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After a basic course in biology, we can build up a tentative image of the biological reactions that happen in our bodies after death. Caroline Roberts pointed out for CNET that a sad but real-life truth is that we will all be there — six feet under or burnt to ashes. Funerals are noted by sad, dark colors everywhere; your loved ones will look into the grave with bitter tears on their eyes. When the service is over, cemetery workers will bury you with a shovel or machine, filling in another pit. 

Such burials leave heavy pressures hanging over us and not a feeling of relief. Shouldn’t the process offer release and not drag us down?

Sometimes, stepping aside from traditions is not a regression but a definite move forward. Take a look at natural burials. They are simple and that’s all. People put the remains of the body into the ground without any technological help, coffins, or embalming fluid. The dead person’s family and friends dig the hole in the ground by hand. This kind of burial takes us back to the very beginning, showing us that how it happened before is the right way.

 

Look at death as something new

“We’ve handed the death process over to professionals because we think we can’t handle it.”

That’s Cassie Barrett’s take on death. She’s a worker for the Carolina Memorial Sanctuary, a conservation and green cemetery in the Asheville area of North Carolina. She points out that death as a notion became a thing nobody wants to talk about in a time when news media space is fulfilled with violence and various kind of cruelty.

Barrett says that the commercial hand has touched the process of dying too, making it impersonal and blank. There’s a standard funeral kit for each death: sterile hospitals, an expensive coffin, lots of flowers, and other extra services. The price tag for an average funeral is £4,271 for the UK and $6,000 for the US. It’s common for family to not be able to afford such sums.

When burials are arranged and all the papers are signed it’s time for the service. Here is the other point of contention; that family members can’t make their contribution during the traditional process. It’s rare for cemeteries to allow people to do it by themselves, it’s much more common to have a digging machine do its job. Which seems to be normal, not only for traditional funerals but also for a cremation of a loved one.

People who are acquainted with the concept of natural burials tend to overthink their previous vision of the death process. Barrett explains that people are involved to interact with the burial, to carry the dead body, lower the body down, and shovel the dirt on the top. It’s a moment of acceptance, for the situation and of yourself.

Last words

Traditional burials and cremation processes concede to natural burials in a psychological way, where sometimes it’s better to stand there a few more minutes. Traditionally, when a body is under the ground, the only thing you continue to say is “Goodbye” and the feeling of tension reduces with the fuss around the grave. 

During a natural burial, everything is in your hands in the strictest sense. You put a few scoops of dirt on the top and every time you repeat the action you feel the healing process thunderstrike through your body. Relief is the thing people miss during traditional burials because death is something censored yet also buried deep in our consciousness.  

Mother Nature waits

We are made of stardust, and will become stardust again, in the end. We are people with different religious views but the concept of life circulating again and again around the millennia-long story of our world remains without any doubt: there’s life and death and nothing extra.  

If we take the chemical elements, we can divide humans into essentials like oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen. Basically, when burying a person you’re taking them back to their origins. 

Natural burials are not a novelty in many cultures and religions. Jewish, Muslim, and Indigenous Americans tend to favor natural kinds of funerals.

According to the philosophy of natural burials, there’s a new trend among people: home funerals. That means a funeral home is no longer responsible for the preparation of the body, so you can take care of your dead by yourself. Some people prefer this kind of preparation, without all traditional hallmarks, because it is cheaper, more eco-friendly, and brings a sense of closeness.

The president of the National Home Funeral Alliance, Dani LaVoire, explains that home funerals are more about a sense of family where family members can be involved in every step of the preparation hands-on, like washing the body and dressing it.

LaVoire has got her own experience of home funerals; when her grandmother died two years ago. LaVoire says there was a feeling of some questions left unsolved. Her mother desirded to bring the body home, ignoring her skeptical thoughts to conduct a day-long home funeral.

Within five minutes of bringing the body home, LaVoire’s mother told her that “this feels so right and I shouldn’t have doubted you.” A natural feeling was present in the air, and the grandmother’s daughter could spend time alone with the mother, while other relatives brought flowers to say goodbye.

You’re not forced to be in a hurry when you have a home funeral. It’s more likely you’ll feel the full spectrum of emotions and be sincere.

Why is it so important for nature?

Traditional funerals bring not only dead bodies back to the roots but also all materials used before preparation. According to the official stats, every year Americans bury 73,000 kilometers of hardwood boards, 58,500 tons of steel, 1.5 million tons of concrete, and 3.1 million liters of formaldehyde along with their loved ones. With the growth of the population, it’ll be a real task to find enough spare space for all of us.

Some say that cremation is more eco-friendly, but to burn a body down is not an easy challenge. Cremating one body requires over 1,800 degrees of heat over two to three hours, which is enough energy to release 573 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air.

Green burials use less energy and consume fewer materials. It’ll take several months for the earth to decompose a body until all that’s left is a skeleton.

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