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What is a Home Funeral? (en español)

Throughout most of human history, families and religious communities have cared for their loved ones after death in the comfort and intimacy of their homes.  It was only after the Civil War and the advent of embalming that the modern funeral industry arose and families began to transport their loved ones to funeral homes.  Here in California, we have always had the right to care for our loved ones after death, however, it has been generations since home funerals have been commonly practiced.  Many Jewish, Muslim, and Hispanic communities have never stopped caring for their own and continue to do so to this day.

Home funeral vigils are an increasingly popular option for families – especially for those who are able to die at home with the care and assistance of hospice.  Just as the Baby Boomers brought back home births in the 60′s and 70′s they are now bringing back caring of the dead at home.   Families choose to have a home funeral for a variety of reasons.  Many feel it is just an extension of the care they gave to a loved one throughout their illness – caring for their body at home for a few more days until the burial or cremation.  Some may be motivated by the potential cost savings of doing it themselves.  Others may have environmental or spiritual motives.  Whatever the reason, the choice of foregoing the services of a funeral home definitely requires advance and preparation.  

Home funerals may be a very appropriate and fitting alternative in the case of the death of an infant.  Families may benefit greatly during this difficult and profoundly sad time by having extended time with their child before burial or cremation.  It also allows families the option of having a viewing without embalming and avoids the difficult situation of having to give the infant to a stranger at a funeral home; this can be especially traumatizing when dealing with the death of a child.  Olivia Bareham, a funeral educator/guide in the Los Angeles area, has created a moving video titled "Infant Home Funeral" that beautifully illustrates the home funeral she conducted for Darrius Noel Drewry, a baby boy that was stillborn on January 7, 2011.  

Some of the activities families and communities may play a key role in during a home funeral are:

  • Planning and carrying out after-death rituals or ceremonies (such as laying out the deceased and home visitation of the body)

  • Preparing the body for burial or cremation

  • Filing of death-related paperwork such as the death certificate

  • Transporting the deceased to the place of burial or cremation

  • Facilitating the final disposition such as digging the grave in natural burial

Home funerals may occur within the family home or not.  Some nursing homes, for example, may allow the family to care for the deceased after death.  The emphasis is on the minimal, non-invasive, and environmentally-friendly care of the body.  Support and assistance to carry out after-death care may come from home funeral educators/guides in the community and/or progressive funeral directors, but their goal is to facilitate the maximal involvement of family and its social network.  See below for a list of home funeral educators/guides in the Southern California area. 

As more families choose to bring their funerals back home, a growing number of resources are becoming available.  For a list of home funeral guides in your area, see the link below titled "National Home Funeral Directory."  In addition, a link to a "Home Funeral Checklist" has been provided below.  This checklist provides details on how to conduct a home funeral.

Reasons a home funeral might be right for you and your family:


  • It is more personal and allows family and friends an extended period of time for visiting, viewing, ceremony and closure (viewings in a funeral home must be scheduled in advance and are limited to a relatively short period of time).

  • Funeral homes can lack privacy and be uncomfortable for many people.   

  • For many who have had loved ones die at home, the experience of having the body removed abruptly has left them feeling empty and regretful.  

  • The family can purchase or construct a casket, urn or plaque without pressure from a professional salesperson at a funeral establishment.  They may also choose to decorate the casket together. 

  • A home funeral is economical. 

Legal requirements: 

  • File a properly completed Certificate of Death, signed by the attending physician or coroner, with the local registrar of births and deaths.

  • Obtain a Permit for Disposition from the local registrar of births and deaths

Fulfillment of these requirements is generally the responsibility of the funeral director.  If you choose to have a home funeral without the assistance of a funeral director, you will need to file the Certificate of Death and obtain a Permit for Disposition yourself.  Instructions for filing paperwork on your own.


You will also want to plan to handle the following if you will not be using a funeral director:  

  • purchasing a casket, shroud, or another suitable container

  • making arrangements with the cemetery or crematory directly

Home Funeral Educators/Guides in California:

Shari Wolf, Natural Grace, 888-960-8882 

Olivia Bareham, Sacred Crossings, 310-968-2763 

Lynn Holzman, Coming Home, 805-729-6172

Cari Leversee, Untethered Grace, 805-534-3096

Additional Information and Links:

The following links provide additional information.  If you are interested in forming a home funeral committee in your community, please consult the document below titled "Undertaken with Love."  For additional information please send an inquiry to  


Suggested Videos:

A Family Undertaking

The Most Excellent Dying of Theodore Jack Heckelman



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