Burying the dead is a ritual that dates back to our prehistoric ancestors. While the practice may have begun from a practical necessity to dispose of the deceased, burial services have evolved over time and across cultures to reflect our beliefs and fears about death, the afterlife, religious beliefs and changing societal norms.
As a result, Americans are increasingly choosing to have their remains cremated. But a cremation is not a substitute for a funeral service and does not address the final disposition of the ashes. So it is important to consider the final resting place for your loved one or yourself and understand the choices available for both in-ground and above-ground traditional casketed and cremation burials.
A traditional cemetery burial requires the use of a gravesite or cemetery plot in a monumental or lawn cemetery. The deceased is buried in a casket which then may be placed in a burial vault or grave liner in the cemetery plot depending on cemetery requirements. Made of concrete, metal or hard plastic, burial vaults or liners help prevent the ground above the casket from caving in. Burial vaults enclose the entire casket while grave liners are placed on the sides and on the top of the casket.
In cremation burials, the deceased’s remains are buried in an urn. Many cemeteries require that the urn holding the deceased’s ashes be enclosed in an urn vault to ensure that the soil above and around the urn will not collapse.
Whether you’ve chosen cremation or a traditional cemetery, you might consider burial in a lawn crypt. Lawn crypts are commonly called inground mausoleums because they enclose the caskets of the deceased. Constructed of steel reinforced concrete, these pre-installed vaults allow for single or double depth (stacked) burials in a cemetery.
In a green burial, the deceased is buried in a biodegradable container or shroud. Embalming and outer containers are prohibited as are ornate grave markers.
If you are choosing an in-ground burial, it is also important to understand the different type of cemeteries.
In a monumental cemetery, a gravesite is marked by a headstone or grave marker that rises vertically above the ground. In a lawn or memorial cemetery, a gravesite is marked by a horizontal plaque at the head of the grave.
If being interred at a green cemetery or burial ground, a natural stone marker, a tree, a bush, flowers or GPS technology may be used to identify the gravesite.
An alternative to in-ground burials are mausoleums, free-standing above ground structures that enclose the burial chambers or crypts of the deceased.
Community mausoleums are buildings that may offer single, companion or family configurations crypts with a vestibule or sarcophagus style.
Vestibule-style cemetery mausoleums have a doorway and hallways to allow relatives to visit the deceased. These facilities also may have a small chapel for prayerful reflection and services. In comparison, a sarcophagus-style cemetery mausoleum is a closed structure, which allows viewing of the crypt from the outside alone. In addition to community mausoleums, families can also secure a private family mausoleum in either the vestibule or sarcophagus style at cemeteries.
Cremated remains can also be interred in a mausoleum or a columbarium, a structure with recesses in the walls to hold urns containing cremated remains.
Whatever you choose, it is important to remember that a providing a final resting place for your loved one is an important part of the grieving practice and creates a permanent memorial for the deceased.
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