The Birth of the Natural Death Movement


Published in Kindred, Issue 25, March 08, as part of Death Through the Eyes of a Child


In 1988, Nicholas Albery’s [founder of the Natural Death Centre] father died at home. This death triggered in Nicholas a realisation of the need for a natural death movement to parallel the natural childbirth movement, and to spread the tenets of good hospice care to home care for those dying of all causes, not just cancer. As Nicholas put it:

‘Wouldn’t more people, if it were possible, prefer to die at home amongst friends rather than in the anonymity of a big and noisy hospital? As with birth, could preparation, exercises and rituals help reduce the anxieties that people feel about dying? Could dying at least for a lucky few become as easy and as ecstatic a process as our experience of birth? Granted that no one can be certain what happens after death, could it be that preparation matters, as the Tibetans argue, to enable the soul at the point of death to merge fearlessly with that bright light reported by many who have recovered from near-death experiences? I remembered how a friend’s mother insisted on being given her travelling rug to die with; could the process of dying be the labour pains of the soul, with sometimes the same feeling of expectation and transition as at birth?’

Extracted from The Natural Death Handbook

Doulas for the dying

There are similarities between the sensitive care required at birth and approaching death. Using the analogy of companions for women in childbirth, death doulas serve to accompany, comfort and support those who are at the end of their life. When approaching death, people often experience fear, loneliness and isolation. Well-prepared doulas, working with one person at a time, can minimise the sense of isolation, provide emotional comfort, assist with practical concerns and advocate on behalf of people with life limiting illness.

Well-prepared doulas provide:

• Emotional, spiritual and social support

• Comfort and companionship

• Advocacy

Sustainable cemeteries

Australia still does not have a real ‘green’ cemetery. There are a couple of cemeteries with a bushland setting but they still support the traditional burial practices of wooden (particle board) coffins, headstones etc. South Australia is looking into a suitable location for a cemetery where biodegradable coffins and caskets will be used and only native shrubs or trees will be placed over the location of the burial site. According to the head of the inquiry, Bob Such –

‘The great thing about natural burial grounds is that they provide a positive contribution to the environment. They are easy to maintain. They are inexpensive to implement, because the person is buried in a cardboard or a wicker coffin, and a tree is planted above or alongside the cremated remains. There is a little plaque next to the tree or at the entrance of the natural burial ground, saying that a particular tree represents the place where a particular person was buried or their cremated remains have been placed.’

South Australia will be the first state to introduce natural burial grounds.

With thanks to the Natural Death Centre


Books for adults on dying and death:

Sacred Dying: Creating Rituals for Embracing the End of Life by Megory Anderson, Thomas Moore

Dealing Creatively With Death: A Manual of Death Education and Simple Burial by Ernest Morgan

Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love by Lisa Carlson

Midwife Of Souls by Kathy Kalina

The Pagan Book of Living and Dying: Practical Rituals, Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations on Crossing Over by Starhawk, M. Macha Nightmare

The New Natural Death Handbook by Nicholas Albery, Gil Elliot, Joseph Elliot

• Funeral Rights: what the ‘death care’ industry doesn’t want you to know by Robert Larkins

A Graceful Farewell: Putting Your Affairs in Order by Maggie Watson


Children’s books about death:

Lifetimes by Bryan Mellonie

What Is Death by Etan Boritzer

The Next Place by Warren Hanson

The Mountains of Tibet  by Mordicai Gerstein



The Natural Death Centre – UK

Provides information on all types of funeral choices, but are especially known for advice and support on family-organised, environmentally-friendly funerals, and natural burial grounds

The Natural Death Centre – Australia

Support, products and information to demystify and reclaim death.

Circle of Life

Resources, articles, links, book reviews and more

Funeral Rights

What the Australian death industry doesn’t want you to know – information, links, blog

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