NH Funeral Resources, Education & Advocacy
PO Box 456, Holderness NH 03245   603.236.9495
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Home Funeral How-to
Doing it Your Way: Home Funerals
How many times have you heard someone say,                                                                                                                                                     
“When I die, just bury me in a plain pine box…                                                                                                                                                       
have a big party… bury me in the back forty”?                                                                                                                                                         
And when it comes time, how often                                                                                                                                                                       
has the family followed through? 

More families are respecting those sentiments.                                                                                                                                                       
The home funeral movement is gaining momentum                                                                                                                                         
throughout the country, validating the needs of families                                                                                                                                         
to honor their loved ones in ways that respect their unique                                                                                                                             
desires for eco-friendly, family-centered, and financially                                                                                                                         
responsible after death care. 

It’s not just the baby boomers who want to do things their way, 
though the folks who brought you natural childbirth are now 
approaching the end of their own and their parents’ lives with 
a traditional, no-nonsense, back-to-nature ethic. 

It wasn’t that long ago family members were laid out in a cooled parlor, visited by friends and community members until it was time for burial. It wasn’t until the Civil War, when soldiers were sent home crudely embalmed by field surgeons, that a cultural shift toward outsourcing death care to professionals began. Gentrification—aspiring to the habits and mores of the affluent—increased the professionalization of after-death care throughout the turn of the century, gradually creating what today is a $20 billion industry.

Modern funerals now cost an average of $8,343 (National Funeral Directors Association, 2012), not counting cremation or burial plots, opening and closing fees, memorials, flowers, obituaries and other items we have come to believe are necessary to show our love. 

The high cost of modern funerals is only one reason to consider alternatives. Studies show that families and friends, children especially, accept death more readily when they participate in the process of saying goodbye to a loved one in the home at their own pace. Family funerals require shouldering responsibilities and grief, resulting in a shared sense of community and healing.

Under New Hampshire law, along with every other state, families may conduct a home funeral and home vigil, regardless of whether they are compelled to hire a professional for some aspect or not. Embalming is not legally required in any state, and only two states have laws requiring embalming to leave the state (AL, AK).

Concerns about handling the practical aspects —                                                                                                                                               
filing documents, caring for the body, making the arrangements,                                                                                                                       
legal requirements — can be addressed by following the documents:

As home funeral guides, we are available to answer any questions you
may have. For faith communities who are interested in providing                                                                                                                   
after-death care to fellow congregants, Undertaken With Love (available on Amazon) was                                                                                             designed as a how-to manual. NHFREA specializes in providing                                                                                                         
demonstrations and workshops to teach members of all faiths to care for their own.

Having a home funeral does not mean you have to do everything. Blended funerals, 
where a professional is hired for certain aspects such as filing paperwork or transportation, 
may provide the peace of mind needed while keeping or bringing a loved one home for 
visitation, time to gather family and friends, or shelter for a mandatory waiting period 
of 48 hours when cremating.

So the next time someone makes mention of their last wishes… tell them you’re taking notes.

A willing guinea pig during a body care demonstration