Choosing Cremation AFTER Burial
It is a common assumption that once a body is buried, you have reached the end of the road. As soon as the dirt is packed and the gravestone erected, there is nothing more to be done for the deceased except to visit and leave the occasional bouquet of flowers.
Although it is not common practice, some families do choose to make changes after burial has occurred. This is usually done because they are relocating and wish to have access to a closer gravesite, because they wish to use the burial plot for another relative, or because they have decided they would rather cremate the deceased.
Why Cremate after Burial?
Cremating a loved one after they have already been buried may sound strange, but there are several good reasons for doing it. For example:
- Cremated remains are much more portable, which makes it ideal when you do a lot of moving around and wish to have the deceased near you.
- Cremated remains can be shared among a large number of family members.
- Cremated remains allow for unique memorials, such as ash-scattering ceremonies or other non-traditional dispensation.
- A change of religion or cultural beliefs may require that you cremate a loved one rather than bury them.
- An earlier dispute over how to handle the remains may be legally resolved and the decision made to cremate.
Process of Exhumation
In order to open a grave and remove the buried remains, you must have legal access and quite a bit of money put away. In addition to city, state, and/or county permits to move or exhume the body, you will also need the assistance of a funeral director to oversee the process (this is legally required for safety and sanitation reasons).
Once the body has been exhumed, you will have to adhere to local rules regarding transport and handling of the remains. This means that the body will most likely move through the funeral home or crematorium you have chosen to handle your business, and you will have little (if any) contact during the exhumation. You can, however, ask to have any items buried in the grave to be returned to you at this time, especially if they are dangerous to place in the crematorium or hold personal or sentimental value.
The good news is that once the body has been transferred to the crematorium and cremated, the gravesite and headstone are legally your property. You can re-sell the plot (according to the cemetery guidelines and your contract) and/or recycle the headstone. Some families even re-bury the cremated remains, which take up much less space overall.