For Families and Friends

Our mission is to empower friends and families to care for their loved ones after death. Here are some excellent resources to help you along the way – and we’re here to support you, too. Read our fundamental premise: that home funerals are family-centered, and that the prime directive of home funeral guidance is that home funerals are created and conducted by and for families. Learn the role of a Home Funeral Guide, including what they legally can and cannot charge for.

Ask an Expert

Several people are moving the bodyQ: Are home funerals safe? Are they legal?

A: Home funerals are safe and legal in all states. Read about the laws, about the states with restrictions (and how you can help change that), and what to do if your rights are challenged in the Law section.

Q: I don’t know where to start in order to have a home funeral!

A: Start with HomeFunerals-101. It’s a comprehensive guide that covers Making Informed Decisions and How to Care for the Body.

Q: What if I want to work with someone, or take some training?

A: Check out our directories. They list teachers, home funeral guides, and other folks in your area who you can reach out to for help.

Articles

Start-Ups Take Rites From the Funeral Home to the Family Home “In the last decade, a small but growing segment of the funeral industry has begun catering Golden toes during home funeral vigilto those who want a more natural, intimate end-of-life experience. Home funeral advocates and practitioners link their movement to the home birth, hospice and environmental movements.” by Claire Martin, New York Times by Claire Martin, New York Times 1-30-2016

What’s a Death Midwife? Inside the Alternative Death Care Movement Char Barrett, progressive funeral director, breaks it down. From funeral cooperatives to green burials, there’s a kinder, gentler, less expensive way to die. By Jennifer Luxton, Yes Magazine 9-3-15

Who Owns the Dead? For decades, Americans have been increasingly distanced from the dead. A small group of women is working to change that. By Libby Copeland, New Republic 6-24-15

amy-cunningham-article-nytimesThe Rise of Back-to-the-Basics Funerals Progressive funeral director Amy Cunningham shows why Baby Boomers Are Drawn to Green and Eco-Friendly Funerals. By Susan Chumsky, The New York Times 3-12-14

Home Funerals Grow As Americans Skip The Mortician For Do-It-Yourself After-Death Care “There are people who get it and think it’s a great idea. And there are people who have been so indoctrinated to think a different way, a less hands-on way, that they can’t imagine anything else,” says Elizabeth Knox, the founder of Crossings, a Maryland-based home funeral resource organization, and the president of the National Home Funeral Alliance by Jaweed Kaleem, Huffington Post 2-21-13

Planning a Home Funeral Home funerals are quickly gaining popularity, as more people seek the comfort of dying at home with their family. We will guide you through what to expect, should you opt for a home funeral. By Seven Ponds.

Stories

It Was as If   handmade wooden casket with handwritten notes“Because this was a home funeral, her body was attended to immediately by her husband, her oldest and best friend, another friend who has assisted with about twenty home funerals, and me, one of her more recent friends.  We represented decades of friendship and love.” By Lucie C. Boucher, Waterville, Maine, January 2017

Touching Death “I had come into the room with a body that had been through so much. She looked beat up, cold, lonely, and pained. Once she was dressed, in her own clothes, she looked so cozy, warm, relaxed, and comfortable. She looked like herself. But it wasn’t her.” by Nora Menkin, The Co-op Funeral Home of People’s Memorial blog 2015

food-at-funeralA Modern Home Funeral vs a Traditional Funeral Home: Two Men, Two Funerals “He lay under fluorescent lights in an expensive open casket, … formaldehyde scenting the air, while every person he ever knew from home and work and school and distant cousins and friends …lined up, took their one minute turn at looking down at his bearded, 33 year-old face, a small smile glued to his lips, then moved on.” by Kateyanne Unullisi, The Emerge Foundation blog 2014

Notes from a Home Funeral “It felt intensely natural to take matters into our own hands this way. American families had conducted their own funerals for hundreds of years. When had our loved ones been taken from us by the institutionalization of death?” by Rebecca Novick, Huffington Post 6-30-14

Photo of home vigil. Loved one sprinkling rose petals over the deceased., Photo courtesy of Olivia Bareham.The Surprising Satisfactions of a Home Funeral “He looked unquestionably dead, but he looked beautiful. Harper and I pine coffin received many compliments on our coffin. Later, when the wine flowed and the kitchen rang with laughter and Bob was alone again, I went in to see him. I held his cool hands and remembered how, not so long ago, those hands were tying fishing lures, strumming a banjo, splitting wood. Those days were over, and that made me sad, but it also felt OK.” by Max Alexander, Smithsonian Magazine 3-2009

Inside A Home Funeral: A Personal Account of a Home Funeral Melissa Roberts Weidman, a hospice writer and administrator, describes the intimate details of preparing a body, as well as the emotions she experiences in the process. By Melissa Roberts Weidman, I’m Sorry to Hear

Videos

Gabriel’s Home Funeral Gabriel Gelbart and his husband, Mitch Metzer were in the process of creating a hospice in Topanga Canyon, Los Angeles, when Gabe died suddenly at 52. Sacred Crossing Guides and over 200 people from the community came together to honor Gabe with a home vigil and funeral on his beloved Anam Cara land. 2014 (5 min.)

Post-death Care at Homemoving Series of videos showing home funeral body care by Canadian Integrative Network for Death Education ad Alternatives 2013

Passing Through Our Hands Home funeral body care demonstration video by Donna Belk and Sandy Booth of TexasHomeFunerals.com 2011 (1 hr .5 min.)

