What's a Home Funeral? Movement, Plans + Tips

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Did you know you don’t need to use a funeral home when a loved one dies? Most states no longer require professionals to arrange funeral services. So, now, some people are doing away with the funeral home and handling a loved one’s passing as they see fit - with a home funeral.

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Maybe you’ve heard about this trend. Maybe you also have some questions. Perhaps you’re even considering planning a home funeral in the future. At the very least, you might attend one.

What Is a Home Funeral?

As the name implies, a home funeral is a funeral service that takes place in your own home. However, that’s not the only factor that distinguishes home funerals from traditional services.

Many home funerals involve loved ones handling some or all of the tasks that a mortician or funeral director would otherwise do. These might include preparing the body for burial and hosting a viewing.

That said, you should keep in mind that the nature of a home funeral varies on a case-by-case basis. Some families choose to transport the body to a cemetery for burial, while others actually conduct the burials in their own backyards. 

Some plan variations on traditional funeral services, while others opt to bury their loved ones very shortly after they pass. 

Home funeral vs. funeral home

When you need to plan a funeral for a loved one (or even for yourself), you have to make some tough decisions. Right now, you might wonder if a home funeral is the right option.

But, most people struggle when making these types of choices. Luckily, deciding between a home funeral or a funeral home service becomes much easier when you understand the key differences between the two.

Responsibility

Planning and conducting a home funeral certainly involves more responsibility than allowing a funeral director to do all the work.

People who choose home funerals often need to select and purchase their own caskets. If they decide to host a viewing, funeral ceremony, or both, they need to prepare a space. They also need to make arrangements for transporting the body to the burial site.

Consider this when weighing your options. After a loved one passes, you might not want to handle all those responsibilities. But, the added responsibility also allows for added freedom. Home funerals do offer key benefits that appeal to some people.

For example, in many cases, home funerals give loved ones the opportunity to spend more time with the body of the recently deceased. They also allow loved ones to exercise more control over the environment where a viewing or ceremony takes place—you can only decorate and customize a funeral home so much.

If you care about making sure all aspects of a funeral reflect the personality and life of the person who has died, keep this in mind.

Costs and assistance

Home funerals also tend to cost much less than other options. Many people choose home funerals for this very reason. When a loved one passes, worrying about money is the last thing you should do. Handling the funeral in your own home will help you avoid this by greatly reducing costs.

It’s worth noting that a home funeral still gives you the option to hire helpers when you need them. While you might not rely on a funeral home, that doesn’t mean you have to take care of everything yourself. 

Some professionals now serve as “home death-care guides.” They travel to people’s homes to help them plan home funerals. This ensures they have expert guidance when they don’t know how to handle a given task.

Additionally, you can ask a religious figure to perform a ceremony in your own home if you still wish to include a religious service. 

Personal reasons

You should also reflect on your own personal reasons for considering a home funeral in the first place.

For instance, people often decide to perform home funerals because they spent a long time caring for an ill loved one in their own home. They don’t like the idea of spending so much time caring for them, only for a funeral director to suddenly show up and take over when they die. They instead see caring for a loved one at home after their death as a natural extension of the way they cared for them in life.

That’s key—this is a personal choice. By keeping logistics and costs in mind and honestly ask yourself what will be meaningful for the deceased, you’ll be more likely to make the right choice. 

ยป MORE: Guide your loved one through a difficult loss one step at a time. Here's your complete checklist.

 

What to Consider When Planning a Home Funeral 

Again, although you can enlist helpers, choosing a home funeral does involve some degree of responsibility. You have to consider a range of key factors to plan this type of ceremony. 

Preparing for a ceremony or viewing

Preparing the body properly requires planning ahead. This experience will go much more smoothly if you ask yourself a few questions. Who will be responsible for preparing the body? Will they be emotionally ready to do so when the time comes? What type of casket will you use? How will we dress the body? Will we host a viewing? If so, where will we host it? Will we organize a repast after a funeral?

