Home Funerals Grow As Americans Skip The Mortician For Do-It-Yourself After-Death Care

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Each year, 2.5 million Americans die. For the majority, about 70 percent, deaths happen in a hospital, nursing home or long-term care facility. What happens afterwards is nearly always the same, with few exceptions for religious traditions: A doctor or nurse will sign a death certificate and the body will be whisked to the funeral home, where it's washed, embalmed, dressed, and prepared for a viewing and burial. A family usually sees the dead only a few times: when they die, if there's an open-casket viewing and in the rare case when a casket is opened during burial.

But a small and growing group of Americans are returning to a more hands-on, no-frills experience of death. In the world of "do it yourself" funerals, freezer packs are used in lieu of embalming, unvarnished wooden boxes replace ornate caskets, viewings are in living rooms and, in some cases, burials happen in backyards.

Nobody keeps track of the number of home funerals and advocacy groups, but home funeral organizations have won battles in recent years in states such as Minnesota and Utah that have attempted to ban the practice. Most states have nearly eliminated any requirements that professionals play a role in funerals. It's now legal in all but eight states to care for one's own after death. And the growth of community-based, nonprofit home funeral groups and burial grounds that are friendly to the cause point to an increasing demand.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchPsychologyReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spending* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

Posted January 27, 2013 at 2:28 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Br. Michael wrote:

That’s the way it used to be.

January 27, 7:51 pm | [comment link]
2. Cennydd13 wrote:

Morticians and cemeteries, yes, but I am a firm believer that the proper place for a Christian’s funeral is his or her parish church.  No fancy funeral home services with all of the expense involved, and my wife and I have directed that this will not be the case for us when our time comes.

January 27, 9:52 pm | [comment link]
3. Utah Benjamin wrote:

RE Cennydd13’s comment: Even with the nicest (and most expensive) funeral home in town, I find when I officiate a funeral or memorial service at a funeral home, the environment almost seems…tacky.

January 27, 11:26 pm | [comment link]
4. Cennydd13 wrote:

It’s what I call a business offering quasi-religious trappings to the bereaved for their benefit in a quasi-religious setting.

January 28, 4:02 pm | [comment link]
Registered members must log in to comment.

Next entry (above): (TLS) Freya Johnston reviews three recent historical books on Suicide

Previous entry (below): (TNR) Judith Shulventz—How Older Parenthood Will Upend American Society

Return to blog homepage

Return to Mobile view (headlines)