With Our Own Hands:
A Guidebook to Ritual Blessings of the Dead

About the Author

Ellen Hufschmidt, MA, is a Chaplain, grief counselor, and death educator. In her private practice, Rites of Change: Moving Thru Transitions Well, she provides counseling for grief and loss, and guidance for end-of-life planning including home vigils and green burials. As a Celebrant, she officiates funerals, and provides a full range of life-cycle rituals from birth to death for individuals, families, organizations, and communities to mark change. For ten years, Ellen worked at Essentia Hospice program in Duluth, Minnesota, where she used her skills as a counselor and Reiki Master to ease and comfort those facing death. Prior to that she served as a Chaplain at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina, Minnesota. 

In collaboration with Richard Grove and the Sacred Art of Living Center in Bend, Oregon, Ellen organized the first Sacred Art of Living and Dying training in the upper Midwest region of the United States. This two-year program assists caregivers in re-connecting the “soul and role” of their professional and personal lives. Through advanced training with the Sacred Art of Living Center, Ellen became an Anamcara, which means “soul friend to the dying”.

In association with culturally-based health organizations that serve cancer patients and their families, Ellen produced annual public events for cancer survivors to publicly thank their caregivers and celebrate their own healing. Because cancer knows no ethnic or cultural boundaries, the Honoring Caregivers ceremonies were designed to be culturally inclusive. 

She holds an MA degree in Human Development from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. Her professional training also includes in-depth study of process work psychology and completion of a two-year certificate program with Arnold Mindell and the Process Work Institute in Portland, Oregon. She is grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from Indigenous teachers and healers from the Dagara, Potawatomi, and Mayan cultures. These experiences inspired Ellen to rediscover her own Celtic and European ancestral Indigenous roots.

Guidebook Back Cover

How do you say a final goodbye?  

Chaplain and Grief Counselor, Ellen Hufschmidt, has worked with over 1000 deaths and the families who are left behind. In the dying process, both the dying person and the family take risks to explore their unknown places of unexpressed feelings, such as resentments, joys, love, or trauma. These risks are where emotional and spiritual healing, reconnection and repair takes place. This healing happens, not by turning away from the reality of death, but by being present for something new to reveal itself. This booklet is about one way to put yourself in the path of mystery and beauty that can accompany death. These pages provide a step-by step description of a bedside Body Blessing along with stories of how this ritual has been used in different settings to bring about meaningful closure.


“I highly recommend this gift from Ellen. I have respected her and her work for years, but that changed exponentially when I experienced her sacred Body Blessing at the National Home Funeral Alliance (NHFA). She created safe space to honor this moment of passing, and shared the tool that she has used with families to allow them to breathe death in, and breathe out care for their beloved. She has done it in homes, in hospitals, in hospices.  And then she did it as a teaching for all of us, with a volunteer person as the one who had passed. It was slow, thoughtful, respectful, opening up to all of us the moment to remember someone we have loved. And with her stories, here, she gives us guidance so that we too can carry this beautiful honoring into our own work and teaching. “

Linda Bergh, Threshold Guide, Biography Facilitator, and Co-founder of the Minnesota Threshold Network  

“Ellen Huffschmidt’s: With Our Own Hands:A Guidebook to Ritual Blessing of the Dead  will be an asset to both professional and family care-givers.  Her sensitive explanations regarding final care for and blessing of the body of the deceased provides practical guidance as well as inspiration. The practical ritual components of her guidebook, as well as Ellen’s inspiring stories, are a welcome tool. ” 

Richard GrovesFounder, Sacred Art of Living CenterBend, Oregon

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