying, and to provide home funerals for loved one. I combine the practices I have learned with my philosophy and my personal experience of being near death. These workshops help people learn what to expect as one dies, how to prepare for a peaceful death, and how to care for loved ones after death. People tell me they find this education invaluable, and that they learn things they never knew.
For those people that are unable to attend a workshop in person, there is a DVD available called “Passing Through Our Hands.” I also wrote three chapters of the book, “Undertaken With Love: A Home Funeral Guide for Congregations and Communities.” Additionally I have authored two books, “How to Follow Your Heart,” (1989) and “Restorative Flow Yoga” (2006).
I am blessed to have two grown daughters (both awesome), and two wonderful granddaughters who keeps me full of life which balances well with all the work I do around death and dying.
- National Home Funeral Alliance, Executive Board Member, 2010-2012
- Interfaith minister since 2001
- Yoga teacher and Qigong instructor since 1995
- Certified Celebrant (2005)
o “How to Follow Your Heart,” (1989)
o “Restorative Flow Yoga” (2006)
o “Undertaken With Love: A Home Funeral Guide for Congregations and Communities” (2009)
- Web maven (maintained a national website making information about home funerals available and also listing people who were home funeral guides nationwide (2010-2015).