Published April 28th, 2021
Burials and funerals have always been steeped in tradition, superstition, and formal ceremonies. This usually forced us to stick to a pretty limited burial option. Back then, we always thought that once we die, there’s only one thing that will happen to our bodies – buried underground. Or depending on your religion, be cremated in a huge funeral pyre. Burial alternatives are just unthinkable.
But as time goes by, people’s idea of death and dying have slowly evolved. Gone are the days when we see death as a way for the soul to transcend its mortal boundaries. Now, burials and funerals have become more of a venue to celebrate a life lived. It has become much more personal and less traditional.
This change in perspective gave rise to burial methods that range from innovative to downright morbid. Now, you have more options on what to do with cremated remains. Instead of just storing them in an urn and putting them somewhere around the house, you can turn them into works of art or even jewelry. Rather than just putting it underground, you can have it preserved or even use it to help advance medical research. The options seem endless.
So if you’re one of those people who want to defy convention until the very end, these burial alternatives are worth checking out during your funeral planning:
Cryonics is a technique used to store human bodies at a freezing temperature hoping one day when science has become more advanced and can treat whatever incurable diseases today, scientists can revive the preserved remains.
As of 2014, 250 corpses have been preserved in the US through this method. Surprisingly, 1,500 people have already signed up to have their remains cryogenically preserved once they die.
Cremation is one of the most common ways of putting one’s body to rest. It’s even more popular now in the US compared to traditional burial.
During the cremation process, the remains are burned in a chamber until it turns into ashes. The advantage of cremation is that the ashes are usually placed in an urn so that families can keep them at home or scatter the ashes at sea whenever they’re ready. Most funeral homes offer cremation services and also have columbariums where you can store the ashes.
3. Full-Body Sea Burial
Sea burial is an expressive and meaningful yet a much cheaper alternative to the traditional underground burial. This practice traces its roots back to ancient times. Full body burial at sea is just the same as that of scattering cremation ashes at sea. The only difference is that you are sending off the whole remains intact. So if you’re not fond of cremation but want to ride the waves forever, this is perfect for you.
4. Alkaline Hydrolysis
Alkaline Hydrolysis, also known as Resomation or Aquamation, is a process where it speeds up the decomposition of the remains through water cremation. It’s the same thing with cremation, except that it uses water instead of fire to turn the remains into ashes.
5. Space Burial
Space burial is the launching of cremated remains in space. It is one of the most expensive burial alternatives. But, for those who are genuinely in love with science and madly want to connect with the galactic world, money wouldn’t be a question.
6. Body Donation
Many people are now considering donating their bodies to science once they die. Not only can you help in advancing the future of science and medicine, but you can save a lot of money as well.
When you choose to donate your body to science, the tissue bank itself will take care of all the expenses: from the transport of the body up to cremation. The donor’s cremated remains will also be returned to the family after a few weeks or have it scattered at sea. Whether you choose to scatter your remains at sea or have a funeral or memorial service, all expenses are usually taken cared of. So if you want to save your family from spending hundreds of dollars on funeral and burial costs, body donation is the way to go.
7. Burial Pods
If you’re looking for an eco-friendly burial option, you should consider burial pods. It’s basically an egg-shaped pod where a corpse or cremated remains are enclosed together with a tree seed. They are then buried in the ground and as the body or ashes decompose, they provide nutrients to the tree growing above it. This is why it’s also known as a tree urn.
Now, imagine if more people will opt for this green burial method. We’d have lush verdant forests instead of cemeteries filled with tombstones. That would be a welcome sight indeed.
8. Biodegradable Urn
As the name suggests, a biodegradable urn or a living urn is perfect for eco-warriors. A bio urn comes in different shapes, sizes, and materials which gives you lots of flexibility. You can bury it on the ground or use it as an indoor planter. Either way, you will be laid to rest without harming Mother Nature which, for an eco-warrior, is a dream come true.
This is probably one of the most morbid alternative burial methods. It involves placing the body in a tank of strong chemicals. This will cause it to rapidly break down at a cellular level until it totally dissolves. Sometimes the body is chopped limb to limb to speed up the dissolution process. If this doesn’t creep you up and you thrive in morbidity, then go ahead and sign up for dissolution.
Another eco-friendly burial alternative is promession. This method involves freeze-drying the body in a vat of liquid nitrogen. It’s then broken down into powder resulting in something very similar to cremation ashes. So, it’s essentially cremation but doesn’t use that much fuel. So if you’re against cremation because of its carbon footprint, promession would be a great alternative.
11. Memorial Diamonds
Diamonds, as they say, are forever. So if you want a part of yourself to live forever (and not just in people’s memories), memorial diamonds are a good alternative. So how does a human body become a diamond?
If you didn’t know, our bones are a rich source of boron. This mineral, coincidentally, is also a diamond’s primary component. With the right amount of pressure, cremation ashes can be turned into diamonds. This can then be kept by your loved ones and even passed on as an heirloom.
This burial method involves sucking all the liquids and moisture from the body leaving only the tissues. This preserves the corpse and prevents it from decaying. But it also makes it dry and rigid like a plastic mannequin. Most plastinated bodies are used by medical schools so students can learn more about the human body.
13. Coral Reef Burial
We all know that many coral reef systems in the world have already been destroyed. That’s why many organizations are putting up artificial coral reefs to preserve marine life. But some are taking it a step by letting people convert cremated remains into coral blocks and putting them in the water. The cremains will eventually become a part of the reef system when marine animals start to live in it.
14. Ashes to Portraits
Using human ashes to make portraits and paintings might sound creepy. It definitely gives off that “Making a Murderer” vibe. But once you get over the creepy part, it’s actually a nice way to keep a deceased loved one close by. Whenever you see that portrait, you will be reminded of them. And not just because the portrait resembles them so much but also because a part of them lives in that portrait – literally.
15. Ashes to Fireworks
This is the literal version of “going off with a bang”. With this method, cremation ashes are mixed with gun powder and topped with a fuse. But aside from the celebratory symbolism, the ashes also get scattered in the atmosphere. Some land in various places while others stay in the atmosphere. So you can say you’re literally laid to rest in both heaven and earth.
16. Mushroom Suit
As you’ve probably surmised from the name, a mushroom suit uses mushrooms to slowly “digest” the human body. But before you get weirded out, know that this was created in response to calls for a more eco-friendly burial method.
The idea is simple. After you die, your body will be placed in a suit which contains mushroom spores. These spores will then feed off the nutrients in the decomposing body.
17. Natural Burials
Natural burials are termed such because they don’t use embalming fluid, a casket, or a burial vault. The body is directly on the earth. Sometimes they’re wrapped in a linen shroud which also decomposes just like the rest of the body. This way, you won’t have to worry about carbon footprints or any metal or plastic debris that will be left behind when the casket rots. It also lets you save on burial costs as coffins and burial vaults can be expensive.
While these burial alternatives are undoubtedly exciting and impressive, it is still best to let your family know about them. Burial is not an easy subject, but telling your loved ones about your plans will help them to fulfill your wishes.