Quite simply, home funeral care occurs in a private residence instead of a mortuary, and involves family or friends in the washing, dressing, and laying out the body of the person who has died. Rather than being embalmed, the body can be kept safely at home with more natural and environmentally-friendly alternatives to conventional mortuary care. Friends and family have time to keep vigil, or visit to say good-bye to their loved one. Formal religious services at a church, temple, or mosque, or simpler celebrations in a home or community gathering place, can conclude care of the deceased at home. Cremation or burial (usually within 3 days of the death) follows.
Home funeral care does not require traditional families, large homes, or rural settings. Home funeral care might involve several friends supporting a friend in caring for her partner’s body after death, in their small apartment. Or, it might mean friends gathering at an urban Buddhist temple to sit with the body of a fellow parishioner, whom they have helped to care for before, during, and after death. Or, home funeral care might involve a multi-generational extended family, who prepare the body of the family patriarch at home, prior to transporting him to the church for a religious funeral. Just as families and communities take many forms, there is no “standard” home funeral – they are as unique as the individual lives they honour.