I’ve been enamoured of home funerals for several years now, since hearing a podcast about one (and, for the life of me, I can’t recall which one—so please send me your home-funeral podcast episode recommendations). Although it seems common for people to wish to die at home, when I’ve shared my desire for a home funeral, I’ve been met with discomfort and even disdain.
Despite that, as explained on The Order of the Good Death, a “home funeral is what used to be called a ‘funeral’,” the prospect of taking a body home after death, or keeping it there, now seems morbid. Perhaps it’s uncomfortable to consider hosting a body or funeral at home because end-of-life has, for the most part been relegated to healthcare contexts, even amid the common wish to die at home. In Canada, for example, nearly 60% of deaths since 2015 took place in hospital.
Green burials and home funerals
A home funeral can be many things—many of which I plan to document as part of client support—but it’s worth acknowledging their value as a precursor to green burial. For one, as explained in a 2019 Toronto Star article, home funerals commonly eschew embalming, a common process for preserving bodies for funerary purposes using environmentally-damaging chemicals. For another, those who opt for home funerals—still an unconventional choice in the twenty-first century—may also explore environmentally safer alternatives to cremation.
Why choose a home funeral?
I find home funerals heartening for numerous reasons, including the comfort and safety I associate with home as a sacred space for holding emotions like sadness or loss. I also feel more like myself at home—and I’m certain it’s because we do so much living at home those so many of us wish to die there as well (albeit under expert supervision, where possible). It’s just as reassuring to think that these historically longstanding ceremonies might also pave a powerful way forward for green burial.