Who is the Death Midwife?
Meet Olivia Bareham
The Death Midwife, Founder
Hello, and thank you for visiting the Sacred Crossings website and following your intuition to investigate the death and dying journey.
My name is Olivia and although I am now known as a death midwife, I also identify as a teacher, a healer, a minister, a mother, a grandmother a friend and a mystic, at least as defined by 16th century poet, St. John of the Cross:
A mystic is – “a person who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or who believes in the spiritual apprehension of truths that are beyond the intellect:“
I became fascinated by the notion of being more than my physical body as a small child. I would practice breaking free while laying in bed right before sleep. I would take a deep breath and exhale and then fall into the space at the end of the exhale and drift into the nothingness until I almost passed out. Sometimes I would experience my ‘self’ getting bigger and lighter and expanding till I filled the room and even touched the ceiling. I felt like a genie coming out of the lamp, huge and mighty, yet tethered by a tail into the pot, my body. Somehow I knew, that one day this expanded self would break free from this body and this Earth and float into heaven wherever that was. I was fascinated by the thought and intrigued by the tremendous force that made me involuntarily take another breath and suck myself back in. I would play with the force, tease it, was it a part of me or outside of me? Why couldn’t I control it? How big could my Light Body get and still stay tied to my physical body? Where would I go if I could break free? Did I really dare to do it? This is all laughable now but clearly illustrates the kind of rebellious, curious and determined nature one needs to pursue this investigation.
My journey has taken me deep into the teachings of many gurus and spiritual paths – Buddhist, Tao, Sikh, Theosophist, Quaker, Spiritualist. I studied energy healing, mediumship, Shamanism, Egyptology. I earned a degree in Natural Theology and Sacred Healing, became a Master Mason and was ordained a Minister of Healing. I created a healing practice and became a mother.
Life and the boundless opportunities to create, explore, learn and experience pleasure, captivated me but when my own Mother died in 2005 I was reminded of that deep inner yearning to explore the veil, the liminal space and the mysterious ‘over there’ and I turned toward Death as my teacher and Guru. What did death have to teach me about life? What tools and practices could I gather to help me have the conscious, fearless death that Mother had. How could I help others overcome their own fears about death and change the culture of death and dying from one of fear and dread to excited anticipation?
I created Sacred Crossings to intentionally reclaim the Sacred nature of our transition from Life in a body to Life as spirit. Transitions are difficult and uncomfortable as we move from one state to another. Whether we move house, or graduate, change jobs or lose a loved-one we have to let go of the old and embrace the new. A transition transforms us, just like caterpillar to butterfly it is a miraculous and sacred event.
But this transformation can be frightening and uncomfortable as we move from the known to the unknown. There may be physical pain as in the labor of birth and mental suffering if we resist or fight the change and emotional pain as we grieve the loss of what we have loved and become attached to. Having a guide, someone trained to bear witness and to walk with us through our transformation is comforting. This is sacred ground and both the journeyer and those bearing witness are blessed by the event.
I wanted to make sacred the transition from life support to death support. others to experience the beauty, the grace, the healing that is available when a loved-one crosses from Life in a body to Life in open loving awareness. I knew that having a first-hand experience of this liminal space would change them for ever. I became a Home Funeral Guide and under the mentorship of my dear friend and teacher Jerrigrace Lyons began supporting families in Los Angeles to care for their own loved-ones after they died for three-day vigil.
It was slow going at first. It’s not easy to influence a collective consciousness. Our agreed upon beliefs are that dying is sad, frightening and painful and that we should do everything possible to avoid actually experiencing it or let our loved-ones experience it. Learning How to Die does is not a priority for most people. And just the thought of preparing a dead body to most people, is horrifying, gruesome and dangerous when in fact it is gentle, tender, peaceful and offers the safest space in which to feel the depth of your human love.
Best to let the authorities in white coats and black suits to tell us what to do, how to do it.
and the mystery have spent countless hours at the bedside as a nurse’s aide, hands-on-healer, hospice volunteer and my mother’s end-of-life caregiver and I noticed that around the time of death and for a few days following, there is a window of opportunity for profound healing. I also noticed that when the body is taken away by the funeral director this window is often silently, and permanently closed. Families can be left feeling helpless, confused and wishing they had a little more time.
