2017 Conference Schedule

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Are you a home funeral guide?

Hear from the gatekeepers that can make your work easier (or harder), as they discuss how they can work with you and your community. Take your home funeral practice up a notch. 

Are home funerals new to you?

Over half of those who came to our last conference attended for the first time! This event is the perfect place to get your start in a community who is here to connect with and support one another. You’ll learn new skills, gain confidence, and make great friends and associates.

Do you really need to connect with others who do this challenging work, often alone in remote areas?

If you’ve joined us in the past, then you know the deep ties that are formed and the lessons learned. If you haven’t been to a NHFA conference before, then come! All kinds of goodness are here for you.

Are you with Hospice, a hospital, or a Funeral Director who wants to learn more about home funerals?

Learn about the legalities, what families are asking for today, and how home funeral guides and you can work together to support families.

Check out the detailed schedule below. And here’s your ‘at a glance’ version.

Friday, September 22


Registration Opens — Main Lobby

Drop off Silent Auction items — Vineyard Room


Open Reception — Deck

Before I Die Wall — Orchard Room. Thanks to Final Passages for sponsoring the ‘Before I Die Wall.’

Movement — Orchard Room

Altar Art Project — Vineyard Room. Thanks to DoulaGivers for sponsoring the ‘Altar Art Project.’

Meditation Space — Tribes Lounge

6:00p – 7:00p

Dinner — Dining Room

Silent Auction opens — Vineyard Room

7:00p – 7:30p

Opening Ceremony, Sharon Moore — Jubilee Room

Welcome, Lee Webster — Jubilee Room

Introduction of the Board — Jubilee Room

7:30p – 9:00p

The Unbroken Circle — Jubilee Room

COEXISTA Jew, a Muslim, and a Buddhist funeral director walk into a room filled with people who want to care for their own dead. Find out what happens next!

Panel discussion followed by open audience forum Q&A. How to advocate from an historical and spiritual perspective; how we can support these communities and how they can support us; what we can learn from their unbroken traditional funeral practices.

Featuring David Zinner, Kavod V’nichum; NoorudDean Abu Ibraheem, the Janazah Project; and Lucinda Herring, Thresholds Consulting & Ministry; facilitated by Nina Thompson. Learn more about the speakers. Thanks to A Sacred Moment for sponsoring ‘The Unbroken Circle.’

Message: We are one in our advocacy for people of all faiths and walks of life

Saturday, September 23

6:30a – 7:15a

Movement — Orchard Room

With Zalene Corey

7:30a – 8:30a Breakfast — Dining Room
8:00a – 9:00a Registration Open — Main Lobby
8:45a – 9:00a

Centering, Sharon Moore

Housekeeping and Check-In, Lee Webster

9:00a – 10:15a

Everybody Can Be an Advocate: Here’s How — Jubilee Room

David and GoliathWe’re taking funeral law rights to you, the people, to show how we’re helping make home funerals accepted as the law of the land. Join us to find out how to advocate for funeral laws that protect and expand families’ rights to care for their own dead, and why constitutional reform is required in relation to state funeral laws.

With Renee Flaherty, Institute for Justice and Tanya Marsh, Professor of Law, Wake Forest School of Law; facilitated by Nina Thompson. Learn more about the speakers. Thanks to Funeral Consumers Alliance of Maine and New Hampshire Funeral Resources, Education & Advocacy for sponsoring ‘Everybody Can Be an Advocate: Here’s How.’

Message: We are personally and collectively responsible as members of this movement for ensuring the security for fundamental legal and human rights

Next Steps Q&A: What 3 things can each of us do in our own practices and communities to ensure the preservation or acquisition of laws and policies that protect our right to care for our own after death?

10:15a – 10:45a Break
10:45a – 12:00p

Building Bridges: Advocating to Hospices & Hospitals — Jubilee Room

hospice logo dove with heartFolks: this is where the rubber meets the road. We all face the challenge of helping those in authority know that home funerals are safe and legal. Join this fantastic discussion & Q/A to learn how to work with hospices and hospitals to create understanding and write policies that meet family needs, how to approach institutional leaders, overcome obstacles, and find common ground.

