Ask a Mortician: What's the Difference Between a Traditional and a Natural Burial?

Did you know that it's practically impossible to put a naked corpse in the ground? Most cemeteries won't allow it. Our favorite mortician, Caitlin Doughty, explains the difference between traditional burial — the one with the embalming and coffins — and natural burial, which is, you know, natural. Tune in for the kitty angels, stay for the Barbara Walters sample.

And follow Caitlin on Twitter!

[Order Of The Good Death]

Ask a Mortician: Do Funeral Homes Dissolve Bodies in Acid?
Ask A Mortician: What Do You Say to Someone Who Is Grieving?
Ask A Mortician: Can a Casket Explode?
Our Favorite Mortician Does Not Care for Zombies!
Our Favorite Mortician Reveals What Happens to Corpses in Space
Our Favorite Mortician Takes Us On A Hollywood Death Tour
Our Favorite Mortician Explains How You Can Have Her Job
Our Go-To Mortician Reveals Her Favorite Death Custom
Our Favorite Mortician Explains Cremation, Beastly-Sounding ‘Bone Blender'
Fun, Friendly, Female Mortician Will Answer All Your Random Questions About Death


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There used to be a reality show on A&E about a family that ran a funeral home. I can't remember what it was called, but I think it only ran for a season, despite being fairly interesting. I mean, I guess it was depressing. The guy who ran the place did so with his ex-wife, and their marriage had fallen apart after their son had died in an accident. (One episode revolved around him getting some of their son's ashes made into a diamond for her, and it was heartbreaking to watch how clearly broken their relationship had become because you could see how much they'd loved each other before.) It tended to focus more on the day-to-day running of the morgue, and how the people who came in coped with things, and though they occasionally had a forced, obviously faked storyline, most of it was genuine and painful to watch. I want to say their daughter performed the bodies for open-casket burials, and it was fascinating to watch her work and hear her talk about how she had to try to match the person's skin tone or makeup with the photos family members brought in.

I'm just saying I remember when reality television was good is all. (Anyone else think the early British episodes of Kitchen Nightmares are so, so much better because you can tell Gordon Ramsay is enjoying himself, likes working with the people, and it really is all about the food and service versus the current staged bullshit?)