How did the NHFA come into being?
A group of home funeral guides from all over the US gathered to form an organization to support home funerals and those who guided families through them. An annual conference was established, attracting people involved after-death care from all walks of life. Now in its fifth year, the NHFA is the leading body of home after-death care support and education in the country.
Who are the members of the NHFA?
Over 400 members of the NHFA currently come from 43 states, 5 provinces, and 6 countries. While more than half describe themselves as home funeral guides, more than two thirds also identify themselves as professionals in varied fields, including licensed funeral directors, ordained ministers, teachers and educators, body workers, licensed social workers, registered nurses, therapists and counselors, directors of nonprofits, attorneys and physicians. Many have a connection to hospice as professionals or volunteers, and others indicate that they are or have been primary caregivers.
What are the primary goals of the NHFA?
The NHFA seeks to empower families to care for their own dead by providing educational opportunities and connections to resources that promote environmentally sound and culturally nurturing death practices. Our website acts as a central hub of home funeral information, including directories for where to find a speaker, a home funeral education program, a home-funeral-friendly funeral director, celebrants and clergy, and groups who will help families when needed. Our goal is to educate the public to their choices and provide clear information.
Are home funerals legal?
Yes. In every state and province, it is legal for families to bring or keep their loved one home until time of disposition. In 9 states, a funeral director may need to be involved in some capacity, but this does not hinder the ability to have a home funeral.
What are the costs?
The average professionally-directed funeral now costs $7,755, without casket, vault, cremation or burial costs included. A home funeral costs the price of ice, if used, copies of the death certificate as desired, gas to transport the body, and a rigid container, such as a cardboard box or pine casket, usually totaling under $200. Burial and cremation costs whatever the going rate is in your cemetery or facility.
Are home funerals safe?
Yes. Dead bodies do not pose an increased health risk any more than when they were alive. With appropriate hygiene and cooling techniques, it is perfectly safe to keep a loved one home for several days. Embalming itself poses more than an 8 times greater risk to embalmers of contracting leukemia than the general population. In fact, bodies with infectious diseases are not usually candidates for embalming and are simply kept cool in a professional setting if not at home.
What are the benefits of home funerals?
The many significant benefits are environmental, financial, therapeutic, and spiritual. Families who choose to care for their own report a sense of completion, a feeling of having done their best for those they love, and a stronger connection to their friends and family and community. Having something meaningful to do to help others through a crisis or sorrowful time is usually empowering for all involved.
Where can I learn more?
Aside from combing our website, exploring our extensive links, and joining our monthly free teleconferences, we encourage you to contact us directly by going to the About Us page for contact info.
If you are a reporter seeking to interview or get connections, contact Lee Webster at 603.236.9495 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NHFA in the News
Please send your home funeral news stories to email@example.com
“If you’re caring for those people you love in your home and don’t push them away in some institution, the natural flow of things is to care for them after they passed,” says Heidi Boucher. A Passage to India – Life, Death and the Healing Power of Ritual by Matt Perry, The California Health Report January 6, 2014
"A lot of people don't want to do anything with touching dead bodies," says Beth Knox. "They consider it creepy. But it can actually be the first step to healing and acceptance of death. Slowing down the process allows all involved to absorb the loss at their own pace. It's an organic emotional and spiritual healing not available from limited calling hours at a remote location.” Home Funeral Grow As Americans Skip the Mortician For Do-It-Yourself After-Death Care by Jaweed Kaleem, Huffington Post January 25, 2013
“The movement toward at-home births has been gaining momentum for years, but what about at-home funerals? There’s a small but growing movement to educate people that they can take care of a loved one at home after death, instead of using a funeral home.” For Some, At-Home Funerals Offer Last Chance for Connection, WGBH News, December 4, 2013
“As a measure of how DIY death has flourished…ten years ago there were a handful of (mostly women) around the country helping families learn about home funerals. Now there’s a nationwide organization, the National Home Funeral Alliance, with about 300 members, a code of ethics and rules governing their practices…” Do-It-Yourself Deaths, At-Home Funerals, CommonHealth, WBUR, November 22, 2013
“My work as a death midwife began as a home funeral guide, one who educates and supports families in caring for their own dead, at home. Most people don’t realize that they have the right to act as the funeral director for their loved one after they die. They don’t have to hire a funeral director. They can care for the body of their loved one at home and hold a wake, or vigil, for up to three or four days until burial or cremation. I guide families in how to prepare the bodyundefinedbathing, anointing, dressing and creating a sacred space to lay the body “in honor” in the home for viewing.” Rev. Olivia Rose Bareham | Death Midwife
The Moon Magazine, November 7, 2013
“Home funerals are on the rise all over the country, and home funeral guides are leading the way. But what is a “home funeral” and what is a “home funeral guide?” I’m Sorry to Hear spoke with National Home Funeral Alliance Vice President and Home Funeral Guide, Lee Webster, to get answers to some of the biggest questions on the topic of home funerals.” The Home Funeral Trend: What Are Home Funerals and What You Need to Know I’m Sorry to Hear, April 9, 2013
“But more and more often, Americans are deciding to do things differently. After death, but before the final goodbye, they are handling those final moments with their loved ones' bodies by themselves, with love and care in their own homes.” Bringing Out the Dead At Home, The Takeaway, January 20, 2013
Glossary of Home
Home Funeral — family or community-directed after death care; may occur in home or other setting; may or may not include professional assistance.
Home Funeral Guide — person trained to advise and educate others to perform after-death care. Some HFGs also tend to the dying prior to and after death. Other terms used: Death Midwife, Death Doula.
Community Care Group — groups of individuals trained in after-death care within spiritual or church communities or threshold circles.
Home Burial — body burial on private family property.
Green or Natural Burial — body burial in a recognized natural burial ground or cemetery that allows decomposition processes to occur naturally; eschews embalming fluid, concrete or plastic vaults, rainforest wood and metal caskets, pesticide or herbicide use.
Green Funeral — referring to environmentally-responsible practices employed in after-death care, including organic, noninvasive preservation techniques; use of locally sourced materials such as native pine caskets made by regional craftspeople; wildflowers in season rather than hothouse flowers; natural burial, and more.