With Lee Webster, NHFA; Fabio Lomelino, Gilchrist Hospice; Sarah Quinn; facilitated by Nina Thompson. Learn more about the speakers. Thanks to Threshold Support Circle and Quality of Life Care for sponsoring ‘Building Bridges: Advocating to Hospices & Hospitals.’

Message: We can and must build stronger bridges and allies between agencies of end of life and after death care

Next Steps Q&A: What 3 things can we do in our own communities to build bridges with existing end-of-life organizations and agencies?

12:00p – 1:00p Lunch — Dining Room
1:00p – 2:15p

Everybody Wins: Working With Authorities — Jubilee Room

Photo of home vigil. Loved one sprinkling rose petals over the deceased., Photo courtesy of Olivia Bareham.So, is it possible to have a home funeral after an autopsy? How do you care for your own dead after organ donation, or if they want to donate the body to medicine?  Learn how to complete family-directed home care —autopsy, body and organ donation, working with funeral directors, filing requirements and much more.

Find out the details in this fascinating panel discussion featuring Ruth Ann Arty, MD Mortuary Board; Char Barrett, Funeral Director; Bruce Goldfarb, Maryland Office of the Medical Examiner; facilitated by Nina Thompson. Learn more about the speakers. Thanks to Last Dance Shrouds for sponsoring this session.

Message: We can and must learn more, and share it with others

Next Steps Q&A: What 3 things can each of us do in our own communities to be ready to advocate for home funeral families?

2:15p – 2:30p Break
2:30p – 4:00p

NHFA Biennial Meeting & 2 Year Progress Report — Jubilee Room

Committee sign ups; board recognitions; introduction of the new president

4:15p – 5:45p

In The Parlor Film Screening — Jubilee Room

2017 NHFA Biennial ConferenceRejecting the mainstream tradition of hiring funeral professionals to care for the deceased, families in search of a more personal and fulfilling way to say goodbye are taking an active role in caring for relatives who have died. Both a critical look at the American relationship with death and an inquiry into the home death care movement, In The Parlor: The Final Goodbye takes viewers on a journey where very few have gone, and challenges us to reflect on this uncomfortable subject, which so often is hidden away and ignored.

With Heidi Boucher, filmmaker (via Skype). Be sure to join us in the Jubilee Room at 8:45p for the Filmmakers’ Reception. Learn more about Heidi Boucher. Thanks to Natural Burial Company for sponsoring ‘In the Parlor.’

4:15p – 5:45p

Nature Walk — Main Lobby

2.2 Mile Loop around the grounds of the Pearlstone Center. Meet on the front porch of the Main Lobby.

6:00p – 7:00p Dinner — Dining Room
7:15p – 8:45p

Zen and the Art of Dying Film Screening — Jubilee Room

Zenith Virago photoIf you haven’t seen this film by Broderick Fox, you are in for a treat. A double treat – because Zen will be with us in person! Check out the trailer for Zen and the Art of Dying here.

From her origins as a young mother in the UK, to her present day identity as a lesbian, activist and self-described deathwalker in the idyllic seaside town of Byron Bay, Australia, Zenith (Zen) Virago’s personal and professional experiences quietly challenge our core assumptions about life and dissolve our fears around death. The film documenting her work invites each of us to reexamine and reclaim a more active role in how we live, love, and die.

With Zenith Virago. Be sure to join us in the Jubilee Room at 8:45p for the Filmmakers’ Reception. Learn more about Zenith Virago. Thanks to The Urban Death Project and Life Posts for sponsoring ‘Zen and the Art of Dying.’

7:15p – 11:00p


Open home funeral story sharing and music

8:45p – 10:00p  Filmmakers’ Reception — Jubilee Room

Sunday, September 24

6:30a – 7:15a

Movement — Orchard Room

With Zalene Corey

7:30a – 8:30a Breakfast — Dining Room
8:15a – 9:00a Film: The Art of Natural Death Care by Katelyn LaGrega — Jubilee Room
8:30a – 9:00a

Vacate Rooms

Bring all luggage to storage room off of Main Lobby.

