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Approaching Death Care Differently

How do we approach death care differently from other funeral homes?

Navigating the death of someone who is close to you is not an easy journey. But as deathcare guides, we’re here to help you through the process. We wrote this series to help answer some questions that might arise, and to give you a sense of what it’s like to work with us at KORU Cremation | Burial | Ceremony. Here’s part one.

At KORU Cremation | Burial | Ceremony, our ethos is built around the idea that the death of someone who is close to you, who you love, is one of the most truly profound experiences that humans will encounter in their lives. 

We don’t refer to ourselves as funeral directors. Instead, as deathcare guides, we meet our clients at a human-to-human level, providing a safe conduit to honour their grief in the early days of a death event. Our every interaction is influenced by this belief. Because of that, we encourage people to lean into their grief and participate as much as they are able to in caring for their dead. This helps “normalize” what can oftentimes be a surreal experience. 

What does this look like? First of all, we talk to our clients in plain language to help them understand their options. The funeral industry has a lot of terminology, and we find this can add to the sense of overwhelm that people experience after a death. We also ask our clients to what degree they would like to be involved in providing physical care for their deceased person, something that is not offered at most conventional funeral homes. 

Recently, we worked with a family whose mother had died after several years of being in long-term care. We learned through our conversations that there had always been a family member present with their mom, from the time she went into long-term care until the night she died. We know how strange it can be for families who have been this involved with caring for a parent to have that person suddenly whisked away, and then to receive an urn with their ashes inside after cremation a week or so later. So we made sure to ask if any of them would like to participate in her after-death care, whether it was bathing, cleansing, or dressing her, applying nail polish, or washing her face. 

The deceased’s daughter gasped and told us, “I’ve never heard of that!” With other family members who had died, this offer had never been presented to her. She teared up and said, “I washed my mom’s face every night I was with her before I tucked her into bed. I want to wash her face one last time.” And so she did. 

Less than a week later, her mother-in-law died and she was able to guide her in-laws in her experience with us, knowing they would have opportunities that no other funeral home would present to them.

We always meet our clients where they are and never pressure them into anything that they don’t want. For services that we aren’t able to offer but that we think our clients would benefit from, we partner with other organizations, like Be Ceremonial for planning guided rituals and ceremonies, or HelpText, a grief support service.

Finally, our focus on sustainability extends to both our services and our products. Although we know we’re not perfect at being a “green” company, we make a great effort not to overstate or greenwash our services. 

One of the things we do is deliberately keep our on-site care natural and minimally invasive, including not embalming on-site. This keeps our staff safe from harmful chemical exposure and also allows us to offer a more approachable bathing room for the family to participate in if they choose to. We also have a lot of experience in green and natural burials, and we’ve done green burials in most of the region’s natural burial cemeteries. 

We’ve purposely curated the caskets and shrouds that we offer to be either sustainably made or Canadian-made: the more local the better. This means that we don’t purchase through the typical casket supply companies. To pay that much attention to products is fairly unique when it comes to funeral services in Metro Vancouver. While it’s harder to do the same for urns, we do offer an extensive selection of bio urns and are the only funeral home to offer the very locally made ChopValue Bamboo urn, made by a local B corp company that is expanding internationally.

We’re so proud of the way that we are able to show up for our clients, and deeply grateful to have their trust. Getting feedback like this review from our client, Mary, is truly what drives us to do the work that we do.

“Five stars for Ngaio and Rebecca at KORU. Their gentle expertise, deep ethical values and compassionate approach to support a family in their grief made such a difference to me and my sisters after my mother died. I cannot say enough about KORU - it’s unlike anywhere in the city. I have recommended them to many of my friends without hesitation.”

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