Growing number of people opting for home funerals

Monday, January 28th, 2013 By

Funeral

A small but growing number of people are opting for home funerals, as was done in the past. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Believe it or not, death is a business and a big one at that, given that death is the only constant aside from taxes and to some, the preferable of the two. Reports have been emerging for several years that a small number of people are opting for home funerals for a number of reasons.

Home funerals were formerly the norm

Some might think the idea of home funerals, displaying the deceased for loved ones and friends to say goodbye but in the home, is a bit creepy. Some might start thinking of the movie “Psycho,” where serial killer Norman Bates keeps his mother’s remains in a chair.

However, as the Huffington Post points out, as do articles from Smithsonian magazine and MSNBC, home funerals were previously the norm. It was for most of human history, in fact. Up until the last two centuries, most births and deaths took place in the home.

There are a variety of reasons for doing so. For some, it’s much more personal and intimate way of parting with loved ones. For others it’s down to cost savings and so on.

A growing trend

Statistics aren’t really kept, so numbers aren’t available, but it appears to be a grass-roots movement that didn’t really manifest until the last couple decades.

According to an NPR article from the year 2000, an uptick in home funerals began in the 1990s. Periodic coverage crops up, such as articles from the then-MSNBC in 2007, Smithsonian magazine and the New York Times in 2009 and a Huffington Post article dated Jan. 25, 2013.

Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska and New York mandate a funeral director be involved in some way, according to the New York Times. Home funerals can take place in those states, but a death professional, as it were, must be involved at some point.

The NYT also reports some people offer services for home funerals, called “death midwives.” The Home Funeral Directory, a site for such practitioners, reported the number of them had grown from 2 around 2000 to at least 45 by 2009. Services run from $200 to more than $3,000, if travel is required.

Usually permits are required for transporting the deceased and not all states allow home burial. Many opt for cremation.

Variety of reasons

Again, there are a variety of motives for home funerals. Cost is one; the average cost of a funeral, according to the Huffington Post, is $6,560. Max Alexander, writing in Smithsonian magazine, paid only a few hundred dollars for the home funeral and cremation of his father-in-law. His father’s funeral cost nearly $12,000, including burial, which isn’t included in most funeral costs. A lot of people end up needing loans to cover it, especially if the deceased lacked life insurance.

Others prefer home funerals for a more touching and personable good-bye to their loved ones. NPR quoted several people as such, as did MSNBC and the New York Times. Max Alexander echoed that sentiment, as did Alison and Doug Kirk, a couple interviewed by the Huffington Post, whose daughter succumbed to Niemann-Pick disease and held services at home.

Sources

Huffington Post

Smithsonian

MSNBC

 

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/21/us/21funeral.html?_r=0

NPR: http://www.npr.org/programs/death/971208.death.html

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