Death & Dying Resources

During times of illness, loss and acute grief, the last thing anyone needs is to be treated poorly, face heavy-handed sales pitches or deal with issues of cultural incompetence. When we are dying or dealing with loss, the emphasis should first be on compassionate, effective care. I also believe in fair pricing and employing the services of independent, locally owned businesses.

Depending on your circumstances and location, you might call and meet with the following organizations to find out if their services are appropriate for you or your loved ones. Although this can by no means be considered a thorough listing of resources in the Portland Metro area, it represents a collection of service providers with whom I have met in person, at their site of business, and in whose professional work I have the confidence to refer my own family and friends in times of need.


Legacy Hospice: Hopewell House, SW Portland. With most hospice care bring provided today at home or in nursing care facilities, it is unusual to find an in-patient hospice facility, but Legacy Health Systems continues to offer one in Portland at the stately, peaceful refuge of Hopewell House in the Southwest Hills, just a few minutes from downtown. The benefits of in-patient hospice care include greater community support, as Hopewell attracts numerous volunteers, including music thanatologists who occasionally come to perform live music designed to aid people in dying peacefully. The building includes a quiet sanctuary for reflection, and depending on availability, there is also on-site room and board for family members visiting from out-of-town or holding vigil during a loved one’s final hours.

Independent, Locally-Owned Funeral Homes

Holman’s Funeral and Cremation Services, inner Southeast Portland. This venerable and stately funeral home on SE Hawthorne has been in continuous operation since the days of Oregon Territory, before statehood. One of the oldest businesses in Portland and located in a sprawling manor house, Holman’s is perhaps the place in town for a stylish funeral or memorial service done in grand fashion. The elegant reception rooms and technologically up-to-date chapel on the main floor are counter-balanced by the visitation rooms on the second floor, which are quirky but tasteful time capsules and include a room where, famously, Teddy Roosevelt stayed while in town to dedicate the Multnomah Athletic Club. Despite the grand environs, Holman’s prides itself on being competitively priced and independently owned, and is staffed by loyal long-time employees, some of whom have been with Holman’s for more than 40 years. Many things here are still done in traditional fashion, including a large casket room on the third floor, accessible by elevator, that allows those making arrangements to see and touch full-size caskets, each displaying clearly marked prices so customers can shop caskets without the presence of a funeral director or any sales pitches, an opportunity becoming increasingly rare in the funeral industry. Says general manager Dan Holmes, “I always tell people the same thing Mr. Holman used to: All caskets serve the same purpose. No matter which one you choose, it will be the right one.” Additionally, Holman’s has over the past century become the funeral home of choice for Portland’s Jewish community. They maintain a separate display room for certified kosher caskets and have the ability to meet the request for immediate burial, as is Jewish custom.

Hustad Funeral Home, St. Johns / NoPo. This small, two-man, full-service funeral home is located on North Richmond in the heart of St. Johns, and has been serving the North Portland community as an independent funeral home since the 1950s. Owners Scott Logan and Tony Gray are sincere and friendly men who are deeply involved in community activities, including making floats for the annual St. Johns parade. Since purchasing the business from the Hustad family in 2011, they have worked to make the building a less funereal environment, including converting a former casket room into an inviting space that friends and family can use for wakes or receptions. Rather than touring a casket room while making arrangements, Hustad relies on iPads to help customers choose the right casket. An on-site chapel easily seats 100, with additional space available, and a large flat-screen monitor above the altar offers possibilities for multimedia integration of funeral and memorial services. Notably, Hustad also provides pet cremation services at a reasonable price, including pickup for those living in St. Johns. People outside of St. Johns are welcome to bring their pets in, as well.

Terry Family Funeral Home, inner Northeast Portland. It truly is a family affair in this small funeral home owned and operated by Dwight Terry, an affable, easy-going funeral director who has abandoned the suit-and-tie ethos of many of his colleagues. He is joined in the business by his wife, Amy, and son Marcus, along with two staff members. Taking the unusual approach of running a funeral home without its own chapel, Terry keeps prices reasonable by keeping overhead low. Their North Williams offices include two cozy visitation rooms and a comfortable, living room-like atmosphere for gatherings. In lieu of a casket room, those making arrangements can shop for coffins via computers set up in an elegant conference room where staff help with funeral planning. Serving many in the African-American community, the Terrys maintain partnerships with a number of North and Northeast Portland churches that can accommodate services for as many as 900 attendees, and they can also arrange funeral or memorial services at more secular settings such as the Oregon Convention Center. Located close to Legacy Emanuel and Randall Children’s Hospital, Terry also specializes in caring for children who die in the hospital, and the company offers a particularly compassionate price on handling infants.

Mt. Scott Funeral Home, Southeast Portland / FoPo. Another long-time Portland institution, Mt. Scott Funeral Home on SE 59th at Foster has been family-owned and operated for three generations. With an onsite chapel and several visitation rooms that have the capacity to expand to accommodate large gatherings, Mt. Scott provides traditional funeral and memorial services at their stately and well-maintained building in Southeast Portland. Mt. Scott is particularly well-versed in meeting the needs of Portland’s large Russian, Ukrainian and Romanian communities, including the flexibility for timely burial according to customs. With two modern showrooms displaying urns and sized-down sections of caskets, all of which have clearly marked prices, those making funeral arrangements are free to shop for their desired container without the pressure or presence of sales people. Green funeral services are available.

Grief groups

In Portland, Oregon, find up-to-date listings of therapy groups, including for grief & loss, on the Portland Therapy Center group therapy listings.

Reading Recommendations

Levine, Stephen. Unattended Sorrow: Recovering from Loss and Reviving the Heart (2005). This is a phenomenally lovely, easy-to-read, practical and honest “self-help” book on grief & loss. I can’t say enough good things about it.

Levine, Stephen. A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as if It Were Your Last (1997). This is a great, and brief, practical guide to in using death awareness as motivation to live more fully in the present moment and to heal relationships.

Ashenburg, Katherine. The Mourner’s Dance: What We Do When People Die (2002). This is an excellent work of cultural anthropology about Western attitudes and practices around death and dying, such as emergence of the modern-day cemetery. What makes this work important is the examination of cultural rituals around death, many of which seem to have fallen by the wayside as North American society has become more fragmented.