Death customs

A pen coffin is designed for a deceased teacher or author.

Ghana’s fantasy coffins: Fulfilling burial dreams one coffin at a time 


In Ghana, coffin makers have elevated death into an art form, building fantasy coffins despite some raised eyebrows at this uncommon profession.

Clerics carry the coffin after the funeral for Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu at the St George's Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa, Saturday, Jan 1, 2022.

What is aquamation, the burial practice Desmond Tutu chose instead of cremation? 

Science & Technology
Siblings Erika and Dwayne Bermudez comfort one another during a short viewing of their mother, Eudiana Smith, at The Family Funeral Home, May 2, 2020, in Newark, New Jersey.

The pandemic has disrupted how we grieve. The effects could be long-lasting.

Lifestyle & Belief
People gather around a coffin on a boat

Mourning in the midst of a pandemic

A man stands at a counter holding an urn with many urn designs behind him

Greece’s first and only crematorium opens despite pushback from the church

Recompose artist's rendering

Going green — after death

Lifestyle & Belief

For most of recent human history, we’ve opted for burial and cremation. Washington State residents now have a new green option: human composting — also known as natural organic reduction.

A orca lands on the beach to catch a baby sea lion

What a grieving orca mother tells us about animals and death

Among scientists, however, there remains a prejudice against the idea that animals feel “real” grief or respond in complex ways to death. Following reports of the “grieving,” zoologist Jules Howard, for example, wrote, “If you believe J35 was displaying evidence of mourning or grief, you are making a case that rests on faith, not on scientific endeavor.”

Hong Kong casket

Cheaper Chinese caskets get a chilly reception in the US market


Death is expensive. The American casket industry is a $1.5 billion business, leading some families to seek out cheaper options from China. But the Chinese haven’t been able to bury the American competition.

My memorials

Social media is transforming the way we view death and grieving


One way the dead live on is in tangible memorials: gravestones, photo albums, commemorative celebrations — and even Facebook. But Facebook turns out to be one place where it’s actually kind of hard to die.

Social gathering and sharing a meal during Russian Easter honoring the dead, Spring Valley, New Jersey, 1997

Photographers look for ‘the poetry of death and dying in America’


Rituals surrounding death vary from place to place, and even from community to community within the smallest of towns. Bastienne Schmidt and Philippe Cheng traveled across the US to photograph the wide range of those rituals and what they can show us about the people and places that created them.