Home Funeral for Infant David and Emma honor their stillborn son Darrius with a home funeral. By Olivia Bareham 2011 (4 min.)

Grandma Lucille’s Movie An Asian American woman describes the home funeral for her mother. “Death be something not to be feared. It’s a lovely way for Mama to be, to have fun and gaity as well as the somber, serious part. A beautiful piece of love.” By Olivia Bareham 2011 (2:40 min.)

Books

Planning Guide and Workbook for Home Funeral Families by Lee Webster and Donna Belk. This home funeral-specific, all-in-one planning guide and workbook ensures that your family will have all the information needed to follow through with your final wishes for a home funeral or vigil. Task lists give everyone something to do and direction on how to do it. Leave a meaningful legacy of trust by writing it all down – and then have the conversation with friends and loved ones.

Undertaken With Love: A home funeral guide for Congregations and CommunitiesCarrying shrouded body to cemetery by Holly Stevens and Donna Belk. While a motivated family can acquire the legal knowledge and practical skills to arrange a home or family-directed funeral, the process is eased considerably when a group assists. Undertaken With Love was created to help families and community care groups learn ways to continue caring for their loved ones all the way to the cemetery or crematory. This manual will teaches how to research state laws and identify legal rights and responsibilities, how to handle, bathe and transport the body, and how to create and sustain an effective community care group.

Building Bridges along the Death Care ContinuumBuilding Bridges Along the Death Care Continuum: Advocating for home funerals to hospices, hospitals, and care facilities by Lee Webster, Lucy Basler, Su Jin Kim. Get inside information, samples and examples of institutional policies, and tools for assisting home funeral advocates in building relationships with local hospices, hospitals, and care facilities to help pave the way for home funerals. This blueprint for change in local agencies and institutions includes in-service presentations, sample letters and policies, handouts, flyers, and more.

Restoring Families’ Rights to Choose: the call for legislation change in America – including What to Do When Families’ Rights Are Challenged and the Quick Guide to Requirements for Home Funerals in Your State by Lee Webster, Josh Slocum. Get tools to help you educate and work with policymakers considering funeral law changes that could impact families, and learn about pertinent funeral laws and the issues around them in this white paper that lays out a vision in clear language for legislative funeral reform in America that empowers families while addressing the needs of government. Plus learn how to navigate and overcome noncompliant institutional policies. What to Do When Home Funeral Rights Are Challenged contains a concise list of potential obstacles and how to anticipate and resolve issues quickly.Home Funeral Ceremonies by Donna Belk and Kateyanne Unullisi

Home Funeral Ceremonies: A Primer to Honor the Dying and the Dead with Reverence, Light-heartedness and Grace   Home Funeral Guides and funeral celebrants, Donna Belk and Kateyanne Unullisi, have midwifed the dying, the dead, and the grieving many times. They know how important and healing it is to intentionally mark a transitional time with ceremony and ritual. This simple yet powerful guidebook will help you with ceremonies to make the journey through a death — from being with the dying person, to preparing the body, vigil, leave-taking, disposition, and beyond. Weaving the practical with poetry and insight, these ceremonies guide with intention and clarity, to bring ritual into the room where death dwells.

Podcasts

Listen | Donna Belk and Kateyanne Unullisi, authors of Home Funeral Ceremonies: A Primer to Honor the Dying and the Dead with Reverence, Light-heartedness and Grace, discuss how profound and empowering creating your own ceremonies can be. By weaving together one or many short ceremonies during a home funeral, you can add a component that is poignant and memorable. See how you can be empowered to create your own ceremonies from these home funeral guides, funeral celebrants, and NHFA board members, 7-10-2016 (1 hr.)

Listen | Doing Death Your Own Way. 24 minutes feature on NPR affiliate discussing this home funeral featuring Holly Pruett and Linda McCormick, 12-2015 (24 min.)

Lee WebsterListen | The ‘Death Positive’ Movement. In this compelling interview, Lee Webster, NHFA President, shares how NHFA supports families with Dr. Karen Wyatt, End of Life University. History of NHFA and home funeral movement + primer on the laws and how-to steps, good broad overview, 9-3-15 (1 hr.)

Listen | Hear Lee Webster, NHFA President, speak with Deanna Cochran of The Journey Radio, about how ‘Home Funerals are Here to Stay,’ 7-22-15 (48 min.)

Listen | Sara Williams talks about home funerals and green burials with Olin Campbell on WBAG 1150, a local station in North Carolina. Discussion of home funeral movement and what a home funeral guide does, legal right to care for our own, funeral costs, environmental impact, green burial, funeral industry and history of embalming, Funeral Rule, 6-26-15 (24 min.)

ListenCaitlin Doughty, Order of the Good Death | A Mortician Talks Openly About Death, And Wants You To, Too
Interview with Caitlin Doughty on Fresh Air with Terry Gros, 8-2-14 (30 min.)

Listen | Eco-Friendly Funerals And Death In America Today. New trends in eco-friendly funerals and burials—how they reflect how we’re dealing with death. Hosted by Jessica Yellin of NPR On Point program WBUR, featuring Amy Cunningham and Esmerelda Kent, 4-10-14

Your Regional Network

Take a look at our Regional Network groups, and find folks near to your location who can help to support you.

Take a Look at these Other Organizations

Funeral Consumers Alliance protecting a consumer’s right to choose a meaningful, dignified, affordable funeral

Funeral Ethics Organization promoting ethical dealings in all death-related transactions, and general consumer information

Green Burial Council encouraging environmentally sustainable deathcare and the use of burial as a new means of protecting natural areas