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What is a Home Funeral?

At-home funerals are becoming an increasingly popular option for families who wish to have a more personal and intimate farewell for their loved ones. While traditional funeral homes offer many services and amenities, they can also be expensive and impersonal. Home funerals offer a more affordable and intimate alternative.

What is a home funeral?

A home funeral is a funeral that takes place in the home of the deceased or in a rented space, such as a community hall. The body is usually present at the funeral, and the family may choose to dress and prepare the body themselves. The funeral service is typically led by a close friend or family member, and may be followed by a traditional burial or cremation.

What are the benefits of a home funeral?

There are many benefits to holding a home funeral. First, it can be more affordable than a traditional funeral. Home funerals also offer a more intimate setting for mourners to say goodbye to their loved one. Additionally, families who choose to hold a home funeral often find the experience to be more fulfilling and meaningful.

Another benefit of having a funeral at home is that it can be more environmentally friendly than a traditional funeral. Home funerals typically involve less travel for mourners, and the use of toxic chemicals is often minimized or eliminated altogether.

Additionally, home funerals offer families the opportunity to take an active role in the care of their loved one’s body. This can be a very healing experience for those who are grieving.

What are the disadvantages of a home funeral?

One of the main disadvantages of a home funeral is that it requires more planning and coordination than a traditional funeral. Families who choose to hold a home funeral will need to make arrangements for the transportation of the body, as well as for the care and preparation of the body.

Another disadvantage of home funerals is that they may not be appropriate for all families. Some families may find the idea of having a funeral at home to be too overwhelming or too difficult to coordinate. Additionally, some families may prefer to have a more traditional funeral service in a funeral home.

Lastly, families or individuals may feel emotionally compromised when it comes to properly and safely handling the body of a deceased loved one.

Logistical considerations

There are some logistical considerations you'll need to figure out since the laws regarding home funerals depend on the state you live in. In general, you'll need to do some research (or consult with a funeral director) on the following questions:

  • Who has the right to make funeral arrangements?
  • Does the body have to be embalmed, legally? (This is rarely the case.)
  • How long can the body stay at home?
  • Who files the death certificate?
  • How do I transport the body?
  • Do I need a permit to transport the body? (If so, where do I obtain the permit?)

There are other considerations you may have when holding a home funeral, so it can be a good idea to work closely with a death doula or funeral director in your area to ensure you're covering all your bases.

How do I have an at-home funeral?

To start, you need to identify whether your state is one of the states that lets you have an at-home funeral without hiring a funeral director. At this time, only 9 U.S. states require that you hire a funeral director to provide specific services. These states are: New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Florida, Louisiana, Indiana, Michigan, Connecticut, and Iowa.

If you live in any of those nine states, the law requires that you hire a funeral director to assist with the at-home funeral. Hands-on care is still available to you and your family in these states, but the funeral director will typically be responsible for filing specific paperwork and handling transport of the body.

The next step is to find out how to care for the body. This can involve research and/or contacting a funeral director in a state where home funerals are common. If you are handling the body yourself without the help of a death doula or funeral director, you should make sure you understand the natural processes the body goes through after death and what to expect. Additionally, you'll need to be aware of cooling requirements and proper handling.

Once you understand how to clean, prepare, and handle the body, you should work with your family to figure out how you'd like to proceed. At-home funerals are unique and do not follow a specific set of rules or procedures (other than the proper handling of the body). For example, one family may want a relatively brief funeral that lasts only 30 minutes, after which they arrange body transportation with a funeral director. Alternatively, another family may want to hold a home funeral that lasts 3 days and only use the services of a death doula. You'll need to work with your family to identify what kind of services you want and what actions you'd like to take.

Once you've determined the kind of services you'd like to hold and the timing of said services, you should consider how you're going to notify friends and family of the services. Setting up a memorial website is an easy way to keep friends and family informed on any service information.

After the services have been held, you'll need to transport the body (or have a funeral director transport the body) to its final resting place. If you're opting for a cremation, this would involve transporting the body to the crematory.

If you're planning a funeral, starting a free memorial website on Ever Loved is an excellent place to start.

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Last updated June 8, 2022
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