Trish Green, Andy Clayden and Jenny Hockey 2011

University of Sheffield, UK

The implications of natural burial for the funeral profession

This paper explores the implications of natural burial for the funeral profession. Its discussion is underpinned by data gathered during a three-year ESRC funded project which explored the cultural, social and emotional implications of natural burial in the UK. The paper’s arguments are supported by data from interviews with funeral directors who fall into three discrete groups: 1) individuals who extended disposal options for their bereaved clientele through buying land in order to accommodate natural burial; 2) natural burial ground owners/managers who extended their on-site provision to include funeral directing; and 3) local funeral directors, whose connections with natural burial were forged via relationships with bereaved clientele choosing this disposal option for the burial of a loved one, and/or through relationships with natural burial sites and their owners/managers. The paper maps the different journeys into natural burial made by these individuals. It considers their attitudes towards the ethos of natural burial, that is, as an environmentally driven process (West 1991) and explores their engagement with the natural burial ground, wherein this disposal option culminates. In so doing, the paper investigates the tensions, challenges and indeed the opportunities natural burial might present for the 21st century funeral director, who remains more often than not the first port of call for bereaved people.


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