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How St. Louisans are digging in to alternatives to conventional burials

Lara Hamdan
St. Louis Public Radio
Bellefontaine Cemetery is one of the only cemeteries in the St. Louis area certified for green burial.

Alternatives to traditional burial and cremation funeral services continue to gain more interest. A 2017 survey from the National Funeral Directors Association showed nearly 54% of respondents were considering a green funeral.

The harmful effects traditional burials have on the natural world is one reason for the increasing interest. Another reason people are seeking information about alternatives to traditional services has to do with the coronavirus pandemic.

Miya Norfleet
St. Louis Public Radio
Gracie Griffin is vice president of customer relations at Bellefontaine Cemetery, and Timothy Johnson is the managing director of Foundation Cremation Services.

Timothy Johnson, owner and founder of Foundation Cremation, shared that COVID-19 forced a lot of families to make difficult and quick decisions about how to handle their loved ones’ remains. “Unfortunately, a lot of families didn't have a choice on whether their loved one was cremated or not. And a lot of families that wouldn't have normally chosen cremation were forced to choose it,” he said on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air. “And then afterwards [families saw cremation] as a viable option going forward for their families.”

Green burials, or natural burials, are gaining attraction because they're eco-friendly, but Gracie Griffin, vice president of customer relations of Bellefontaine Cemetery, was surprised to learn that families enjoy the hands-on experience of laying their family to rest. “We didn’t necessarily predict just how much power it would give the family in the process,” she said.

At Bellefontaine Cemetery, families participating in a green burial are given the option to transport their relatives on a cart from the chapel to the burial site, lower them in the grave and “blanket them in greens and flowers.”

“I think a lot of people, when someone dies … you’re just sitting around. There’s a lot of sitting, there’s a lot of casserole eating. There’s very little opportunity for people to feel in control and to manage their feelings,” Griffin said. “With something like a green burial … it really gives people something not only physical to do to get rid of some of that energy, but it empowers them.”

For more on alternatives to conventional burials listen to Tim Johnson’s and Gracie Griffin’s conversation on St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, or by clicking the play button below.

How St. Louisans are digging in to alternatives to conventional burials

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Miya is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."

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