Need This New Innovation? DIY Death

Okay, it's not as gruesome as the title makes it sound. It  is about a growing movement that believesit is time for many of our funeral customs to change. Much of the pomp and circumstance date back to an earlier age. TheseAbraham Lincoln's ormal funeral casket (Photo by Museum of Funeral Customs/Creative Commons via Wikimedia)Abraham Lincoln's ormal funeral casket (Photo by Museum of Funeral Customs/Creative Commons via Wikimedia) days, at a time when we are at our most vulnerable we feel expected to go heavily into debt to provide funeral arrangements, obituaries, and cremations or interments. It can ruin a family financially.

Few of us know how much it can cost before we are thrown into the deep end of this pool. People, especially baby boomers, are starting to rally against these conventions -- from "death with dignity" to the discussions with our loved ones so we know their final wishes. It is a march against fearing death and the unknown.

This is bringing new energy to a DIY death movement. This is about "personal funerals" or "home death care." It is about rejecting environmentally unsafe embalming just to make the dead look alive, to personally transport a loved one's corpse to a cemetery or crematorium, and even home burials where the laws allow

The beginniing of the cremation process (Public Domain Image)The beginniing of the cremation process (Public Domain Image)People are receiving help in navigating these intricate waters with the help of what some are calling "death midwives." The movement is loosely organized and comes with motivations from environmental to financial. For most people it is also an intensely personal issue. For many it is about trying to find a more loving, kinder way to handle the death of a loved one.

These days the average funeral costs about $10,000 -- much of it going to be buried.  The DIY method can reduce this figure into the hundreds -- or even less.

Some are surprised to learn that DIY funerals are legal. There is no law that says that you must go into poverty because of the death of a loved one. This is cultural not legal. Of course, there is an enormous commercial aspect. There are those who are happy to guilt you into believing that your loved one won't rest comfortably without a fancy casket or urn. Increasingly people are turning to cardboard caskets as a way of reducing cost as well as the environmental footprint. 

The idea of people taking care of their own dead isn't new. It wasn't until the late 19th century that the mortuary business came into popular use. Some people still think that death should be left to the professionals and that those in mourning are too fragile to handle things themselves.

There's a surge of interest in home funerals, or hybrid funerals with a mix of new and old elements. The movement is being fueled by people who fought to reclaim breastfeeding and home births as normal.

My own experience was to create a hybrid funeral. When Mom passed in 2012 she was living on Social Security, public housing assistance , Medicare, and Medicaid. I was unemployed and struggling myself. With no funds available, I found myself on an unexpected, totally blessed, journey of love and devotion.

Mom had long been active in her church so the minister let me use the church and his services for free. They went above and beyond to make it wonderful.

I was shocked to learn that even a small obituary in the local paper would cost hundreds of dollars. I passed.

The day after the funeral two friends and I drove up into the mountains to Mom's favorite valley which was ablaze with aspen gold and returned her to the earth. One friend, a spiritual shaman, said a few words as she was scattered.

Medicaid covered the cost of cremation and the death certificates. My entire out-of-pocket expense was $10 and all of her wishes were met.

In planning a DIY funeral for your loved one, make sure that you check the laws in your area.  You may find this one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. For more information you can check The Natural Death Handbook. To order a copy, click here.

Sources:  WBUR, Natural Death Centre

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