Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Conscious Dying: A Guide to a Healing Transition

Ziri Rideaux, a partner with the FRIENDS Alternative Funeral Home, has published an article Conscious Dying: A Guide to a Healing Transition.

This brief guide outlines the art and wisdom of facing the death of a loved one in a way that supports grieving, healing and letting go - without fear. It covers understanding what happens in the days leading up to a death, how to be with a dying person, the value of dying and grieving at home, the healing power of personalized funerals, and how to care for yourself at this difficult time.


FRIENDS Alternative Funerals and End-of-Life Celebrations (+friends-alternative-funerals-ee8)
Phone: 888-939-5959
FRIENDS, an entirely new kind of funeral home, strives to provide custom-made life celebrations that honor the person who has passed. In the best-case scenario, this person has contacted us early enough to discuss their wishes with us directly and plan a personalized funeral. But if life hits with one of its many surprises, your family and friends might have to do their best in figuring out what would have made you happy. And we can make all the arrangements so you won't be burdened with organizational tasks during your time of mourning.
By the time you or your loved one enters hospice, it is a good idea to reach out and find support in the process. This is the time to call on FRIENDS. We come to meet with you as early as you see fit, to mentally help you prepare for the great adventure of death. Without fear, awkwardness or shyness, we accompany you through the process, offering mental, spiritual and practical support. We offer deep knowing and traditional wisdom about the phases of letting go. We discuss the arrangements you wish for your funeral, and document how you intend to be cared for and taken care of as your physical body leaves this world. And we coordinate with your hospice to make things easier.
We can guide you and your family in learning the ancient art of conscious dying. As you go through this amazing process, you and your family will be engulfed in strong feelings of love and gratitude for each other that heals many wounds. This is a precious time of mutual forgiveness and of letting go.
FRIENDS serves all of Los Angeles and Orange County.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

FRIENDS – Alternative Funerals and End-of-Life Celebrations is the First Company of Its Kind in the U.S.

