One home funeral participant reflected. . .
“I feel so grateful that I was able to walk every step of this journey with my dear friend. Life-long and intimate bonds have been formed as a result of this home funeral experience. Our time together was a beneficial and meaningful celebration of life.”
Why a Home or Family-Directed Funeral
A funeral is a ceremony commemorating the life and death passage of an individual. It is a necessary ritual acknowledging a life-changing event for surviving family and friends. A home or family-directed funeral is individually designed to honor each unique person and can be held in a gentle and intimate home environment. Following the death, a family member, an agent holding a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPAHC), or designated agent can act in lieu of a funeral director. They orchestrate all of the arrangements and carry out all of the decisions. We encourage individuals to share their last wishes with others and plan for their own funeral rites. The Final Passages guidebook can help you through this process.
Donna stencils her own pine box,
reflecting her love of nature.
She created this beautiful legacy following the diagnosis
of a brain tumor giving her 6-12 weeks to live.
Places a Family in Charge
When a mortuary funeral business is hired to handle a funeral the deceased is most often whisked away from a facility or home environment, wrapped in plastic, stored in a refrigerated utility space and may be embalmed. In a home funeral, family and friends may begin by ceremoniously washing the body and dressing them in garments that honor their unique personality. Ice or dry ice can be placed beneath them, out of view, while they lie-in-honor on their bed or in a casket.
In a home funeral celebration the family can purchase or construct a casket, urn or plaque without pressure from a professional sales person at a funeral establishment. The decision is based on ecological, economical and social need, not out of guilt or possible intimidation.
Jasmine, prepared by her
friends, is lying-in-honor at
a friend’s house overlooking
the Pacific Ocean.
Allows More Time
A home funeral allows friends and family an extended period of time for visiting, viewing, ceremony and closure. During this time one can:
- Fill out and file end of life documentation: Certificate of Death and Permit for Disposition. A transportation permit may also be required in some states, find out more in the Final Passages guidebook.
- Write an obituary or memorial announcement
- Construct a casket, urn or funerary art project
- Decorate a wooden or cardboard casket inside and out with personal and meaningful life mementos
- Decorate the home environment to reflect cultural and personal beliefs. The privacy of a home environment supports laughter, tears, dancing, singing, chanting, storytelling and ritual. There may be restrictions of time and feelings of self-consciousness in a funeral establishment
Creates a Spirit of Community
A funeral ceremony gathers a community together for social support, condolences and may provide an opportunity to heal interpersonal relationships. When a funeral is held in a home, it honors relationships in a private de-institutionalized setting. Food is often prepared and shared, which provides nourishment and nurturing for surviving family and friends. In a home funeral the food can be a part of an open-house funeral celebration that may continue for days.
Friends cover Mari with rose petals.
They decorated her cardboard
cremation casket with colorful paper,
elaborate flower arrangements
and lay her on a bed of rose petals.
Honors a Rite of Passage
A funeral ritual acknowledges an individual’s participation in the natural birth and death cycle. It is a rite of separation of an individual from their community. It acknowledges a rite of transition of roles for the survivors, such as wife to widow. In a home funeral celebration, these changes can occur in an atmosphere of familiarity and dignity.
Judy’s grandson’s heart-to-heart good-bye.
She lie-in-honor in a yurt during their home
ceremony on their 120 acre ranch.
A home funeral provides a time and place where children inherently learn how their society participates in a cultural rite of passage. Children can more easily see that death is a natural part of the life cycle when the ritual remains in the home as a cohesive last act of love.
Promotes Healing and Closure
A home funeral provides a safe, loving and appropriate place where one can discuss life and death and express emotions of grief and loss. Decorating a wooden or cardboard casket may give those who are having difficulty expressing these feelings a creative and healing outlet.
A funeral reinforces the reality of a death. During a home funeral, people are generally in the presence of a body lying-in-honor. Family members and friends may participate in the preparation of a loved one’s body for viewing. This ritual can assist one to let go of the deceased in a more gentle and less fragmented way. One family member said, “I needed more then my mind to help me understand what was happening, touching his body and using my other senses helped me to move through my grief and grasp the reality of his death.”
Carol and family decorate her husband
Ab’s casket with his favorite expressions.
This art therapy transforms the loss and
Meaningful Celebration of Life
Grief and loss begin as soon as someone has been diagnosed with a life threatening disease and may continue for years. A home funeral supports anticipatory grief through pre-planning and allows more space and time for bereavement. A home or family-directed funeral can empower those who are willing to take charge. Ritual honors an individual, family and community. It can bring meaning to one’s existence and connect the hearts of the participants by universalizing spirituality, faith, cultural beliefs, art, nature or religion.
*Note: All references to a Home Funeral include Family-Directed Funerals. Not everyone dies at home or plans to be brought home for viewing and/or ceremony, yet a home funeral director can still take charge.
Simplified funerals may include completing the paperwork and transporting the deceased directly from a coroner or medical facility morgue to a cemetery or crematorium.
Partial home funerals may include caring for the body with visitation and ceremony in the privacy of a home, then using a mortuary to complete end-of-life documentation and transport the body for ceremony and disposition (cremation or burial).
A funeral includes a method for disposal of the body by earth, fire, water or air (burial, cremation and scattering), transforming it to nature’s elemental form. In a home funeral friends and family often participate in the actual disposition, which can include witnessing the cremation, shoveling earth into the grave or scattering the ashes.
Photos on this site are a sampling from over 150 families participating in their own home or family-directed funeral.