How to Plan a Home Funeral

A Home Funeral it’s green, and it’s legal.

A hundred years ago home funerals, like home births, were the norm. Slowly the care of our loved ones was turned over to professional undertakers or morticians, and we forgot how to care for our own.

Now there is a remembering of the sanctity of this final act of love, and more and more families are seeking to have a home funeral.

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Legal
Having your loved one’s body at home after they have died is legal in all states in the US. Some states (about 7) require that the funeral director be involved at some point (to sign the death certification, for example. Embalming is not required in any state (except in a very, very few limited situations), nor does it take a licensed mortician to transport a body in most states. A casket for burial is also not required by law. A family can choose to do some part of the after-death care, and pay for the services of a funeral home to do the rest.

In the US, the Funeral Consumer Alliance can help you determine what is legal in your state. On their website they have information on each state’s laws. Also, there are many Home Funeral Guides in different states who can offer assistance to families.

Costs
Home funerals are more economically reasonable. The average cost of a funeral, as of July 2004, is $6,500, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. That does not include cemetery costs. In contrast a dignified and loving home funeral can easily be held for less than $1000.

Usually families that choose home funerals prefer personalization over commercialized funeral practices. Like home births and home schooling, home funerals offer people a measure of control and allow you to go at your own pace.

Environmental Considerations
Because the body is not embalmed (using formaldehyde, methanol, ethanol and other solvents), it has far less impact on the environment. And it does not put other people at risk,  since the long-term impact of working with embalming fluids by mortuary workers is unknown.

Personalization
Home funerals can provide more meaningful end-of-life rituals and this helps the families take the time they need to grieve in a familiar environment. In the comfort of their own home family members experience less fear of death and they are free to mourn in their own way. This more natural pacing deeply honors the deceased and the experience. Additionally, being physically involved in the process helps in grieving. It gives more closure to the loss of a loved one.

It’s a relief to many people because they can “do something” rather than sitting idly by waiting for a funeral home to take care of arrangements. Sometimes a loved one may request that she wants her final arrangements to be at the hands of people she trusts and loves,  rather than be taken care of by strangers. The funeral choices that people make influence attitudes toward death for literally generations to come.

How the Body Is Prepared
Information about how to care for the body can be found in the book, .  In addition to after-death care, there are chapters on how to bring home funerals into your community, and even create groups of people to help one another with home funerals. Visit this Canadian website for how-to videos about providing after-death care: Cindea.ca

To See Other Families
To see how other families have held Home Funerals see photos at Flicker.com.