Course Outline

LIVE meeting with Merilynne is June 9th at 12pm Eastern (USA)

I. Introduction to Home Funerals

  • History of funeral/body care in US (how we got to where we are)
  • What is a Home Funeral Guide?

II. Legalities/regulation

  • Limits to the role/what you can be paid for
  • Law vs. common practice
  • Designating a funeral representative
  • Next of kin
  • Review DPOA limitations
  • State-by-state overview, resources
  • Release of body
  • Paperwork
  • Obstacles/challenges
  • Working well with others/making allies, forming positive relationships, community connections
  • Understanding industry perspective


III. Benefits of caring for the body of your loved one

  • Photo essay
  • Personal testimonials/stories


IV. Consultations

  • Who will be involved
  • Where to get supplies
  • Supplies list/usage
  • Casket
  • Dry ice
  • To-do list
  • Flexibility, boundaries, expectations, vigilance
  • Blended funeral approach
  • Children


V. Body care

  • Essential elements of caring for the body
  • What to do immediately when death occurs
  • Washing
  • Dressing
  • Cooling
  • Moving
  • Casketing/shrouding
  • Laying out
  • Decorating/adorning


VI. Ritual

  • Cultural/spiritual/religious humility
  • Experiential wisdom
  • Implicit bias/understanding yourself
  • Vigil
  • What is a funeral exactly?
  • Types of ritual and ceremony
  • Mourning as a community


VII. Anatomical donation and home funeral

  • Organ donation
  • Tissue donation
  • Whole body donation

VIII. Special circumstances

  • Use caution
  • Home Funeral may not be possible
  • Home Funeral is not possible

IX. Case studies & Practice issues

  • How to talk about money
  • Set up payment
  • Review what you can be paid for, how to do invoice
  • How will people find you?
  • Will you be on-call?
  • Marketing (website, FB page, directories, etc.)
  • Public education/community presentation/getting the word out
  • Common questions/fears
  • Create a local circle of support


X. Resources

  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Websites
  • Organizations
  • Books
  • Articles


XI. Course Wrap-up and Intro to Green Burial

  • Create your own forms and lists (supplies, to-do, resources, etc.)
  • Visit funeral home
  • General price list review and understanding
  • Examine your own preferences
  • Discuss preferences with someone
  • Write up history/example of funeral care in another culture
  • What are your own goals/what are you going to do with this knowledge
  • What fears do you have/obstacles you perceive

Your Instructor & Mentor


Merilynne Rush

Merilynne Rush has been working with families in transition since 1980. In addition to being a midwife, she has been a hospice nurse, a companion caregiver, home funeral guide, and health-care volunteer in India, Nicaragua, and West Africa. Merilynne has an MS in Hospice and Palliative Studies and a Nurse Educator Certificate from Madonna University, a BS in Nursing from the University of Michigan, and a BA in Humanities and Women's Studies from Michigan State University. She is a Certified Respecting Choices® First Steps Advance Care Planning Instructor. In service to nonprofit organizations, she was president of the National End-of-life Doula Alliance (NEDA) from its founding in 2018 to October, 2020, is a founding member of the NHPCO End-of-life Doula Council and current vice-chair, and served on the board of directors of the Green Burial Council, the National Home Funeral Alliance, Michigan Doula Connection, Washtenaw Health Initiative Advance Care Planning Committee, and the Michigan Midwives Association. Merilynne received her SageUSA "Caring for LGBT Older Adults" endorsement in 2020. Se habla Espanol.

Not ready for this advanced course?

Here's another offering from Instructor Merilynne Rush


  • How does this course work?

    Merilynne Rush will be your mentor, teacher, and guide for twelve weeks. Videos, readings, and exercises are pre-recorded - you can work through them on your own time, at your own pace. Merilynne will answer questions on the discussion boards and host occasional office hours via zoom. That's where you can chat and build relationships more informally.

  • What if I can't make the live parts of the class?

    That's OK. Office hours are completely optional. We expect you'll make it when you can, but it's not a required part of the class.

  • Can I get a certificate of completion?

    Yes, we'll offer a learning check at the end of the presentation so you can get a certificate of completion.

  • Will this course help me get my NEDA Proficiency Badge?

    Yes, NEDA is now offering an After-Death Care Educator Proficiency Badge. This course will help you to prepare for that exam.

  • Does the course happen on specific dates?

    No. You can sign up at any time. You can begin when you are ready and finish when you complete all of the assignments. If it takes you longer to finish that's ok - you have access to the course for a full year from when you start.