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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.

What is natural burial?

Natural burial is generally characterized by the elimination of concrete burial vaults, embalming through formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals, and the use of biodegradable materials to inter the deceased. In the book "Reimagining Death: Stories and Practical Wisdom for Home Funerals and Green Burials" author Lucinda Herring (2019) defines green burials using the following tenants: 

  • There are no grave liners or vaults of any kind in the green section of a cemetery or natural burial ground 
  • The depth of the grave is 3/5 - 4 feet rather than the traditional 5 - 6 feet normally dug. This ensures the most efficient decomposition of the body, as more oxygen is present in the first 3 -4 feet of soil, and therefore is the place of greatest aerobic activity. 
  • The deceased person cannot be embalmed with formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals. If such a procedure is necessary or desired by the family, nontoxic embalming based on essential oils must be used.
  • The burial container must be biodegradable and the decedent clothed only in materials that will decompose naturally. 
  • The use of headstones is discouraged and in many natural and conservation burilal grounds is not allowed. Natrual stone native to the burial ground can be used, or graves can be located by GPS or a plat system of the grounds. 
  • The use of native plants, shrubs, and trees is encourages and is required in some burial grounds to maintain and enhance the local ecosystems. 

Herring, L. (2019). Reimagining Death: Stories and Practical Wisdom for Home Funerals and Green Burials; Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.

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