Death doula hopes London opts for green burials

A London woman trained as a death doula is hoping cemeteries in the city will make room for green burials.

Green cemetery grounds see bodies interred in shrouds in a natural setting

Niagara Falls opened a green cemetery in 2017, one of 19 currently operating in Canada (Submitted by Elaine Zappitelli-Andrews )

A London woman trained as a death doula is hoping cemeteries in the city will make room for green burials.

The end-of-life option is an "ashes-to-ashes" option that sees bodies wrapped in shrouds or laid in simple soft-wood caskets. 

"The body is not embalmed and unlike a traditional cemetery, the casket is not lowered into a concrete vault," Elaine Zappitelli-Andrews explained in an interview on London Morning. 

"The body doesn't have to go down as deep and it can decompose naturally." 

Instead of manicured lawns, green cemeteries are planted with wildflowers and native trees to support wildlife.

A green cemetery is also different because it's not landscaped and there are no tombstones. Instead, wild flowers and trees are planted, often with a central monument.  

"It's a welcoming place where you can bring your dog and you could picnic there."  

Growing in popularity

"I think it's important to give people an option," Zappitelli-Andrew said. "I know that there are cemeteries [in London] interested in opening green sections on their grounds." 

Elaine Zappitelli-Andrews trained as a death doula after a close friend passed away. (provided by Elaine Zappitelli-Andrews )

There are approximately 19 green cemeteries in Canada, including one in Cobourg, Ont.. It was the first to open in Ontario in 2009.

Zappitelli-Andrews said 21 new green burial grounds are slated to open across the country in the coming year. 

"If you're interested in seeing one in London, contact the local cemeteries." 

Death doulas

While green burials are a shift in death rituals, so too is Zappitelli-Andrew's line of work as a death doula. 

The Londoner describes it as an end-of-life companion and advocate. 

"It's making the person comfortable, including recording their life story, helping them prepare their own vigil or making the hospital feel less institutional."