How Do We Return Funerals Back Into The Home? The answer may be simple.

homeThis is the question I have been working on for the last six years. I was eight months pregnant when I left the funeral industry forever. That baby I was carrying is now six years old. Motherhood added a new perspective to everything I do, including giving me the drive to make social changes in America and making sure I raise children that do not fear death or life. Motherhood can also be isolating. With my background as a funeral director I knew I had a decent chance at getting people to not only let me tell my story, but to actually LISTEN and reflect on their own lives and one day deaths. But where to begin?

I cannot lie and say I woke up one day and said, “Today I am going to start a non-profit to educate on home funerals and green burials.” It took many years of telling myself “This is crazy” to “How can I NOT do this?” This internal bickering went back and forth until I met a wonderful group of woman who forever changed my life. At one of our monthly meetings I shared my work, my “heart song”. I did a mock workshop and “death cafe” and everything changed.  My dreams bloomed into reality in front of sisters. I received an unanimous “YES, DO this. NOW!”  One sister led me to a local non-profit that solely gets non-profits started, another volunteered her work as a graphic designer, three more volunteered to be board members and support this vision. This passion, my purpose that had been lurking in my heart and mind, was revealed and overnight was a reality.

community

Community. That one word is the first thing I tell anyone interested in a home funeral. You must have community. Is that family? Is that close friends? Is that church members? Is it a sisterhood? It can be anyone, but you cannot have a successful home funeral without it. We all need support and that is where our traditional funerals are currently failing us (But more on that another day) If I did not find my community I would not be here today. Community is the golden answer.

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So how do we start the process of returning funerals back into the home? The first step is finding our communities again. We have become a society of “Do-It-Yourselfers” I guess even a Home Funeral can fit into that DIY box but we are so much more than that. Let’s begin with Step One : Meet your neighbors. This is a HUGE one and an easy place to start. I don’t know when or why people thought it was ok to move into a neighborhood and never meet their neighbors, but unfortunately this is becoming the norm. Our neighbors are our closest allies and when you show kindness, kindness is returned.

One of the saddest statistics with funerals these days is the amount of robberies that take place during a traditional funeral. Robbers search obituaries and wait until they know the families will be away at the funerals to rob them. What heartache for that family to go through. If you take the first step of meeting your neighbors you just instantly added a safe guard to your home and possibly a new friend. *Also, I will add, when you do have that Home Funeral in the future it is a good thing to have the neighbors know what is going on in your home not only for the support, but so we don’t get “nosey neighbor” syndrome where they find it in necessary to investigate, or worse, call the police. “Nothing illegal going on here officer, but thank you for causing some un-needed emotional distress during this sensitive time”


 I will continue writing on community because it is crucial to the work I do, but today please call a friend, visit a neighbor, join a weekly hiking group, or just say hello to a stranger. Our society needs to shift, we need to embrace love and support again. We can do many things by ourselves but death and dying should never be one of them. Let’s regain community!

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You can do that!?!?

 honefuneralvinatge


 

This is the question I hear 9/10 times when I start sharing about Returning Home, “You can do that? I wish I knew this when my(fill in the blank) was dying.” Well that ladies and gentlemen is one of the reasons why I am here and why I have started this non-profit* To educate you and the community. So here I am today, giving a brief introduction to the sacred and traditional act of caring for our dead at home. What I do and what you can do too!

 Let me start by saying there are currently 8 states that require you MUST use a funeral director. Those 8 states are; Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, and New York. This doesn’t mean you cannot have a home funeral it just means that the state requires you to make all your arrangements through a funeral home.  Here is a link to more information about your individual state and their rules and regulations. (CLICK HERE)

 In Colorado, where I am located, the family does have the right to care for their dead. Most states have a common requirement that the body of the deceased must be embalmed or refrigerated after 24 hours. For families at home the act of laying and packing dry ice around the body fulfills this requirement.

 The second thing that most people don’t know is that YOU, yes you, can fill out the information on death certificate to be signed by the doctor or coroner and file it yourself with the county health department. As a funeral director my first job would be asking families all the information required for a death certificate, full name, place of birth, parents names, date of death, ect. A funeral home is doing  this as a service (that you pay for) and is not required by law to preform. This is the same with the “Permit for Disposition” that is required for cremation or burial. You get the forms required from the county health department and you can fill them out yourself and file them for free! I will say that in all honesty it is a very simple thing to do but you can have some trouble tracking down a doctor to sign the death certificate and the health department LOVES to find mistakes and send it back. This can add extra headache if you don’t know exactly what information you need. But don’t worry that’s where I come in to help educate and guide your family through all the loop holes.

And finally, yes this is the end of my brief introduction, the cremation or burial. Currently in Colorado it is LEGAL to bury on property you own. When you file the Disposition Permit you must state whether the body is cremated or buried and the location that this will take place. Now remember that this is filed with your state so if you decided to sell your property in 15 years you are required to release to information to the buyer that “grandpa is buried in the backyard”  If you chose cremation there aren’t many states that legally let you “do it yourself” Colorado has a great community in Crestone that operates an outdoor funeral pyre (Find more information here) that is legal and unique in our state. Most funeral homes are happy to work with families to provide the cremation at a low cost as long as the families have the required paperwork.

 So at the beginning I said education was one of the reasons why I am doing what I am doing. There are two other reasons that I feel very strongly about and that is reconnecting with sacred traditions of caring for our dead and the care of our Mother Earth. But that is for another day.