When someone dies, they do not have to be embalmed. The first call does not have to be to the "authorities." The body can be kept at home for 24 hours and, in Oregon, can be buried in a "green" cemetery without a casket, or even your own backyard.
The subject of death has become taboo and fearful, and, as such, perpetuates a standardized system that influences how our society has come to perceive and treat it. Death is an inevitable, natural, personal process that has become institutionalized and monetized—co-opting every component—from the body of the deceased to the associated rituals, timing, and psychic impact.
Nancy Ward and Holly Pruett are ‘Death Midwives’ in Portland, Oregon that help families reclaim a healthy relationship with dying. They provide education and services that can circumvent the death industry status quo, and help families make informed and purposeful choices.