Frequently Asked Questions

Historically, the family had this responsibility. Caring for our dead was central to living and the various religions and nationalities that comprise our country had rich traditions for weaving death into the fabric of family and community life. This experience has been lost as we have opted for convenience, yet, when death occurs, we are the ones who bear the loss and are left with an experience that can be dissatisfying and hollow.

How is home funeral care different from funeral care by a funeral home director?

Funeral care refers to the time between the last breath and final resting - whether that be cremation or burial. Most people hand over this care to a funeral home, but in so doing limit their options to costly, impersonal, and sometimes invasive procedures provided by an emotionally uninvolved funeral director. Home funeral care refers to one's family and friends performing these last deeds of love - including the process of washing, dressing, and laying out their loved one's body.

Visit the NHFA website for more information.

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What do you mean by "caring for our own"?

Caring for our own means taking some or all of the responsibility of caring for our loved ones at death. This includes our emotional and physical involvement. It can mean family and friends joining in an around-the-clock vigil of love and attention for our departed in the days after death. For many, it means keeping our departed ones at home for up to a three day transition period if they have died at home, or bringing them home for this time if they have died elsewhere. It means handling some or all of the care of the body ourselves. This can also be done in conjunction with a funeral director. This can include washing, dressing, and transportation of our loved ones. Caring for our own means not using unnecessary invasive procedures on the bodies of our loved ones and creating an atmosphere conducive to the sacredness of their crossing.

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Am I allowed legally to care for my own loved ones after death?

Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Nebraska, New York all have restrictions on your ability to care for your dead. Each state has its own regulations governing this matter. For most states, everything from transportation to final disposition is within your power. To find applicable regulations, contact your state for laws and regulations governing the practice of mortuary science or purchase Caring for the Dead by Lisa Carlson, Upper Access Publishers 800-310-8320. You can also contact us for general information.

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If I decide to care for my own at death, do I still call a funeral home?

You do not have to contact a funeral director (unless the laws in your state require it). You can choose to handle all the arrangements yourself. If you do so, it is critical that you are adequately prepared for this ahead of time. You may want help with transportation, paperwork or other aspects of this process. You should know, however, that funeral homes charge a standard fee of up to $2000 to respond to an initial request and for consultations as to arrangements. This does not include any services or materials such as preparation of body, viewing or storage of the departed, caskets, etc. You can negotiate a per service arrangement but this should be done before the time of death.

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What about embalming?

You may be surprised to learn that embalming is almost nevcr required for the deceased. There are some situations where this is so, such as when out of state transportation is necessary. For the most part, however, embalming is not required and is undesirable due to the highly toxic chemicals used and the invasive procedures required for embalming. Embalming only delays the breakdown of the body, it does not prevent this breakdown. It also denatures the body and artificially changes it at a time when peace and tender handling are most important. Caution: Most funeral directors require embalming if you use their funeral home and choose to have a viewing of the deceased.

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How might caring for my own help me in the enormity of my loss?

No matter the circumstances of loss, we are never prepared emotionally. It always seems sudden. By having our departed loved ones at home, we maintain control in an event that is otherwise beyond our control. We are assured that our loved ones are treated with the love that they deserve. We feel less a victim of circumstance. We are allowed the time we need to assimilate this loss into our lives. There is greater opportunity for healing and we are allowed ample time for an often difficult parting.

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What is green burial?

Green burial refers to the practice of putting an un-embalmed body into a shroud or a biodegradable coffin, and placing them directly into the earth. For more information, see the Grave Matters Green Burial FAQ at and

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What is Crossings: Caring for Our Own at Death?

Crossings is a non-profit educational organization which is a home funeral and green burial resource center. We provide trainings, workshops, consultations, and printed materials that give families and communities the courage confidence and contacts to perform home funeral care.
For further information, see our services page and our resources page. To be put on our mailing list, please email us at

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Are there other sites that address similar issues?

Please visit the NHFA website for more information, and also our Resources page (Links section) which has links to many other sites addressing these issues.

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