9:00a – 10:15a

Skills Session A: Home Funeral 101 – Body Care Basics — Jubilee Room

Claire Turnham pretends to prep a bodyThis is the one for all newcomers. How do you care for a dead body? How do you wash hair without a giant puddle on the floor? What about wounds? And moving a body around?

Even if you know, you’ll learn even more from our friend across the pond, all the way from Oxford, UK. With Claire Turnham of Only With Love and the Home Funeral Network. Thanks to Bellacouche for sponsoring ‘Home Funeral 101.’

Skills Session B: Creating Ceremonies for Home Vigils, Funerals, & Memorials — Orchard RoomHome Funeral Ceremonies by Donna Belk and Kateyanne Unullisi

Imagine…you’re in a room preparing to wash a dead body for the first time. Maybe you’re with a few others, some strangers. You’re nervous and unsure. This is when there’s just nothing like taking a moment, a breath, and saying a blessing together. Find out how to create your own ceremonies for home vigils, funerals and memorials with funeral celebrant Kateyanne Unullisi.

With Kateyanne Unullisi, Director, The Emerge Foundation, NHFA board Communications Director. Thanks to The Celebrant Foundation & Institute for sponsoring ‘Creating Ceremonies for Home Vigils, Funerals, & Memorials.’

10:15a – 10:45a Break
10:45a Silent Auction ends
10:45a – 12:00p

Skills Session C: The Power of Home Funeral Storytelling — Jubilee Room

Life Posts logoExplore the power of this online memorial, storytelling tool.  It is beautiful, and helps families and friends join together and, using prompts, celebrate the life of a loved one.

With Steve Waldman, author and founder of LifePosts, and Amy Cunningham, writer and funeral director, owner of Fitting Tributes Funerals. Thanks to Mourning Dove Studios for sponsoring ‘The Power of Home Funeral Storytelling.’

Skills Session D: How to Start a Threshold Care Group — Orchard Room

What if a group of folks wanted to support one another through their deaths and home funerals? You don’t have to invent the wheel – this circle has already been going since 2009, and they love to share how. Threshold Support Circle logoThreshold Support Circle can show you how to start a community, group, or family-centered after death care group yourself.

With Lee Hoyt, and Kim Adams. Thanks to Lifespan Doulas Association for sponsoring ‘How to Start a Threshold Care Group.’

12:00p – 1:00p Lunch — Dining Room
1:00p – 2:15p

Skills Session E: Pet Home Funerals — Jubilee Room

Jerrigrace LyonsLearn how to expand your practice from one of the mothers of the home funeral movement. Jerrigrace is going to share all kinds of touching and helpful information on pet home funerals.

With Jerrigrace Lyons, Minister, Death Midwife, Reiki Master, founder of Final Passages Institute for Conscious Dying, Home Funeral and Green Burial Education. Thanks to BEyond Yonder Virtual School for Community Deathcaring in Canada for sponsoring ‘Pet Home Funerals.’

Skills Session F:  Taking Care of Yourself While Helping Others — Orchard Room

Research demonstrates that self-compassion is strongly associated with all aspects of emotional wellbeing. Mindfulness-based self-compassion is the perfect answer to caregiver fatigue and burnout. We’ll discuss radical self-care, specific techniques, and appreciating the profound nature of the work we do as caregivers.

With Merilynne Rush, RN, BSN, Home Funeral Guide, and End-of-Life Doula Trainer. Thanks to Threshold Support Circle for sponsoring ‘Taking Care of Yourself While Helping Others.’

2:25p – 2:45p

Open Mic / Closing Ceremony — Jubilee Room

Led by Sharon Moore.

2:45p – 3:00p Silent Auction Pickup & Pay — Vineyard Room

Need more help?

If you have general questions about the conference, please email us at: NHFA.information@gmail.com.