FRIENDS offers a new approach to all things death and dying: from death midwives through themed home wakes to elaborate end-of-life celebrations - FRIENDS makes your last wish come true and sends you out in style.
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Surfer's Funeral
Quote startReclaiming the Art and Wisdom of Dying WellQuote end
Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) November 01, 2012
As more Generation Xers are burying their Baby Boomer parents, a new and exciting movement advocating conscious dying is growing. In recent memory, funerals have been mostly a sad and sober affair. Today, increasing numbers of Americans are going to great lengths to plan their own personalized funerals.They want to go out in style, in ways that are meaningful, sometimes elaborate, sometimes non-traditional -- and sometimes -- even fun! FRIENDS, the first alternative funeral service in the U.S, just opened its doors to respond to this new trend.
Families today opt for more meaningful and colorful funerals to celebrate the passing of their loved ones with a bang rather than a sad whimper. ”We have Norse Mythology and Heavy Metal fans contact us about Viking funeral arrangements. Surfers want us to organize the last ‘paddle out’ for their friends in style,” says Brendan Miller, co-owner of the Los Angeles-based company FRIENDS. “People want their choices in life reflected in the way they are remembered.” A survey commissioned by the National Funeral Directors Association found that 62 percent of those wanting a funeral service preferred some form of personalization.
Cool Funeral, Guys!
You might want to have a themed Viewing Room decorated as "Big Momma's Kitchen". You might want to lay out the deceased in the bed of a medieval king or inside a mysterious jungle set for people’s last visit. Or you might want to throw yourself one last party to say good-bye in person with a “Living Funeral”, before a progressing disease will make it impossible. Baby Boomers, who are used to customizing all aspects of their lives seek personalized end-of-life rituals, not “cookie-cutter” funerals.
Actors and celebrities have the creativity and financial means to envision and fulfill some very unusual last wishes – Johnny Depp arranged for his friend Hunter S. Thompson’s ashes to be shot out of a cannon for his memorial service.
Taking the Dead Home
Unlike conventional funeral homes, FRIENDS offers an all-inclusive approach in which their death midwives accompany the dying process. FRIENDS then offers to organize a wake at home or at a special location, involving the family’s direct participation as an opportunity for healing. Families can learn how to wash, anoint and dress their departed loved ones, all in the comfort of their homes. FRIENDS lays the body of the deceased in honor at home on dry ice for up to 4 days. This way, the families can say good bye in their own time. The toxic process of embalming the body with formaldehyde is not necessary nor legally required.
After the viewings, FRIENDS facilitates cremations or burials and arranges for personalized, event-like end-of-life celebrations to say good-bye in style. “The only limit to what we can do is the law and funds available”, says co-owner Ziri Rideaux. “We welcome personal expression and wishes without judgment.”
On their website,, clients can chose from 16 unusual funeral or memorial arrangements or design their funeral from scratch. “I arranged funerals and viewings in my native Germany where the families were much more involved”, says Rideaux. “Dealing directly with the body of a loved one tremendously shortens the grieving and letting-go process. It’s a great psychological step towards turning grief into healing. During the first three days after death, the family and the deceased are forming a new bond, beyond death. Once families embrace this possibility, continuity is established. Saying good-bye forever is just not necessary.”
Greening Burials
FRIENDS also aims to provide their clients with the option of green burials – which currently does not exist in Los Angeles County. Green burials use no toxic embalming fluids, non-organic coffins nor concrete grave liners, which cemeteries currently require in order to keep their lawns even. Using these materials prevents exchange with the elements and natural decomposition. FRIENDS is lobbying for the establishment of a green burial site in Los Angeles, and currently offers green burials in a green cemetery near Joshua Tree.
The Art and Wisdom of Dying Well
A new consciousness is growing in regards to the entire dying process and funerals. The goal is to reclaim the ancient wisdom and art of dying well, to rediscover and embrace death as a natural part of life. “Most people are very uncomfortable talking about death, even when it is facing them head on”, says Miller. His hope is to open people up to the conversation before it becomes critical. FRIENDS and other advocates are currently forming the Association for Conscious Dying, hoping to educate people of their many options – before and when their time comes. Soon, death may be openly discussed year-roud, not just on Halloween.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Meditation on Conscious Dying

The article below was written by Ziri Rideaux, co-founder of Friends Alternative Funerals in Los Angeles, CA.  It describes her experience with the process of conscious dying and alternative funerals. She can be reached at

In the year 2007, both my parents were diagnosed with cancer. They died in hospice after a lot of care in 2008, only 6 months apart. Being the main caregiver throughout their dying process showed me clearly just how removed from death our culture had become. As each one of my parents reached their last week, I sensed an amazing presence in them, as they were shifting back and forth between life and death consciousness. By then it was very clear to me: first you live life – and then you live death.

It seems that just prior to the transition we call death, we wander back and forth, prepare our exit, already arranging the pick-up with loved ones who have crossed this mysterious threshold before us. These benevolent spirits were clearly around as my parents were readying to die, guiding us through the often difficult process. While doctors and nurses wanted to keep up their rescue routine, offering as much activity, diagnostics and medication as possible, my parents and I had decided to minimize heroic efforts, so that my mom and dad could comfortably slip into the other world, without the constant stress and interruptions associated with modern medicine.

As my father faced his impending death with a curious openness, I noticed how even material gifts he would have loved a while ago lost their appeal. The best food no longer interest him. He had his eyes set on the beautiful world that he had recently discovered in his long hours of daily sleep. My father died very peacefully in his sleep, as I was holding his hand. I kissed him on the forehead right after his last breath and felt his timeless spirit exit his lifeless shell with energy and joy.

