The loss of a loved one can be the most difficult time for any family. Words left unsaid may follow the bereaved and the constant wondering of “what-ifs” resulting from regretful interactions. If you are fortunate, your last days with your loved one were peaceful and without strife – much in the way we all hope to go. Regardless of what transpired in the past, however, you now have a future to look towards. The first steps to that future is laying the dead to rest.
Disposing of the dead can be an emotionally vexing affair, and with so many options to choose from it may be difficult to decide which option is best for you. Religious beliefs of the deceased may limit your options, and if there are religious concerns be sure to consult with your chosen religious authority on the matter. In general, however, there are three options: burial, donation, and cremation.
The traditional option is the burial. Note that burials can get rather expensive but it is the option most familiar to people. Funeral homes will often need to take time to prepare special embalming fluids and work to preserve the body for viewing, then there is the matter of selecting an appropriate casket and finding the right plot to bury the body in. Many cemeteries charge a maintenance fee but some include it in the initial costs. Make sure you understand the associated costs before leasing out a plot for burial.
This option is one that should be discussed prior to an individual’s demise, but the donation of part or the entire body is an option. Partial donations are fairly common practice – it is likely you have ‘organ donor’ noted on your license. This can help save lives after death and ensure that others have a healthier future. Some even choose to donate their bodies to medical science, which allows the body to be used in various forms of research or by medical students.
Note that after a period of time – usually between one and two years – the remains are cremated and returned to the family. As such the donation option may simply act as a delayed cremation.
One of the most popular alternatives to burial is cremation. This option is usually selected by those not wanting to burden their families with the upkeep of a plot. Funeral homes will usually allow time for public viewings before cremation if the family so chooses. After the body is burned the ashes are given to family members to be disposed of as they see fit. Nearly all states allow for the scattering of ashes in public parks – check your local area for permitting requirements. There is also the option for scattering one’s ashes at sea.
Most find cremation to be the most convenient form of disposition and will allow their loved ones a chance to visit a place they loved one last time.
Honoring the Dead
At the end of the day, the choice ought to be made with the wishes of the deceased foremost in mind. Everybody has their own preferences or wishes, and ensuring those wishes are honored is the last duty owed by the family to the fallen.