It wasn’t so long ago the only place you’d be found when you died was home. Your family would wash and dress your body and place it in bed, filling the room with candles and flowers to hide any smell. Family and close friends would visit the house during the week that followed before holding a modest funeral. Passed down from generation to generation, we had the skills to handle the death of a loved one. Gradually however, this remarkably human connection at the end of a life has been lost.
Slowly over time, death became a business and funeral professionals emerged where before there had been none. The wide spread popularity of modern embalming in the early 20th century meant the deceased was handed over to those with the requisite skills to do the job. People became less likely to die at home, and instead death occurred in hospitals, rest homes, and palliative care facilities. Bringing the deceased home got side stepped, and the body went straight from the place of death to the funeral home. Family suddenly had much less role to play, and lost the confidence to deal with this very natural part of life.
Increasingly many families want to take back aspects of caring for, and being with their loved one at the end, and for many this means being at home, Encouragingly, many forward thinking funeral directors and other industry professionals are enabling those choices. Death Doula’s (also referred to as death midwives) accompany the dying person and their loved ones through the finals months, weeks and days at home. Home funeral and natural burial practitioners advocate a return to family centric and natural ways.
For some, having their loved one at home before the service is important. It means there’s plenty of opportunity for family and friends to visit, and take some private time. Play favourite music, light candles and dress the space with photos and memorabilia. There will be an additional charge if the deceased is transported to a private residence from the funeral home or other facility.
For any number of reasons, having the casket at home might not suit, in which case think about taking private time at the funeral home. Make arrangements with your funeral director, who’ll ensure you have privacy and space. Play music, set up a few photos and make the place your own for a little while. Multiple visits to the funeral home can incur additional costs over and above the standard service fee.
Death can rob us of the opportunity to say important things. Regardless of which scenario works best, consider making available time for people to sit down, have a chat and say goodbye. Life’s a funny thing – we always imagine there will be plenty of time to say the things we need to say. When death takes that opportunity from us, it can still be remarkably healing to grab that moment anyway.
Keeping the deceased at home? You will need to think about keeping the body preserved. It doesn’t mean you must necessarily embalm. Make an informed and conscious decision. There is more information about embalming in this section if you’d like to learn more. If you chose not to embalm, you will need to take steps to keep the room cool.
- Portable air conditioners in the room work extremely well.
- Use ice packs, or chill hot water bottles in the fridge. Pack around the body and rotate often.
- Place a towel around the hips, or use an adult diaper.
- If the family are supported by a doula, palliative carer or other professional, they will assist.