The term ‘natural’ conjures up all kinds of ideas, thoughts and emotions in people. The very mention of the word “death” is uncomfortable and unpleasant enough for people, but coupling the word ‘death’ with the word ‘natural’ seems to imply that suffering, sadness and woe are inevitable and that no one would ever want a ‘natural’ death. Perhaps as some might view ‘natural’ birth as a process of being a martyr and suffering needlessly.

Which is why we are having this expo. ‘Natural’ death does not have to mean suffering, or sadness, or woe (neither does ‘natural’ birth, but that conversation is already happening elsewhere!) There are ways to view, approach and experience death in our lives that allow it to become a more natural part of our existence. After all, death is the natural end of our lives and we must all face it at some point. We have been inspired by the sentiments of Jon Underwood, founder of the Death Café movement. Like Death Café, The Natural Death Expo strives to engage people in learning, conversation, sharing and exploring end of life care and funeral and burial options as means to ‘increase awareness of death with a view to making the most of our finite lives”.

The deathcare industry in Canada (and around the world in many cases) has experienced some major changes over the past 20 years or so. As people no longer identify so strongly with religion, as our population becomes more diverse, as the idea of spending large amounts of money on a funeral falls out of favour – especially among baby boomers - more and more people who are faced with having to make decisions at the end of life are looking for non-traditional options. Fully 75% of us have expressed a wish to die at home, but only 15% of us will manage to do that (will find source). The Natural Death Expo hopes to provide some information and empowerment for those looking for palliative and hospice care at home. For some, the idea of a traditional funeral just seems a waste of time, and money. Yet, while some will choose “just put me in a box and cremate me”, others are looking for the options in between and don’t seem to be finding any. We hope to demonstrate that even the most simple inexpensive choices can also have great meaning, dignity and beauty.

The Natural Death Expo hopes to share information about non-traditional end of life, funeral and burial options. We are by no means “experts” in every option available. The green funeral movement, the home funeral movement, home funeral guides, threshold choirs, palliative massage therapists, home hospice – these movements, concepts and practices are in their infancy in Canada, but interest in them is growing. Go to the resource page to find links to recent media coverage on these and many other end of life related topics. We are not suggesting that any of these choices or options are superior to any other options that are available. We recognize the traditional funeral as an aspect of cultural or religious identity or a long held family tradition and we have a great deal of respect for that. We know that caring for a loved one at home would be impossible for some – emotionally and practically. It is our goal to inspire, inform and empower people with ideas and concepts they may not have considered.

You may not end up choosing a home funeral, but you may be inspired to have an end of life celebration that is more personal. You may not choose to care for a dying loved one at home, but you may learn how you can make a hospital experience more comfortable, meaningful, dignified and beautiful. Isn’t that what we all hope for in the end? That we are given some comfort, that our deaths have some meaning, that we retain our dignity and that there is some beauty – for us and for those we love. That is our wish for you.