My mother died a very difficult death, as she was heavily medicated to fight devastating pain from her bone cancer tumors. Being around her in her last weeks was a challenge, as I witnessed her desperately wishing for death to come. My mother had been a warrior and a “worry-er”, never content, always finding issues to struggle with. She died as she had lived, amidst massive struggle, in great tension up to the end. Her mother, who had passed years ago, appeared to me the night before my mother died. “We need to help her”, my grandmother told me. “Tell her that I will pick her up on the other side. She’ll never be alone. We can’t wait to have her with us.” The next morning I told my mom grandma’s message. Tears ran down her tired cheeks. My mother had never believed in neither God nor life after death. Now, after her many morphine-induced visits to the other side, she relaxed visibly. Two hours later, she made her transition as my sister and I held her close. I’m sure my grandma was there to pick her up.

For the next three days following her death, I stayed in my bed next to hers, touching her cold, rigid hands, combing her hair, caressing her face. This body had been the beloved avatar that housed her soul – the body that had birthed me! Even though I could clearly see that the essence of mom had left this form, I was eternally grateful to this body. I washed, oiled and dressed it with the help of a nurse. I kept the wake, talking to her, playing guitar, decorating her body. The closest family members came to visit. Eventually I lifted her into the coffin and drove with her to the crematory. I followed the coffin and saw it going into the fire. I watching it burn for 4 hours. I watched as they sifted the ashes and grinded the biggest bones to dust. Afterwards, I drove with the ashes on the passenger’s seat to our house, talking to her all the way. I clearly felt she was there. We kept her ashes in a simple clay urn until the burial of the ashes under a family tree as was her wish, with a beautiful ceremony for the closest people in her life. My mom had made me promise her to not leave her side, throughout every step of her last days, until her ashes were in the ground. My mother had been very afraid of her body being stored in a cooler full of dead bodies. She had also worried of what strangers might do to her body in a funeral home. It gave me great peace to know that I had honored her last wishes with love and respect.

At the ceremony for her, each one of us was free to contribute to the ceremony without priest. Some of us sang songs or said prayers, others told stories of her life. We sent white balloons with little handwritten messages up into the afternoon sky. Then we sat down for an elaborate feast together. The entire day was spent in grateful reminiscence of her life. We looked at photos and the artwork she had created – and it was clear to all of us that she was with us, that there was continuity and love beyond death.

Being with many dying friends and family members and accompanying every step of the preparation of their bodies and the funeral has forever changed my beliefs about death and dying. It has taken all fear away, it has given me something to be curious about and look forward to, as I know we will all be reunited on the other side. I truly hope that more people can overcome their fears and be with the dying, as they are amazing teachers. Embracing death as a mere shift in our relationships, not as an end to them, has given me one of the greatest gifts of my life – knowing about our continuity, sensing loved ones guiding us from the other side. Very often I feel their presence, they feel like powerful allies, even more so than during their lifetimes when human ego sometimes getst in the way. Living and co-creating our lives consciously with our ancestors (some might call them angels) is a wonderful experience! Ziri, 45, Los Angeles

Monday, September 24, 2012

About this blog - Information on Conscious Dying and Alternative Funerals

This blog exists to provide information and news to the public on the growing trends of conscious dying and personalized and alternative funerals. There can be tremendous healing and meaning available through engaging death and the dying process with greater openness and understanding.

Alternative funeral arrangements are more and more common as people seek ways to embrace dying consciously and personalize their own funerals or memorial celebrations for loved ones.

The process of conscious dying and alternative funeral arrangements may include:
  • Death midwifing and assisting people and their families to connect and heal
  • Living funerals, in which a funeral is held prior to death to allow family and friends to celebrate the life of a dying person while they are still able to share in the experience
  • Home wakes, involving keeping the deceased loved one in the home for a period of a few days to allow family and close friends to visit and make their peace
  • Personalized memorial celebrations and funerals that reflect the personality and values of the deceased so that they can be remembered and celebrated by their community as they were in life. This may include staging a thoughtful or elaborate themed funeral at a meaningful location.
If you are involved in alternative funerals or conscious dying and would like to contribute an article, please submit it to

This site is maintained by Brendan Miller and Ziri Rideaux, co-founders of Friends Alternative Funerals in Los Angeles, CA.