When we lose someone we love, our feeling of connection to them continues, even though they are no longer with us physically. It is this connection that contributes to our feelings of loss, and today, as cremation rates rise, one very important element of the healing process is being forgotten: the need for a permanent memorial.
Planning for a permanent memorial/placement is important for 5 main reasons:
- It provides a place for people to mourn.
- It gives all mourners (not just family) access to pay their respects and connect with the one who has died.
- It provides a permanent place that will exist for generations to come.
- It is practical for the family.
- It ensures respect for the dead.
Now that we understand the importance of permanent placement, let’s review your options.
Permanent Placement Options for Burial of the Body
If you choose burial of the body as your preference, you have many options available for both in-ground or above-ground burial. Not all options are available everywhere, so check with your funeral professional to determine which ones are available in your area.
With traditional burial, the body remains intact and is usually embalmed to allow for a viewing or visitation prior to the funeral and committal services. Prior to burial, the grave is excavated at the cemetery and either a grave liner or burial vault is placed in the grave (the family decides which one). Later, after the committal service, the cemetery grounds crew will lower the casket and fill the grave with soil. Eventually, a grave marker with epitaph is added to the location as a memorial.
Essentially, a lawn crypt is a type of underground mausoleum. It’s built deeper into the ground and can house multiple caskets. Often made of concrete, a lawn crypt possesses a drainage system, which protects the grave's contents from the elements.
A mausoleum is an above-ground memorial building for housing casketed remains. They offer personal ways to commemorate your loved one, including name carvings, plaques, and vases for flowers. A mausoleum typically offers single or companion crypts and protects the remains from the elements.
Natural (or Green) Burial
The main idea behind green and natural burials is to allow the decomposition process to occur naturally. The main differences are two-fold: 1) Green burial excludes any type of embalming, and the cemetery grounds are specifically sanctioned for green burial; 2) While green burials must occur on very specific plots of land, a natural burial can take place on private land (subject to regulations) or in any cemetery that allows it.
Permanent Placement Options for the Cremated Body
Columbaria consist of many small compartments, called niches, that each hold an individual urn. Each niche typically includes a memorial plaque that acts as a grave marker, identifying the names, dates of life, and an epitaph (if the family wishes). All columbaria are communal, though a family can purchase a family-sized niche to allow multiple urns to be placed together.
It is also possible to bury an urn rather than to place it in a columbarium niche. Some cemeteries have landscaped urn gardens while others offer burial plots similar to those for traditional burial. As with traditional burial, urn burial requires an outer burial container. A third option for urn burial is green burial without an outer burial container.
You can take your loved one’s cremated body to a special place (remember to check the laws and regulations for that place) or you can go to a scattering garden, a designated, beautiful space often attached to a cemetery. With a scattering garden, the cemetery often provides a means of adding a permanent physical marker so that family and friends feel more connected to their lost loved one.
A few lesser-used interment options for the cremated body are:
- Planting the cremated body in a biodegradable urn with seeds so that a memorial tree will grow
- Mixing the cremated body with concrete to create an artificial reef to help heal the ocean
- Launching the cremated body into space
- Participating in burial at sea (available for both full body and cremated body)
As you can see, there are several interment options available to you, and you can choose the one that best fits your wishes and your family’s needs. No matter which option you choose, remember that it’s important to designate a final resting place so that friends, family, and future generations have a place to visit, remember, and honor the life that has been lived.
* To view the full article, go to Funeral Basics.