The natural death movement in the UK of the early 90s was very much a child of its time. Its parents were the natural childbirth movement and the environmental movement. The happy coupling resulted in the birth of twins: the DIY funeral and natural burial.
The natural burial movement grew strappingly, but the DIY funeral didn’t. Not in the UK, anyway. But it has begun to thrive in the US, where DIY funerals are more fittingly called home funerals.
The buzzwords at the heart of the home funeral movement are empowerment and reclamation. Like all progressive movements in funerals it draws its inspiration from a golden age, specifically that time when people cared for their dead at home assisted by members of the community. It resists the commodification of funerals and the sidelining of those closest to the dying and the dead by specialist professionals:
“Reliance on a funerary industry to care for our dead and the removal of death and dying from our homes and communities are startlingly recent developments … Our modern approach to death has … left us blind to the extent to which we’ve forfeited our most personal, vulnerable and significant life moments to medical, funerary, legislative and commercial pressures.” [Source]
It may be worth reflecting, at this point, on the popularity of home births in England and Wales. In 1961 32.4% of women gave birth at home. In 2011, that was down to 2.4%.
The GFG has scrutinised the US home funeral movement from time to time, with the result that ours is the only UK website listed as a resource by the National Home Funerals Alliance. It only goes to show how incredibly little is going on over here. We’ve always been puzzled by that.
At last, though, we can announce the birth of a UK enterprise dedicated to helping people care for their dead at home. It has been created by Claire Turnham, who cared for her own father at home. In 2013 she attended the nhfa annual conference in North Carolina. In the autumn she will be hosting Jerrigrace Lyons, one of the great pioneers of the home funeral movement, who will hold workshops for those who wish to care for their dead at home.
Claire’s enterprise is called Only With Love, and you can find it here. OWL is a welcome addition to the UK’s diverse and highly creative funeral culture. We wish you well, Claire!