What on Earth is a Home Funeral?
“Whether in family, or larger community, care of our dead at home is an intimate, transformative experience… Home funeral families don’t fear what they will find when nature marches on after death: they witness it, care for it, make peace with it and find meaning in it.”
Lee Webster – “Undertaken with Love.”
Our grandparents and maybe even parents will remember how their family members spent their last years at home in the family, looked after by family members through to their death and then afterwards. The front parlour was often the place where someone was laid out after they had died and stayed there until taken directly to the funeral service in the local church.
We have become more disconnected from death in modern society and many adults have never seen a dead person and so their images are only from films; not the most reliable source of death education!
Most people express a wish to die at home but this is no longer the norm. However, the care following the death, vigiling, family and community involvement and funeral arrangements can all take place at home, even if the death has occurred elsewhere.
The Home Funeral Movement looks to reclaim our connection, by empowering families and their wider community of friends and neighbours, to care for loved ones at home following their death. This close relationship means that the grief processing can begin to work out over this period through to the funeral rather than a removal and then a limbo period before the funeral service. Some find it to be an uncomfortable experience to attend a chapel of rest to spend time with their loved one, with its unfamiliar setting and time limits. At home, it is just part of life that is continuing around the family and allows for natural expression and conversation around the loved one. Some people are uncomfortable at the idea that their loved one will be one of a number in funeral premises.
A home funeral offers the opportunity for a loved one to be kept and cared for within the home environment rather than automatically arranging their removal to a funeral director’s premises after death. I recognise that families may wish for this personal care for their loved one but the home setting may not be appropriate. To that end, I have a small, private funeral premises- The Potager where the same service can be offered and families are able to help care for and spend time together.
As part of the process of a funeral from home, families can create items such as the nameplate, create a photo collage or even decorate a plain wood or cardboard coffin together. Conversations flow more easily and friends and neighbours visit to offer help or just pay their respects in the place that they know and say goodbye in their own time. There can be a service at a church or ceremony at any location; some people choose to have a family ceremony at home and then the body of their loved one is taken for cremation or burial. The choice is entirely for the family to make.
A home funeral is legal – the law does not require the use of a funeral director or that a coffin or hearse is used. The law only requires that the death is registered within 5 days, a dead body is not exposed near a public highway as this would outrage public decency and that the body is cremated, buried or preserved.
The benefits of funerals from home:
Care of the loved one by those who care most.
Time to come to terms with the death rather than quick removal.
Opportunity to friends and family to visit in familiar surroundings and spend time with their loved one.
The cost of a home funeral may be less than using a funeral director.
The whole process is more empowering and meaningful for the family and community who have worked together to produce a home funeral rather than delegating to a firm.
The challenges of carrying out a funeral from home:
Practical considerations of bringing the body home if the loved one died elsewhere.
Practical considerations of cleaning the body and keeping the body cool.
Ordering a coffin or shroud if using.
Obtaining and completing the requisite paperwork for cremation or burial.
Transporting to the place of cremation or burial.
Challenges are of course only that and can be overcome with education and support. Home Funeral Guides can advise and offer support.
“Someone will wash the body. Someone will dress the body. Someone will close the eyes for the final time. Someone will. At the critical moment of death, someone will perform these tasks for the person whom we have loved and cared for all our lives. Why would we give those meaningful rituals away to a stranger? Why do we give away the best stuff?
We need not let fear of the unknown keep us from what often turns out to be one of life's richest moments. We can plan, we can talk to each other, we can find out what options we have. In the end, we can have what we need.” Anne O'Connor
As a Home Funeral Advocate and Guide, I offer information sessions, home funeral training for those who would like to be able to care for a family member with a death that may be expected for perhaps an elderly parent or a partner or spouse with a terminal illness and support and guidance for those who then go ahead to carry out a home funeral themselves.
Natural Home Funerals came about because of a number of people who, on learning about what a home funeral offers, love the idea but do not feel able to carry it out themselves. I then provide an alternative funeral offering of working one to one with the loved one, one family at a time, to carry out the care and all the arrangements, on their behalf in their home – a completely bespoke and personal service. I also offer this personal care and arrangements in a one to one relationship at my bespoke premises, The Potager, if for whatever reason, the family home is not suitable. The care is the same, the family involvement as they wish, is the same – it is just the location that differs.
Do please get in touch if I can be of any help. If you would like to learn how to care for the body, complete the paperwork and make arrangements for a home funeral, then I shall be running workshops. Dates will be found on my website and Facebook page.
Tel: 07704 440107