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Life, Death & The Space Between

Apr 6, 2023

“It’s the most unifying experience – we all were born and we all will die.” – Emily Cross





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Can you believe that visualizing yourself dying and laying in a coffin could lead you to a more fulfilling life?


Today we talk with Emily Cross, a death doula and artist who also hosts “living funerals” – group meditative exercises where you walk through your own funeral and death while contemplating what really matters to you and culminating in you laying in a coffin.


Listen in to hear about this practice and its roots, how Emily created her own version of the ceremony, and how she blends her artistic gifts and skills as a doula to create “legacy projects” for her clients.

Topics We Discuss:


  • [3:23] How Emily became interested in death and dying at a comparatively younger age than most in the space. She was always interested in liminal spaces and the metaphysical even as an art student.


  • [5:30] What being a death doula is like.It often varies outside of the basics, like NDAs. Emily often offers her services on a sliding scale. A lot of the work she does with families is educational. She also loves doing “legacy projects”.


  • [9:00] Hospice care does not provide emotional support, unlike a death doula. Bringing a death doula in earlier can be more helpful or beneficial than last minute because they are able to see the big picture. 


  • [11:00] Emily’s biggest takeaways from sitting with people at the end of life – everything is temporary. She works with some of her clients to create art pieces as they approach the end of their lives.


  • [13:16] Living funerals – Emily practices these as ceremonies to bring mortality closer to your life and help you refocus and reprioritize your life. It is essentially a death meditation. She considers funerals where the dying individual is in attendance “celebrations of life”.


  • [16:30] Emily was introduced to this practice during her death doula training, which was started in South Korea as an attempt to help curb the suicide rate there. It was meant to help show people that their lives were worth living. She couldn’t find anyone doing this in the United States so she created her own ceremony and practice.


  • [21:13] Many people have used Emily’s living funeral ceremony as the catalyst for radical change in their lives. People have divorced, moved countries, let certain chapters of their lives go, started businesses, and so much more after doing this.**


  • [23:45] People often feel a sense of peace during the funeral while laying in their coffin. Many have out of body experiences or feel like they’re going somewhere they’ve known before.


  • [26:30] Emily based her ceremony off of the South Korean rituals she saw. Most of the videos didn’t have subtitles so she doesn’t know everything that was said, but she just tried to replicate what she saw while also making it her own. 


To learn more about Emily and living funerals, visit her website or follow her on Instagram.


Life, Death and the Space Between is brought to you by:

Dr. Amy Robbins | Host, Executive Producer

PJ Duke | Executive Producer

Andrej | Podcastize | Audio & Video Editing

Mara Stallins | Outreach & Social Media Strategy

Claire | | Podcast Cover Design