Do-It-Yourself Funerals

Learn how to arrange do-it-yourself funerals, includes plans for home funerals and burials, dying at home, cremation and legal problems and information.

| January/February 1978

  • Learn how to prepare do-it-yourself funerals.
    Learn how to prepare do-it-yourself funerals.
    Photo By Fotolia/MIMOHE

  • Learn how to prepare do-it-yourself funerals.

Arrange do-it-yourself funerals using these helpful suggestions, includes plans for home funerals and burials.


A scattering of groups and individual families still care for their own dead without the assistance of a funeral director. They are found mostly but not entirely in rural or semi-rural places. A few are religious groups such as the Quakers or Mennonites. Others are rural families, particularly in Appalachia. Some are organized within the framework of a memorial society. The "Burial Committee" of one Quaker group operates as follows: Member families wishing to sign up with the committee fill out forms in advance authorizing the committee to act on their behalf and including the necessary biographical data and endorsement by the next of kin.

At time of death, or when death is expected, the first action of the group is to assist the family in a coordinated way. Immediately after death a member of the committee gets the death certificate from the doctor and takes it to the county courthouse to be recorded. (In some states he must get a transportation permit there.) The next of kin endorses the authorization form, signs an "Authorization to Cremate", and makes out a check to the crematory. The body is placed in a homemade box and taken to the crematory. Burial or removal to a medical school follows much the same pattern. Members serve without pay, which minimizes the possibility of legal complications. The chances of such complications are slight, however, as the committee had, at its outset, read the pertinent laws and interviewed the appropriate public officials.

Following the removal of the body, a memorial meeting is planned, to suit the needs of the particular family and community. The procedure is characterized by the warm sense of emotional security it gives to the survivors (not to mention the small cost!), and the intimate participation which friends experience. What may have been regarded as a disagreeable duty becomes a meaningful privilege.

On Dying at Home

Hospitals are geared to saving lives, not letting them go. Home is generally a nicer place in which to die, if the necessary arrangements can be made for the patient's care. This is particularly true for patients who, together with their families, have been able to accept their approaching death. Further, I can say from experience that the problems of home care, when actually tackled, may prove less formidable than they seemed in prospect.

My wife, before her death in her own home, took much satisfaction in the fellowship of family and friends, who visited her in a steady stream when she was able to receive them. They, in turn, took inspiration from her.

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