Death is a universal human experience, yet most people don’t like to talk about it, never mind plan for it.
The funeral industry has been around for centuries but times are changing, with an increasing desire for more accessible and approachable ways for people to honour their loved ones. The traditional funeral industry — which employs more than 9,000 individuals across nearly 1,700 businesses and has a market size of $1.6 billion in revenue in Canada — has been the common way of handling death, but the tides are turning.
In recent years, there has been a shift in the funeral industry. People are looking for more personalized, affordable, and less intimidating ways to honour their loved ones, and this has given rise to the #deathtech movement, as start-ups bring technology into the end of life space.
There is also a #deathpositive movement, with people focusing on green burials, aquamation, and home funerals, and a vision to help people feel empowered with knowledge and choice. This photo is from our End of Life Doula Retreat on Bowen Island.
Be Ceremonial is committed to shifting the narratives surrounding death, dying, and grief by bringing more awareness to the power of ritual when it comes to our mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.
“We are conditioned to believe that death isn’t something we should talk about, and that we will eventually ‘get over’ our grief. Yet more and more people are starting to realize the benefits of not only speaking openly about death, dying, and grief, but also creating rituals to acknowledge our experiences,” explains Megan Sheldon, co-founder of Be Ceremonial. “We are delighted to be a part of this cultural shift where end of life topics are normalized and families are better supported when they lose a loved one.”
There are so many startups revolutionizing the End of Life arena, including a plethora of Canadian companies. Below, we share some of our favourites in the hopes of better equipping anyone who is seeking to bring more intention and attention to death and dying.
Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic
The funeral industry is changing with technology driving this change — and COVID-19 has only accelerated this shift. The pandemic has forced the industry to adapt quickly. During lockdowns, people suddenly find themselves hosting funerals at home, or they had ashes to scatter and wanted to find ways to make it meaningful.
The challenge of hosting traditional funerals under social distancing measures has led to an increase in demand for virtual funerals and online memorial services and an overall shift in the way we approach death.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the experience of end-of-life rituals and ceremonies,” said Kelly and Wade Lumbard, of Brockie Donovan Funeral and Cremation Services. “There is a new appreciation for funerals, gatherings and important life rituals — the interesting part is the form they will take.”
Revolutionizing end-of-life planning in Canada
A new wave of start-ups (largely led by women!) has reinvented and refreshed our approach to death care. Here are a few of our favourite Canadian companies that are helping us better prepare for end-of-life:
Death’s Apprentice makes it easy to plan ahead for the inevitable. Christa Ovenell’s virtual Prep School provides direction, support, and all the tools you need to finally put your affairs in order, one important topic at a time. Their program will help you explore your values and beliefs, so you can properly express your future wishes in life and death.
Based in Vancouver, BC, New Narratives Events specializes in hybrid, virtual and in-person celebrations of life across Canada and around North America. New Narrative, led by Christina Andreola, was the first Canadian company to pivot to the virtual memorial space. Celebrations of life have become more popular over the years, and we love partnering with New Narrative to bring new rituals to this space.
Taking a modern and caring approach to cremation services, Eirene is a direct-to-consumer cremation service that lets you make arrangements for your deceased loved ones from the comfort of your own home online or over the phone. Led by Mallory Greene, their technology is shifting the traditional funeral home landscape and making space for new rituals to be created.
KORU is a locally owned, women-led business that specializes in eco deathcare practices. Ngaio Davis, the founder of KORU, has been leading the deathcare movement for years. Her Maori ancestry, alongside her Canadian heritage, figures deeply in her personal foundation. KORU is not a conventional “funeral home” but rather a driver for holistic death care across British Columbia and beyond.
Reena Lazar is changing the conversation around death and dying to include life and living. Willow’s tools are used throughout the world by people of all ages, for staff learning, personal interest, and to enhance professional development and training for end-of-life practitioners and professionals.
DeathCare BC was created to bridge the education gap between end-of-life and after-death care. Before making calls to every funeral home in your city, get in touch with Emily Bootle to learn about your options from an objective and knowledgable source.
We can’t just stop at 6! There are so many individuals and organizations looking to shift the cultural narratives surrounding death and dying. Here are a few more, and we hope to continue to shine a light on the phenomenal companies leading the way in deathcare.
- The Douglas College End of Life Doula program was founded in 2016 by Jennifer Mallmes, a long-time palliative caregiver and co-founder of the End of Life Doula Association of Canada. Douglas’s program has since trained 2,500 aspiring death doulas, in-person and virtually. The EOLDAC is helping to raise the standard of End of Life Care.
- Death Doula Network International, led by Jo-Anne Haun and Karen Hendrickson, supports newly trained death doulas who are looking to connect with others in the field, giving them a place to call home as they begin their journey. They are also putting on a conference August 10th 2023 that will bring the community together.
- And of course, we have to be our own strongest advocate! The Be Ceremonial App is the world’s first DIY Ceremony Platform that empowers you to create ceremonies surrounding visible and invisible moments surrounding death, dying, and grief. As shifting mindsets, new ideas and even new technology continue to change the ways we live and die, ritual remains a powerful way for us to navigate transitions in life and cope with emotions in the face of loss.
Our App offers ritual ideas and ceremony inspiration that can help mark the different stages of death and dying with intention. Simply follow our ritual framework to create a ceremony that’s unique and meaningful to you. Stay tuned for the launch of the Be Ceremonial Village ~ an online community where you can take workshops & courses, join ritual-themed rooms, and connect with others who are looking for modern rituals to reflect our changing world.
If you have a company or individual you think we should shine a light on, please let us know.