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How Does a Funeral Service Work?

How does a funeral service work at Return Home?

Return Home prides itself on offering a truly green deathcare option by offering Terramation, our human composting service. But how do we start a new conversation that allows the families we serve to build rituals around their deathcare decisions?

In place of what many see as a traditional funeral service and viewing, Return Home decided to go back to its roots and offer the chance for a family to say farewell to their loved one in a more natural setting, by offering what is called a “Laying In” funeral service/ceremony.

From the very beginning, Return Home has made it a core value to make sure the options we offer show love and respect, all while allowing the families of those in our care to grieve at their heart’s pace.

No chemical preservatives or embalming are allowed for the Terramation process, as they both destroy the body’s ability to return itself to soil. Embalming also creates a less-than-natural appearance that attempts to deny the death has occurred. Return Home simply gives the person a warm bath with essential oil soaps, a sudsy hair wash, and any nail care that is needed, before gently dressing them in a fuzzy soft compostable garment. They are then placed into a Terramation vessel on a bed of organic material made up of straw, alfalfa, and sawdust.

What happens from this point becomes the choice of those left behind to memorialize their loved one.

We provide a safe space that allows for personal expression. Anything that is compostable, organic, biodegradable, and/or ingestible is able to be placed in the vessel with the person for their journey and will become a part of their compost.

What happens to the soil (compost) after the Terramation process becomes the choice of those left behind to memorialize their loved one.


What is a “Laying In” funeral service?

So far, our “Laying In” ceremonies have taken on a few different forms. From very simple to adorned and elaborate. 

We have had small intimate gathers that happen mostly by live streaming the service. One or two family members are present and place beloved house plants or home-grown flowers into the vessel as those present virtually offer words of support and memorialization. Through the screen, we often hear quotes from the great John Muir and Walt Whitman peacefully spoken from places far away.

On one occasion, we had a mother accompany her son through the entire process. She had been with him his entire life; why would that change now? She gave him his first bath and also his last. She held his hand as he was placed in his  vessel and wished him a safe journey with the gentle strike of our gong.

Intimate family gatherings don’t always mean small and can oftentimes see twenty or so family members gathered around the Terramation vessel adorning their loved one with beautiful things of nature, favorite candy bars, or beloved Starbucks muffins. Often a favorite song or two is played, sometimes a more traditional eulogy is read and memories are shared aloud.

We have also had the honor of experiencing larger farewells, which are as loud and rambunctious as the lives they memorialized. We’ve hosted large groups of family and friends that shared heartwarming and oftentimes hilarious stories of their loved one while heavy metal music played in the background. A large wooden staff was placed in the vessel along with mounds of starburst and other candies that the decedent enjoyed in life. His group of loved ones showed just how much their grief hurt as they struck Luna, our gong, sending booming sounds through the facility.

While we are absolutely present to guide families through creating a farewell fitting of their loved ones, we are also able to encourage creativity and personalization in the human composting process.

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