Final Disposition: What It Means And The Options Available

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Posted on: 17 December 2019 by Lanre Onibalusi

Choosing how you’ll be laid to rest is a deeply personal matter, and it’s vital to consider your own preferences, your religious beliefs, and family traditions, as well as plan for the costs.

Final disposition refers to how deceased persons’ remains are handled after their passing. For some, leaving instructions on how their own remains will be dealt with is an important part of their overall funeral planning processes. For others, the ultimate decision might be left up to their loved ones. 

Understanding the various options - and discussing it further with your funeral director - allows you to make an informed decision about how your remains will be laid to rest. With this in mind, three of the most common final disposition methods are outlined below to help you make a decision.

Cremation

Cremation as a final-disposition option has been around for thousands of years. Whilst the process can seem mysterious, understanding how cremation works in the modern world could relieve any anxiety you might feel about the idea. Cremations tend to be significantly cheaper than burials, which could account for their popularity.

The crematories of today have industrial furnaces - known as cremation chambers and retorts - heated by fueled by natural gas, oils, propane, or some other fuel. The actual process takes only a few hours at maximum, and it could start with obtaining and verifying the authorization for the cremation. Usually, the authorization is provided by paperwork completed by family or other loved ones. The body is then bathed, cleaned, and dressed before identity confirmation by a family member. Items like jewelry, medical devices, and prosthetics are removed to prevent chemical reactions during the process. 

Next, the deceased’s body is placed into a container such as a for-cremation casket or a rigid cardboard container before it’s exposed to intense heat and open flames in a preheated cremation retort. The remains are known as ashes but they’re made up mostly of bone fragments - up to around four kilograms of it. Any dental work, implants, and other metal objects will be removed by strong magnets. The mixture is then cooled and ground up in a cremulator and the ashes are transferred to a suitable container such as an urn provided by the family members. 

Burial

Burials are far less common than cremations, but a significant number of people still opt for burials. Those who prefer a burial can choose from different alternatives like traditional in-ground burials and natural burials.

An in-ground burial usually features a casket, a memorial tribute marking the deceased’s final resting place, and a funeral service. It also includes a burial vault (to be distinguished from family burial vaults), which is a lined and sealed outer enclosure (usually concrete) that protects your casket from water, the weight of the earth, and any heavy equipment moving over the grave. This type of burial could be right for you if you prefer a traditional cemetery burial, want to be memorialized next to family, and would like to give loved ones the opportunity for outdoor visitations. 

Natural burials offer a non-traditional, eco-friendly option for interment. Natural burials are known as such as they involve placing the body as it is directly into the ground, without the use of embalming liquid, caskets, burial vaults, and other elements. This lets the body decompose naturally, minimizing environmental impact. In some cases, a natural burial could involve biodegradable caskets or burial shrouds. If you’re planning to have a natural burial, check local rules and regulations to make sure you have permission first.

Other burial options include tree burials, which involves placing the deceased’s body under his/her favorite tree. Alternatively, you could choose to be buried at sea, which would involve disposing of your remains in the ocean from a ship or boat. If you’re planning a sea burial, you should first verify you can obtain the relevant permits from the authorities. 

Burial vault/mausoleum or crypt

Technically burial options - as opposed to cremation - also include above-ground alternatives like interment in a mausoleum, sometimes referred to as a family burial vault. Mausoleums are above-ground tombs specially built to lay one or more people to rest, and they’re likely the most expensive option available. 

They can be more space-efficient than in-ground burial plots, and loved ones can usually gain access to the structure to spend time with the deceased. Additionally, mausoleums ensure the casket is always kept dry and out of the elements, and some mausoleums include climate-control features.

The deceased’s remains are typically placed within coffins and are often sealed in another outer sarcophagus made of stone. Mausoleums can be elaborately styled with etchings on stonework and various sculptures. You can choose to be laid to rest in a community or public mausoleum or alternatively you could set up a private family mausoleum. A private mausoleum will be more costly but you can personalize the space, enjoy more privacy, and be laid to rest among your loved ones.

In contrast, crypts - also shared spaces for burials - are usually located below ground. Crypts are stone chambers located underground for housing multiple tombs, and they’re often found under churches and cathedrals. 

Choosing the right option for you

Choosing how you’ll be laid to rest is a deeply personal matter, and it’s vital to consider your own preferences, your religious beliefs, and family traditions, as well as plan for the costs. Taking charge of your funeral arrangements can give you the peace of mind you’ll be put to rest in the way you want. 

It can offer certainty and comfort to your family and friends in a time of bereavement. By thinking about it ahead of time, leaving clear instructions for your loved ones, and carefully planning for the costs, you can see to it that your final wishes are met and eliminate guesswork for your loved ones.

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