As some millennials start holding weddings in funeral homes, others are doing the opposite: Holding funerals in their regular homes.
Taking back control of our death
Some home funeralistas (my term) are put off by the costs of using a professional funeral home, which can easily top $10,000 for a fairly modest affair. But others, it seems, just want to find a more intimate, personal setting. In much the same way home births are being used as a way to take back control of a natural life event that has typically become "outsourced" to professionals in recent decades, a growing number of people are taking death and its aftermath into their own hands too.
How this is done can range from simply holding a funeral at home to actually helping to wash and prepare the body for its final departure. Some people are even dispensing of the cost of hiring grave diggers, working with friends and family to dig the graves themselves.
The birth of alternative funeral services
The New York Times has a fascinating profile of Amber Carvaly and Caitlin Doughty, co-founders of Undertaking LA, a startup that offers services ranging from home funeral facilitation through consulting to DIY embalming workshops. The pair also make money by selling coffins and urns but, they note, many of their customers choose to use a simple shroud or other homemade/home-scavenged container instead.
In many ways, the movement seems to be an extension of the growing green funeral movement. After all, by doing things at home, rather than relying on the limited range of products and services offered by any one funeral home, you can open up your options to make greener choices on everything from the type of cask or urn you use to whether or not you choose to embalm. (No, embalming is not legally required, and yes, it does involve some pretty noxious chemicals.)
Demystifying the process of death
But green principles aside, there's clearly a desire among many of us to get back to a time when we took more responsibility, or at least had a more hands-on involvement, in big life events within our own families. And in the process, we get a better understanding of what actually goes into organizing a funeral.
Indeed, alongside running Undertaking LA, Caitlin Doughty has made a name for herself as a demystifier of death through her Ask A Mortician series of YouTube videos which you can see an example of above. Covering everything from composting dead bodies to the legality of Viking funerals (see video below), Doughty tackles sometimes difficult and often bizarre topics in a humorous and refreshingly candid fashion. (She has also posted much more serious videos on topics such as talking to children about death.)
Oh, and if you watch the second of these two videos, you'll learn an interesting way to help bring about the end of the world too. Check out The Order of the Good Death for more ways to challenge our death-phobic culture.