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Life After Death: Death Doulas & Natural Burial

This LibGuide discusses what natural burial is, what death doulas do, and how these ideas can positively interrupt the current funeral industry.

Death Doulas & Natural Burial

Death doulas and natural burial are both becoming larger parts of the conversation surrounding death care as families are looking more toward eco-friendly, and cost-conscious ways to honor the deceased. Natural burials, also known as green burials, offer the decedent the opportunity to naturally decay and impose less of a carbon footprint with their death. It also allows their friends and family to be involved in the process which allows them the opportunity to progress through the grieving process in healthy and productive ways.

So what are they?

Natural burial is a way in which the deceased are buried in biodegradable containers or burial shrouds, without concrete vaults, and without the use of formaldehyde or other toxic embalming chemicals.

Death doulas, or death midwives, are non-medical personnel who act on behalf of the deceased and their family. They often provide support in the grieving process, and ensure that the wishes of the deceased are carried out.

A beautiful biodegradable casket built by executive director of Larkspur Conservation, John Christian Phifer. 

Norfolk Bluebell Wood Natural Burial Park located in Norfolk, UK. 

A natural burial service taking place at Greenspring Natural Cemetery Preserve in Newfield, New York. Photo by Steven Waldman. 

Westall Park Natural Burial Ground, located in Restall, Worcestershire, UK.

A natural burial ceremony, as presented on the website for the Order of the Good Death. 

Alua Arthur: Going with Grace

Alua Arthur is a death doula, attorney, teacher, and advocate who helps people talk about and prepare for their death in a way that empowers and makes the process easier. In this video, produced by Refinery29, Alua Arthur expresses that talking about death is important because "It's so human. It's the most human thing we'll do other than being born and, maybe giving birth. We're born we, we die. Let's do both in ways that honor us, and honor humankind, and honor each other."

Alua Arthur founded Going with Grace, an organization that seeks to support families through the dying process in all non-medical capacities. The organization provides services for families and those planning their deaths, as well as classes for those looking to become doulas or just to be able to support loved ones when the time comes.