How do we get started?

So you’ve decided to learn more about home funerals and you’ve obtained Undertaken With Love. Now you would like to form a small group to use the guide to explore home funerals, to see if you would like to support them in your community.

If your group will be part of a faith community, talk to your pastor or other leaders in your congregation about your interest. Ask how you might find others to form a small group to explore home funerals using our guide. Depending on your circumstances, you might use your congregation’s newsletter, email notices, bulletin boards, worship bulletins and/or circles to announce your interest in forming such a group. Another possibility might be to offer to lead an adult religious education class on the subject. You might also consider inviting members of other nearby congregations within your denomination to join.

If your group is secular, approach one of its leaders with your interest in forming a group and consider its various methods of communications to see how you can let others in the organization know about the opportunity.

If you are working by yourself as a family or as a single person, you can always invite your friends to join you. You can even use the guide to prepare for a do-it-yourself funeral without the assistance of a group, though that may be more challenging. It has been done!

Assuming you do form a group to use Undertaken With Love as a study guide, here ae some ways to get started:

  1. Decide on a time and place. You will want to plan for six or seven gatherings of the group on a weekly, monthly or other basis. You can complete the study guide in six sessions if you begin by distributing the study guide in advance of the first meeting and have everyone come after having read the Introduction and the text of the first chapter. Otherwise, you would use the first session to distribute the study guides and to assign participants to read the introduction and the text of the first chapter for the second gathering. It is important that you tell your participants about this companion website at the first gathering, so that they will be accustomed to using it as a supplement to the guidebook.
  2. Decide on the leadership style. Will you preside at all the meetings? Will you rotate responsibility for leading each gathering? Will one person be responsible for all aspects of each gathering — the opening, the exercises, the assignment announcement and the closing — or will the leadership of those parts be distributed?
  3. Assess your knowledge of relevant state and local laws. Is there someone in your group or community who is already familiar with the laws of your state concerning home funerals? If so, you might ask that person to write a document about a family’s legal rights and responsibilities in caring for its own dead in your state. That person might also lead the gathering for the third chapter, “Finding the Law.” Most groups won’t be so fortunate, so in that case, your group itself will research these laws as it approaches the third chapter.
  4. Identify community resources in your area. Look at our state pages to see what resources — human, web and print — that it might list for your location. Call your public health department to find out who handles the initial filing of death certificates. Contact your nearest Funeral Consumers Alliance chapter to see if they have anyone involved who is knowledgeable about home funerals. Call your local hospital to see who serves as a medical examiner in your area (he or she will likely be involved in any death that is unexpected, unless the person was quite elderly). If you have a Muslim mosque, Jewish synagogue or Baha’i congregation in your area, you might call them to see whether they have members with experience in caring for the dead who might be able to be sources of information for your group, as these are known for their community-centered funeral practices. You might even call your local hospice to see if they have had any experience in helping families that want to care for their own dead. Even if some of these organizations know nothing about home funerals, it will help you know where you might focus some advocacy efforts down the road.
  5. Gather your books and media. Print out or order one copy of the guidebook for each participant and leader before you begin. At a minimum, we additionally recommend that you obtain Lisa Carlson’s Caring for the Dead and run off copies of the chapter pertaining to your state, unless this site’s page on your state laws is already well fleshed out (The laws pages for California, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and South Carolina are already quite well defined on this site and more up-to-date than the information you would find in Carlson’s aging book.) We also highly recommend that you obtain the inexpensive DVD “Passing Through Our Hands” before you reach the fourth chapter. If you can rent or buy the POV “A Family Undertaking” to show at your first gathering, that would be a nice add-on.
  6. Set the ambiance and tone for your study gatherings. Would you like to have some soft background music? Candles? Simple food or beverages? If your group is in a religious setting, consider how you might weave in elements that relate to your customs and beliefs.
  7. Publicize the group well in advance to give interested parties enough time to learn more about what you have in mind and to consider their possible participation. You can make it clear that this is an exploratory group — there is no need to be committed to assisting in future home funerals to participate.
  8. Contact us to let us how about your group’s formation. Even if your explorations don’t lead to the formation of an ongoing home funeral committee, we are eager to learn about your experience with Undertaken With Love.
  9. Become very familiar with this site and how it complements the book.
  10. Gather the supplies and equipment you will need. Will you need a DVD player? If you are substituting readings and exercises of your own for the ones suggested in the guide, consider what you’ll need for them. Other items that are useful with the guide include: a binder that can serve to collect printed resources (see page 34 in the guide), blank journals for participants to use for note taking and reflections as you watch DVDs or as they carry out various assignments, a sign up sheet for members’ contact information, a calendar for planning future gatherings. You might also consider a large storage tub for transporting home funeral supplies if your group does commit to assisting with the actual bodily care of the dead (see page 26 of the manual).

Now you are ready to begin!