I wanted to find a way to keep this window open and allow families to experience death as the healer and the most loving thing there is. So I immersed myself in the study of death, dying and the funeral industry. I became certified as a Home Funeral Guide and subsequently created Sacred Crossings with the mission of empowering families to ‘Reclaim the lost art and healing ritual of a Home Funeral’.
Since 2005 I have been guiding individuals toward a conscious dying experience and supporting families in home-based after-death care and home funerals. In 2017 I co-founded the Sacred Crossings Funeral Home which is owned and operated by death midwives trained in the art of conscious dying.
We offer a complete range of traditional funeral services, cremations and burials in the Los Angeles area, but our Home and Family-Directed Funerals are our signature service.
The Sacred Crossings Institute offers classes and workshops in Conscious Dying and Death Doula and Death Midwife certificate training programs.
The Sacred Crossings Funeral Home offers Home Funerals, Green Burials, Sea Burials, Direct Cremations and publishes The Advance Death Care Directive, a booklet allowing you to write your wishes for after-death care of your body, your funeral and final disposition.The booklet is available online at deathcaredirective.com.
For more information on home funerals, classes and the services provided by Sacred Crossings, please visit or write to me at Olivia@sacredcrossings.com to join our mailing list. Thank you!
“Death is life’s greatest teacher – it is time for us take this skeleton out of the closet once and for all, to lay her gently on the table and allow her wisdom to gently penetrate the depths of our psyche till we are free from fear, free from attachment, free from conditioning, free to truly live.”
– Olivia Bareham
Listen to Olivia’s most recent podcast below.
Are you Prepared?
Take the first steps in your journey today by downloading our free Death File Checklist.
Visit our Death Care Directive site!
What is a Death Midwife?
A Death Midwife provides information, guidance and support to both the death journeyer and their family from terminal diagnosis through final disposition. Death Midwifery combines the roles of death doula, spiritual counselor, hospice medical personnel, end-of-life caregiver, home funeral guide and funeral celebrant.
The Celebration of Life is the commemoration of one’s unique contribution to humanity. This training is Level IV of The Art of Death Midwifery. Learn the steps and skills to create unique, personal and deeply moving funeral and memorial ceremonies.
Sacred Crossings upholds that the dying process doesn’t end with the last breath, but extends for a period of one to three days. During this time, the soul, spirit or what is often referred to as the ‘luminous body’, separates from the physical body and transitions to the next phase of it’s journey.
Our Death Midwives guide and support individuals and their families through all three stages of the dying process:
Upon notice of terminal diagnosis or life-limiting illness
Active death or dying
Final rites, care and preservation of the body, home vigils and funerals, burial or cremation, funeral or memorial, sudden unexpected death rituals in hospital ERs and bereavement services.
We offer spiritual, inter-faith support to families of all faiths and cultural backgrounds.
During the initial in-home consultation, the midwife will help create a plan to address the emotional, spiritual and physical needs of the individual as they navigate the undulating path of the dying process.
Subsequent visits may be monthly, weekly or even daily depending on the needs of the family.
We work closely with doctors, hospice, caregivers, clergy, out-of-town family members and the funeral home to provide comfort, guidance and support for a peaceful transition experience.
Death Midwifery services include but are not limited to:
In-home, hospital, or nursing home visits with you and your loved-one
Detailed reporting to next-of-kin unable to visit
Emergency room support after unexpected death
Holding space while life-support is discontinued (includes sacred singing, spiritual guidance, after-death rituals and body preparation if required)
Support with stillborn and infant death and bringing baby home for a home funeral
Finding a local, reputable hospice to meet your loved-ones needs
Assistance with completing advance directives for health care and death care
Assistance with fulfilling final wishes / healing relationships / putting things in order
Spiritual support including guided imagery, meditations and exercises to help alleviate anxiety and suffering
Guidance with completing the life-review and legacy project
Help with writing an autobiography or creating a video-biography as a legacy to loved one
Guidance with after death care of the body and dry-ice preservation for a home vigil and funeral (see FAQs for details)
Coordinating with funeral home for transportation and cremation
Assistance with funeral planning
Celebrant to officiate funerals, memorials and graveside services
“A Sacred Crossings Death Midwife shepherds individuals toward a conscious dying experience; guides loved ones in after-death care of the body and empowers families to reclaim the healing ritual of a vigil and funeral at home.”