What Makes a Home Funeral

Guest Blog Post by Cassandra Yonder, a home funeral guide of Beyond Yonder Death Midwifery.

In general, a home funeral is family or community centered home-based post deathcare. Home funeral guides, educators and advocates seek to empower communities to reclaim deathcare, which doesn't necessarily entail doing everything ourselves but rather embracing the idea that we are at the center of our own experience. Bringing death back home may refer in a literal sense to hands-on body care at the dwelling place of the person who died, or it may simply refer to families realizing that they have the legal right as well as the cultural privilege to be in control of the care loved ones receive when they have died and to procure only those services that feel right within their unique communities.

Many families don't realize that they have the choice to seek assistance from others: soul midwives who take part in active dying; craftspeople who make caskets, shrouds or urns, independent transport companies who move human remains; ceremonialists who conduct private services and memorialists who help us to remember our dead in a meaningful way. Home funeral guides help families to coordinate the services they need and teach them how to provide the care they are willing to undertake on their own.

Home funerals happen when families understand their choices and when community members are willing to be present and take on aspects of care as they are able to. It is the opposite of calling a funeral home at the time of death with the assumption that they will handle everything. It involves becoming familiar with the post deathcare wishes of the deceased. In other words, home funerals require cooperation and participation. It is this very visceral involvement and cooperative problem solving that helps to make meaning of the death, which has occurred, and in which the potential therapeutic benefits of home funerals can be found.

Many families choose to have home funerals for the potential psychological, emotional and social benefits, and perhaps because they feel that providing such care for their loved ones is too personal or sacred to be handled by strangers. Others choose home funerals because they tend to be less expensive and more environmentally sensitive than professional funeral services. Whatever the reasons, some families elect to take on some aspects of caring for their own dead. Regardless of how much or how little care families may be prepared to provide, the willingness to engage and direct the process is what makes a home funeral.


Photo credit: Luminous Blue