Did you know you can have your loved one at home for their funeral service? There are natural and arguably more personal alternatives to a funeral home. Sarah Weller started Natural Home Funerals to educate, advocate and officiate home funerals. She’s here to discuss the concept of home funerals and give you insight into why it is a good option to consider for your loved one.
Over to you Sarah!
My grandmother used to lay out those who had died in her village, so perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that this is my work now. As well as being an alternative home funeral director, I am a Soul Midwife end of life companion, celebrant, sound therapist and shamanic practitioner. Culturally we have become disconnected from death as a part of life, preferring to call someone else to take care of our dead. Traditionally, many people died in their own home and were able to be kept at home until the funeral took place. There were people in the community who came and helped with the laying out of the deceased, often in the front room, and friends and family visited and helped each other during this time; it was a community action and a rite of passage. The preparation of the body in terms of gentle washing and dressing was considered an act of love, of compassion and respect. The care over the days towards the funeral itself was part of the grieving process, a chance for the family and friends to start to accept the passing both intellectually and from an emotional perspective.
We have become used to a process where removal of the body by others, follows quickly after death. We may choose to visit the chapel of rest to view the body or may not be with them again until the hearse arrives at the ceremony. Many of us will only ever have experienced a death and its place in our lives, in this way.
However, there is a movement towards recognising the value to those left behind, of returning to a time when our loved ones were cared for within the family at the end of their lives and after death; a reclaiming of our dead. Family led or home funerals are increasing as the myths surrounding the requirements for funerals are explained. It is possible, with care, to carefully wash and keep a body cool, make arrangements for burial or cremation and take your loved one to their final resting place; whether by a traditional funeral director, or as a funeral from home, is your choice.
A home funeral ensures that your loved one is cared for by the people who love them most, whether this is through gentle washing and dressing or just sitting and being with them. It is unhurried and nurturing; spending time at home rather than a chapel of rest allows for natural interaction at any point, day or night. Those family and friends who might not have felt they should arrange a chapel visit, can come to the house and share their condolences in a familiar and comfortable setting.
The arrangements for the cremation or burial are made by the family, along with decisions around types of coffin or shroud; usually simple, they are often decorated by family and friends, coming together to create a meaningful tribute. Activities like this offer valuable sharing time and the chance to process what is happening in a supportive and practical way. If there is a family or friend’s vehicle that is big enough to take the coffin, then this can be used to transport to the funeral. Some people choose to hold a small ceremony at home with the coffin rather than have a bigger gathering, others will choose to have a ceremony at the crematorium or burial ground. Flowers and orders of service can be made at home or by a friend, playlists of music can be put together, again allowing involvement in the process. Choice is key here, these decisions made within the family and carried out by the family are empowering at a time when we often feel as if we have none.
The process of a home funeral often means that the burial or cremation takes place relatively quickly. There are practical considerations as to the length of time the body can be kept and this depends on many variables. Although the time period may be less between death and the funeral, than by most funerals that you may have experienced, the amount of time spent involved with and alongside your loved one will be far in excess of any other funeral option. A home funeral is a concentrated act of love and family support that enriches our lives and forms a valuable part of our grieving process.
As a home funeral advocate, I firmly believe that families with the right advice and preparation, can conduct their own funeral from home. I also know that many people love the idea of the connection and involvement but do not feel able to carry this out alone. For this reason, I have set up Natural Home Funerals in order to offer one to one care, one family at a time, to give them the home based funeral that they would love, with in home support from start to finish.
Photographer Credit: Roshini McCartin