Do it yourself funerals? What do you think?

I have been hearing about Home Funerals.  Thought it was time to do some more research. I found Donna Belk online, and decided to give her a call.

Home funerals?

Donna Belk is from the big state of Texas.  Donna is not only a Home Funeral Guide, but she offers workshops to educate people to do Home Funerals, and to be a Home Funeral Guide.

What people choose Home Funerals?

The majority of Donna’s clients are 50+ years old, female and white.

Why do people choose Home Funerals?

Most clients are motivated to have a Home Funeral after they attend a funeral that they felt was horrible.  Most are interested in simple and environmentally friendly.  And many combine a Home Funeral with a Green Burial.

When people do a Home Funeral, do they use the services of a Funeral Home at all?

Most of Donna’s clients use a blended approach. They delegate to the Funeral Director the jobs that they do not want to do, or for whatever reason are unable to do. Many care for the person at home through the dying and then keep the body at home until time of burial.

How are Home Funeral Guides being received by the Funeral Professionals?

Initially Donna felt that Funeral Directors were worried that Home Funeral Guides might take business from them, but now they figure that they too can offer Home Funeral Guides.

My impression is that the Home Funeral Guide movement is much like the hospice movement.  They have a grass roots approach, and a goals to better meet the needs of the individual who is dying or who has died and their loved ones.

What are your thoughts?

4 thoughts on “Do it yourself funerals? What do you think?

  1. I fully support people caring for their own dead (post-death care). Not only is it probably more economical and ecological, but it allows the family/friends to go through layers of the grieving process that just aren’t possible when the body is whisked away immediately after death (and in modern culture, never seen again — as we are having fewer ‘open casket’ funerals, or using cremation). My only issue with the concept of Home Funeral Guides is that they — by definition (although not always by fact) — are only caring for the Death Journeyer and their family/friends post-death: as with a funeral director, they are only meeting the family after the death and are not likely to be aware of all that they have been through during the dying process. A Death Midwife (by CINDEA’s definition http://www.cindea.ca/midwifery.html)works with the Death Journeyer/family/friends throughout the whole of the pan-death process (before, during, after) — thereby, providing the critical ‘continuum’ that is lacking with both Home Funeral Guides and funeral directors. A Death Midwife’s role allows them to get to know the Death Journeyer/family/friends before the death, address confusions and tensions (especially over the Death Journeyer’s choices for pre or post -death issues), encourage the DJ/family/friends to begin working on the funeral or memorial ceremony before the death (in my experience, it can change considerably as the family processes what is really meaningful to them), and develop any other ceremonies that they might want. The result is that a) the DM has a fairly clear idea of what is important to the the DJ/family before the death happens, and is able to quickly integrate any final meaningful elements, and b)(equally important) the family/friends have come to know the DM and trust them.

  2. Just a further note to Donna’s comment about Home Funeral Guides working with funeral directors — it has been my experience thus far, as a Death Midwife, that funeral directors don’t see us as ‘competition’ and appreciate the extra support we can offer from knowing the family at a deeper level. On the other hand, that might change as more people choose at-home post-death care and to do the other elements (paperwork, etc.) on their own. However, I think that we have an opportunity right now to build cooperative relationships with funeral directors (using their services where necessary).

  3. Pashta,
    The process of building cooperatve relationships resonates with me.
    As Donna mentioned, many people use a “blended” approach. It is healthy in my mind to open doors and keep doors open to facilitate discussion and collaboration.

    Interesting to reflect on the role of the Death Midwife vs the Home Funeral Guide… So nice to have the opportunity to have known the family throughout the dying process and carry that knowledge into the period of planning post death. I do like the idea of continuity.
    Your experience indicates the benefits of that continuity.

    I wonder. SOmetimes I have seen people who have had good experiences with the caregivers prior to death, and who have a need to leave that part of the dying journey behind them.

    As I contemplate the offerings, I am struck once again by the need to have a variety of resources for people to choose from.

  4. Realistically, it is likely that a goodly portion of families will not consider a Death Midwife until the death has occurred — in which case, the DM is acting more like a Home Funeral Guide. Having done both roles myself, I definitely prefer the DM role (the continuum throughout the pan-death experience), but I expect that your idea of ‘leaving the pre-death caregivers’ behind is valid (although that is likely anyway with the palliative-care/hospice folks).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *