meet NYC funeral DIRECTOR Amy cunningham

Photo for Tricycle.org by Bess Adler.

Photo for Tricycle.org by Bess Adler.

Amy Cunningham is a licensed funeral director who collaborates with families to help them create distinctive funerals and memorial services. She specializes in green burials in cemeteries certified by the Green Burial Council, simple burials within the NYC- Metropolitan area, home funerals, and cremation services at Green-Wood Cemetery's gorgeous crematory chapels.  Filled with kind advice on how to make funerals more affordable and sustainable, Amy was profiled by the New York Times, March 2014, and named one of nine top funeral innovators by FuneralOne, a leading voice for change in the funeral industry. Fortified by her mortuary training from the American Academy McAllister Institute, and a BA in English Literature from the University of Virginia, Amy was trained as a funeral celebrant by Glenda Stansbury and Doug Manning, certified as a home funeral guide by Jerrigrace Lyons and Olivia Bareham, and exposed to Jewish Tahara ritual through the teachings of Rabbi Regina Sandler-Phillips. She then took end-of-life doula training with Henry Fersko-Weiss (twice!) at the Open Center where she is now also on the faculty of the Integrative Thanatology death education counselor program.  When not out directing funerals today, she sustains a blog on this site called "Creative Ways to Approach the Inevitable" tailored to the needs of funeral consumers. Amy also writes a blog called "The Inspired Funeral" for the funeral trade, addressed to support funeral directors, funeral celebrants, home funeral guides, and bereavement therapists working to enrich end-of-life experiences. Amy lectures on funeral planning and the greening of the funeral business at the Park Slope Food Coop every six weeks. She has been married to journalist Steven Waldman for twenty-four years. One son just graduated the University of Wisconsin and the other is at Emory studying psychology and neuroscience.

UPCOMING WORKSHOPS AND CONVERSATIONS

Amy at Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce trade show, October 5, 2016.

Amy at Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce trade show, October 5, 2016.

Tuesday, September 4, 6:30– 8 p.m., Death Cafe, Green-Wood Cemetery's crematory chapel, 500 25th Street, Brooklyn, 11232. 718-768-7300. Green-Wood Cemetery now hosts monthly Death Cafes. Join us for coffee and sweet treats, as fellow wayfaring strangers share their thoughts, feelings, and outlook on dying and death. Each meeting offers the opportunity for safe and open exchange without an agenda. This is surprisingly enjoyable, believe it or not. All are welcomed.

Friday-Sunday, September 22-24, 2017, Amy will be among the presenters at the National Home Funeral Alliance biennial conference at the Pearlstone Center in Reisterstown, MD.

Friday-Monday, October 13-16, 2017, join Coleman Barks, Stephen Jenkinson, Megory Anderson, Alberto Villoldo, Ken Doka, Peter Fenwick, Olivia Bareham, Amy and a fleet of innovators in palliative and hospice care for the New York Open Center's four-day-long "Art of Dying" Symposium, which considers the following topics: How can we work more compassionately and intelligently with the dying? How can our own death and the death of those we love be faced with courage and awareness? Does consciousness survive death and, if so what might we expect? How can we best prepare? How can death become much less frightening both for ourselves and our loved ones? The Association of Death Education and Counseling ® has deemed this program as counting towards the continuing education requirements for the ADEC Certification in Thanatology. Phone (212) 219-2527 ext. 135 to learn more and register for all or some of the great offerings.

NEW! Tuesdays, January 17, 24, 31 and February 7, 2018: Amy teaches "Funeral Planning as Spiritual Practice," One Spirit Learning Alliance, 247 W 36th St 6th Floor, New York, NY 10018, (212) 931-6840. Spiritual traditions all over the world agree that death awareness makes life more meaningful. Sadly, we live in a death phobic society, and people who postpone funeral discussions are then confronted with decisions involving thousands of dollars as they hold Kleenex in their hands. Join journalist/NY licensed funeral director and celebrant Amy Cunningham in an eye-opening, four-week-long exploration of the fascinating trends within and without the $14 billion funeral business. To help us solidify our own final wishes, we'll watch relevant films and learn through Powerpoint presentations, group exercises, individual funeral stories, and conversation. Among the many topics we'll survey: basic funeral customs in Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, the history of cremation and burial (did you know that the rejection of Pagan custom in the final years of the Roman Empire lead to a Judeo-Christian tradition of burial that lasted 1500 years?) and how to make a cremation service more meaningful; we'll discuss the comeback of the home funeral (keeping the dead cool in the house for days or hours helps some people adjust to the new reality); the resurgence of shrouding, the rise of the green burial movement, and advocacy work now occurring to give families greater control over the care of their dead.

Amy speaking to the the Capital District Humanist Society in Albany, June 2014.

Amy speaking to the the Capital District Humanist Society in Albany, June 2014.

Amy discussing end-of-life anxieties and wishes on National Geographic's "Explorer" show with Larry Wilmore, Richard Bacon, and Chuck Klosterman, November 2016.

Amy discussing end-of-life anxieties and wishes on National Geographic's "Explorer" show with Larry Wilmore, Richard Bacon, and Chuck Klosterman, November 2016.