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How to Have a Home Funeral

Besides being a less expensive option, handling a loved one's funeral at home can be an intimate, therapeutic way to say good-bye. Here are the basics.


  • Step 1: Decide if it's right for you Decide if a home funeral is for you. Consider whether you want to be so closely involved with preparing the funeral of a loved one. Then, gauge whether you have the support of friends and family; a home funeral is a group effort.
  • Step 2: Research laws before the death Know the laws. Most states require a death certificate, a permit to transport the body, and that the body be buried, cremated, or donated to science. Contact local authorities to learn about the laws in your area.
  • TIP: Enlist a death midwife to coach you through the process of a home funeral.
  • Step 3: Make arrangements Arrange for the casket and final resting place of the deceased. Order a casket, or build it by hand. Contact a cemetery about a burial plot or cremation services. Then, arrange for transport.
  • TIP: If you want to bury your loved one on family property, check with local authorities to see if it's legal.
  • Step 4: Wash and dress the body Have between two and six people wash and dress the body within a few hours of death, before rigor mortis sets in. Close the eyes and lay an eye pillow on them for a few hours to keep the eyelids shut. If the mouth drops open, wrap a cotton bandana under the chin and tie it at the top of the head.
  • Step 5: Keep the body cool Keep the body cool with pieces of a 20- to 30-pound block of dry ice placed in bags under the torso. Replace the dry ice as needed. The body can be kept at home for two to three days at a temperature of 60 to 75 degrees with little or no decomposition.
  • Step 6: Organize a wake Organize a viewing, wake, or funeral at the home according to the family's wishes. Have a religious figure, friend, or family member officiate the ceremony.
  • TIP: Personalize the ceremony by setting up pictures and other mementos that will celebrate the life of the departed.
  • Step 7: Transport the body Transfer the body along with any personal items to the casket, and transport the body to the burial site.
  • Step 8: Bury the body Bury the deceased or inter the ashes after cremation. Now you can come to terms with a loved one's death, knowing they were taken to their final resting place by those they loved.
  • FACT: The average mortuary funeral service costs $6,000, while a home funeral costs between $1,000 and $2,000.

You Will Need

  • Friends and family
  • Knowledge of local laws
  • Dry ice
  • A casket
  • A vehicle to transport the casket
  • A final resting place
  • A death midwife (optional)

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