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Burial involves placing the body in a cemetery plot or mausoleum crypt. Cremation burns the body, reducing it to ash and bones.

In the past, burial of the body was the traditional practice in the United States, but today nearly 40 percent of the population makes the choice to be cremated.

Burial of the Body

Types of burial include placement of the body in a cemetery plot, entombment in a mausoleum crypt or family crypt, and burial at sea.

Burial in a cemetery plot requires that you purchase or provide a casket or alternative container. You’ll also need to pay for transporting the body to the cemetery, opening and closing the grave, and perpetual care of the gravesite. Many cemeteries require that you purchase a grave liner or grave vault to keep the ground from caving in if the casket or burial container collapses.

Burial in a mausoleum crypt or family crypt eliminates the need to dig a grave or purchase a grave vault or liner. You still need to pay for the use of the crypt itself.

In most cases, it’s not necessary to embalm the body before burial. Modern refrigeration equipment can maintain the integrity of the body until the funeral service or burial. Some states may require embalming for bodies that have had specific diseases.

Cremation of the Body

After the cremation process, the remaining bones are ground into a fine sand referred to as cremains or ashes. The cremains can be buried in a cemetery plot or placed in a mausoleum crypt, columbarium niche or garden niche. Other alternatives include keeping the cremains at home in an urn, scattering them on land or at sea, or even incorporating them into blown glass, jewelry and other objects. And for the truly adventurous, they can be shot into space.

Cremation can be a less expensive alternative to burial, since there is no preparation of the body and no casket. The option to keep or scatter the cremains without purchasing a cemetery plot, crypt or niche can also save money.

Resomation and Promession

Resomation and promession are two newer alternatives to cremation available in some areas of the United States. Resomation uses a mixture of water and potassium hydroxide, heated to a high temperature at a high pressure, to dissolve the body into its chemical components and ash. Promession reduces the body of the deceased to a fine powder by submerging it in liquid nitrogen and pulverizing the remains.

Related Issues
Caskets and urns
Final location of the body
Funeral home services
Markers and the epitaph
Organ, tissue, and whole body donation

Articles and Stories
Ask the Questions: Interview with Elizabeth Fournier
A Mortician’s Story

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