What is a home funeral?
A home funeral is what used to be called “a funeral,” since all funerals took place in the family home. Nowadays it means choosing to keep a body at home after death, as opposed to having the body immediately picked up by a funeral home. It is a safe and legal choice for a family to make!
What is a home funeral like?
Beyond keeping the body at home, a home funeral can be whatever is comfortable for you and your family. We’ve seen home funerals that are a family keeping mom at home for several hours in order to sit with her body. We’ve seen home funerals that are elaborate, intimate ceremonies that last three days. Don’t feel pressure to conform to any idea of a home funeral that isn’t exactly what brings you comfort and feels safe.
If you’re more a film type, A Family Undertaking is one of the first documentary pieces made about the subject, and is still the gold standard.
What are the legal requirements for a home funeral?
This depends on where you live, but it is important to start with the assumption that home funerals are legal basically everywhere.
Now, an important caveat is that each US state (for instance) has different laws – some states require you to hire a funeral director to file a death certificate or to transport a body. This won’t effect the keeping the body at home part, but the funeral director will need to be involved in the process.
Here’s a video I made to help you know what your rights to keep the body at home or at a funeral home, and also know how to work WITH a funeral home to achieve your goals.
To find out what the home funeral requirements are where you live, you can find more detailed information here.
And if you’re interested in the requirements around embalming, burial, and cremation, read your consumer rights listed by state.
How do I arrange for a home funeral?
Although much of the planning for the funeral itself will reflect what is meaningful to you and your loved ones, there are practical issues you’ll want to prepare for like how to care for a body, or arranging transportation. A helpful step-by-step guide to all aspects of planning a home funeral can be found here.
Additional information about everything from how to care for and prepare a body, to dressing a body are outlined here, on the National Home Funeral Alliance website.
What should you do if your home funeral rights are challenged?
We don’t find that hospice nurses, hospital staff, and funeral directors are maliciously giving misinformation to families. Often, they simply don’t know the laws and rights regarding home funerals and keeping a body at home. Don’t let someone in a position of authority tell you you can’t keep a loved one at home.
Our friends at the National Home Funeral Alliance have created some excellent resources to help you if you feel your rights are being obstructed. Begin here: What should you do if your home funeral rights are challenged?
How hospital staff can help families make their way through the body release process after a death.
How hospices can help support home funeral families.
Resources for Law Enforcement agencies.
Do you have to hire a death doula/midwife to have a home funeral?
It would be wonderful if families could do absolutely everything themselves, from body care to the burial or cremation, but that’s not always possible. In some places, a licensed funeral director will have to be a part of the process.
A home funeral guide (also known as a doula or midwife) is never required, although if your family is looking for help and advice through the death, hiring a guide might be a good choice for your family.