What is Natural Death Care?

Day of the Dead Ceremony

Reliance on a funerary industry to care for our dead and the removal of death and dying from our homes and communities are startlingly recent developments within the last century. Our modern approach to death has devalued the elderly and infirm and has left us blind to the extent to which we’ve forfeited our most personal, vulnerable, and significant life moments to medical, funerary, legislative, and commercial pressures.

Natural death care offers education and tools for individuals and communities to become empowered around dying and death. Emerging in the 1990s from the same baby boom generation that launched a natural childbirth movement, the natural death movement now spans the UK, Australia, the United States, and Canada.

Zen & the Art of Dying highlights and models many natural death care principles including:

  • Extending palliative care to include death care and bereavement.
  • Making municipal end-of-life counseling and non-profit funerary services community standards.
  • Producing stronger communities via intercultural and interdenominational exchange of death traditions .
  • Personalizing and decommodifying bereavement through DIY coffin making and home funerals.
  • Returning the wisdom of the infirm and elderly to the cultural conversation.
  • Training and counseling medical and palliative care professionals to experience and process death.
  • Developing alternative eco-burial and bio-cremation techniques that are chemical and byproduct-free and use no fossil fuels.
  • Making bereavement a natural and supported aspect of community life through collective memorial and celebration of the dead.

In addition to organizations such as Zenith Virago’s Natural Death Care Centre in Australia, there is an increasing network of individual natural death practitioners who draw from a wide range of cultural traditions and methods in their work. These professionals range from death midwives, Buddhist Lamas, and eco-burial product manufacturers, to specialized attorneys, physicians, and social workers.

See our Useful Links page for listings of other organizations, publications, and media works about natural death care, and to share your own resources.