At Green Mountain Funeral Alternatives we help families with the practice of natural deathcare- preparing a body for natural burial, natural organic reduction, or water cremation. We encourage people to care for their dead with their own hands, in their own home and provide the education and hands-on support to do so. Staying present with the body can help integrate the reality of the death and lead to healthy mourning.
We have three goals:
For every Vermonter to have access to natural burial
For every Vermonter to understand the options they have at the end of life and make a plan
For every Vermonter to be able to achieve their plan
Michelle Acciavatti (she/her/they)
Michelle Hogle Acciavatti (she/her/they), MS, is a natural deathcare worker. She is a fully licensed funeral director, death doula, pregnancy loss guide, end of life specialist and natural burial educator, working with people preparing for the end of life, designing funeral services, caring for their own dead, and exploring natural burial options. She is the founder and head cemeterian of Vermont Forest Cemetery.
Michelle is a trained mortician, advance care planner, end of life doula, home funeral guide, birth&bereavement doula, natural burial advocate & educator, writer, neuroscientist, and ethicist. She is a founding member of The Collective for Radical Death Studies and a board member emeritus of the National Home Funeral Alliance where she oversaw the revision of their materials and co-wrote their Home Funeral Guidebook on home funeral care. She has practiced death work with people of all ages, including death during pregnancy. She is author of a forthcoming guidebook on Infant and Child Deathcare. Her work has found her in settings as varied as the forest, Boston Children’s Hospital, people’s own living rooms, as well as the traditional funeral home.
She loves being outdoors, ideally in the sun, usually by water, often with a cup of tea, and almost always with a book.
Paul Acciavatti (he/him)
Paul is an educator, an author, a former wireless systems engineer, and currently the sexton (or cemetery manager) of Vermont Forest Cemetery, and an apprentice funeral director. Paul is coming to deathcare work unexpectedly after participating in home funerals and natural burial ceremonies, and seeing the power and impact they have on the mourner. Paul has a deep and humbling love of this land and by the idea of the generations upon generations who will find solace here.
What We Offer
Green Mountain Funeral Alternatives offers a unique model of funeral service that focuses on natural deathcare. In natural deathcare the body is prepared without embalming for natural burial (at a cemetery or on your own property), natural organic reduction or water cremation (currently not available in Vermont) so that the body can be returned to the earth. Our goal is for everyone to have a funeral experience that both honors their needs as mourners and the life that has ended.
At GMFA we believe that it is important to spend time with the body of someone who has died. Death is a shock, even when it is expected, and one of the tasks of mourning is to form a new relationship with the person who has died. Whether you believe in a soul, spirit, energy, memory or something completely different, being present with the body of someone you love can help integrate the reality that they have died.
Most funeral homes take the body away from the place of death to prepare it. At GMFA we encourage you to consider caring for the body at home, with your own hands. Our services for home-based death care included bodycare training before death, support for body care in the home, preparing the body on your behalf, transportation, ceremony planning, and paperwork. We can also help arrange for bodycare at a home-like location if one is not available for you. You can pre-plan your funeral with us.
You do not have to hire a funeral director in Vermont. We are happy to provide you with the information you need to do everything yourself, or only do paperwork on your behalf.
Bodies are kept cool with ice. We, or you, will bathe the body; dress it; and wrap it in a shroud or place it in a casket and keep it cool until it is time for burial or another form of disposition. Caring for the body in this way can be a deeply meaningful act of love, a way to honor and say goodbye to the body that has housed someone we will miss. For most people, it helps to see that the physical body is now an empty shell. This body is then returned to the earth, where it becomes nutrients for the land that sustained it in life. This process is a partnership between the gut biome body and the microorganisms of the soil. Because of this, we do not offer embalming. Embalming with green embalming chemicals is only arranged when circumstances absolutely require reconstruction.
Although this may seem strange, this was the way we cared for our dead for generations before the rise of our current commercial funeral industry in the wake of the American Civil War. Combined with changing family structures and job practices, it can be much easier to hire a funeral director to take care of everything. We are here to walk with you in this journey so that you can see how simple and meaningful it is to tend to the bodies of the dead.
Because natural deathcare is different from conventional funeral practices, we also offer planning sessions, featuring our values-based planning program “Ending Well” for individuals, communities, and organizations. The two biggest challenges Vermonters face at the end of life is finding enough support and being able to afford it. With Ending Well, our goal is to craft an advance directive that includes a comprehensive natural deathcare plan covering the personal and financial logistics you will need to be prepared for when death and deathcare occur at home.
At Green Mountain Funeral Alternatives we recognize that death occurs at any age, even during pregnancy. Our founder, Michelle Acciavatti, is specially trained in pregnancy loss, infant, and child deathcare and is the author of the forthcoming guidebook “When Life is Short : Prenatal, Infant, and Child (Pediatric) Deathcare.” If you are experiencing pregnancy loss, at any stage, and want a chance to be with and care for the body of your baby, please contact us.
Please note we are not currently available 24/7. We will return your call within the day. If you need immediate assistance please make arrangements with a local funeral home to keep the body cool. We can assist with arrangements for conventional burial and cremation practices.