Family friendly funerals are nothing new

They used to be all the go.  Everyone did it – conduct their own funerals.  Not so today, but there is change on the way, as Heather Wiseman explains in this Q&A piece posted on the Palliative Care Australia website (Preparing a loved-one’s body for a family-led funeral, 2 November 2016).

Heather talks with Natural Death Advocacy Network, co-founder Libby Moloney, who offers practical insight into what is involved in preparing a loved one’s body for burial and what options there are when it comes to engaging the services of a funeral director.

 Ms Maloney says the Natural Death Advocacy Network (NDAN) among other things, “advocates for the establishment of natural cemeteries, working alongside cemetery trusts and petitioning for stand-alone natural burial grounds. We also support people who want to bury their loved ones naturally and do the whole thing themselves. That support includes advocacy work. Sometimes cemeteries say they won’t take a booking for a family-led funeral without a funeral director being involved.  When that happens, we ring the cemetery and explain how it can be done.”

“It helps to remind (cemetery) trustees how much things have changed within the past century,” says Ms Maloney. “Many trustees are in their eighties, so I say ‘Tell me the story about when your grandmother died and how she was buried.’ They’ll talk about how their grandmother was cared for at home and how the men went out the back and made a coffin and then took the coffin to the graveyard. Back then it was all done by the family. We’ve lost that over time. Back then rituals were known and someone down the road knew how to lay out the body. There was comfort in knowing what was going to happen. People had experienced it first-hand before and maybe better understood that it was a natural part of life.”

“These days, it can be difficult for families if they want to do some, or all of it, themselves. But legally, they have the right to handle all aspects of the body’s preparation for burial, cremation, and the funeral, if that is what they want.  I know families who have provided all of the care and done the shrouding themselves and just brought in a funeral director to transport the body from their home to the crematorium. Lots of funeral directors will do a tailored piece of help like that. They are also starting to accept that a family, rather than a funeral director, might make a booking for a burial or cremation.”

  • At home what might people do to keep a deceased loved one’s eyes or mouth closed?
  • Is it important to wash the body and how do you do that?
  • What legal requirements do you need to consider when someone dies at home?
  • Can you keep a loved one’s body at home rather than sending them to a morgue?
  • How do you go about getting a coffin? Do you need a coffin if the body is to be buried or cremated in a shroud?  Where can I get more information?

Visit the Natural Death Advocacy Network website, email us ( or like our Facebook page.  To read the full interview of 11 questions and answers, go to:

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