Answering some of these questions may feel difficult at times. But, if you’re set on the idea of a home funeral, you’ll be much happier in the long run if you’re prepared.

Once you answer those questions, you need to make the necessary arrangements. This may involve ordering a casket, preparing an appropriate space for a viewing, and making sure you’re ready to keep a body in proper viewing condition before a burial.

Some people actually prepare ice packs and cool rooms when they expect a loved one is going to pass soon. The ice and cold environment help to preserve the body’s condition.

Most importantly, ask for help when you need it. There’s a good chance you simply don’t know how to handle all the responsibilities involved in conducting a home funeral. You also don’t need to, as long as you feel comfortable asking for assistance.

Funeral traditions

Even if you’re not opting for a traditional funeral, you don’t need to do away with all funeral traditions. Along with asking yourself practical questions, you should prepare by asking some personal ones.

Think about how you’ll celebrate the life of a loved one who died during a viewing or ceremony. Funeral homes often help with this by providing photo displays, slideshows, and more. You’ll need to prepare these tributes yourself if you opt for a home funeral.

Will the service include any funeral songs? If so, how and where will they be performed? Can anyone choose to sing a funeral song, or are you limiting the service to a few singers? What about readings? Will you also provide guests with ways they can personally memorialize a loved one, such as a scrapbook anyone can add pictures to?

Once again, ask yourself these questions ahead of time, and you’ll find that planning a home funeral is much easier than it might seem.

Etiquette Tips for Attending a Home Funeral

Regardless of whether you’ll ever plan a home funeral, you may attend one in the future. Remember these etiquette tips if you do:

Dress appropriately

Sometimes, people ask guests to wear specific types of clothing to home funerals. For example, if a family is religious, they might request that guests wear religious garments.

You can always check with the people hosting the funeral if you believe they would have such preferences. Otherwise, adhere to traditional funeral attire. Dress conservatively and avoid bright colors.

Offer help

If someone invites you to a home funeral, ask ahead of time if there is any way you can help. Simply providing food can make a big difference. Because funeral directors aren’t taking care of the major responsibilities and tasks, offering help is a good way to show your support.

Arrive on time

Conducting a home funeral is hard work for obvious reasons. People mourning a loved one and organizing a service in their own home shouldn’t need to worry about coordinating with guests all day long.

Show up on time, make sure you definitely know how to find the home beforehand, and if possible, looking into parking options.

Give compliments (delicately) 

A home funeral will usually be a solemn affair. For the most part, when speaking to those conducting one, you should offer your condolences.

That said, there is room for gentle positivity as well. A person organizing a home funeral wants to do right by their loved ones. Letting them know they have will mean a lot right now.

Prepare children

It’s always smart to prepare young children for a funeral service. However, some children naturally understand that attending a traditional funeral requires good behavior. That might not be the case at a home funeral.

The presence of familiar relatives and friends in a familiar home can make them feel as though they’re attending a family party. Make sure they understand that isn’t the case.

Deciding on and planning for a home funeral involves a lot of responsibility, but the freedom to honor someone who has passed in your own way could be worth it. Think about how you or a loved one wants to be remembered, what’s best for close friends and family, budget, logistics, and any added stress before you decide. 

Home Funerals: An Increasingly Popular Option

Deciding on and planning for a home funeral involves a lot of responsibility, but the freedom to honor someone who has passed in your own way could be worth it. Think about how you or a loved one wants to be remembered, what’s best for close friends and family, budget, logistics, and any added stress before you decide.

Post-planning tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, you have more than just the funeral to think about. Handling their unfinished business can be overwhelming without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.


Sources

  1. Jones, Maggie. “The Movement to Bring Death Closer.” The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times, 19 December 2019. 
  2. Kaleen, Jaweed. “Home Funerals Grow As Americans Skip The Mortician For Do-It-Yourself After-Death Care.” HuffPost, Verizon Media, 6 December 2017.
  3. Parafiniuk-Talesnick, Tatiana. “When her 4-year-old son died, she wanted a home funeral. A professional didn't know that was possible.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, LLC, 5 December 2019.

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