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8 Common Myths About Burial

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Burial has long been one of the most common final disposition methods. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t myths or misconceptions around the practice.

When a family calls to arrange services, they often have questions or have made assumptions—and it’s our caring staff’s job to make sure all questions are answered, and families are comfortable moving forward with their desired final arrangements. Unfortunately, we sometimes hear questions that aren’t accurate, many of which surround burial.

Continue reading for eight of the most common myths about burial—and why they aren’t necessarily true.

Misconception 1: Most cemeteries are at capacity.

A common question we hear from families is, “Aren’t most cemeteries full?”

At first glance, a cemetery may look full because of how many headstones are covering the land a cemetery owns. However, some headstones are made for more than one person—double-depth plots—which are typically used for siblings or married couples.

Many cemeteries also offer columbariums—structures that hold cremated remains in niches—and mausoleums—above-ground, often private structures that hold caskets. Both structures reduce the amount of in-ground burial plots that cover land.

Cemeteries may also have more space than meets the eye. While families can generally choose the location or section they want a loved one buried depending on their memorial preferences, some cemeteries have protected, unused land for future burials.

The best way to guarantee you or a loved one can be buried in your cemetery of choice is by prearranging your final wishes, including your burial plot and memorial.

Misconception 2: Embalming will preserve remains forever.

Embalming does not preserve the human body forever—it simply delays the natural consequences of death.

The length of time an embalmed body will not decay is dependent on the types of chemicals used in the fluid, the amount of fluid used and the general conditions that the body is kept in.

An embalmed body placed in a casket enables the body to last for many years depending on the type of material used.

>>>Related Resource: 7 Questions About Embalming, Answered

Misconception 3: A religious official is required at a burial service.

Many are surprised to learn that anyone can lead a funeral or memorial service—they do not have to be a religious leader.

Depending on a family’s preference, funeral directors and/or certified celebrants are often selected as officiants. Family members and friends are also allowed to take on this role—however, it’s important to note that emotions run high at funerals, so having a loved one who is personally affected might not be the best option as the officiate.

While there are no legal requirements, many families prefer an experienced officiant to help guide services. A qualified officiant has experience leading these services, and typically knows how to:

Misconception 4: Burial can pollute local water sources.

This statement only remains true if a burial is not done properly—for example, if someone is buried somewhere that is not a certified cemetery or if they are buried without a proper casket and/or burial vault.

A burial vault serves many purposes, but it mainly protects the casket from releasing any toxins, resists any water from getting inside and preserves the beauty of the cemetery by preventing ground settling

Misconception 5: Protective caskets can help preserve remains.

There is no casket material that exists that can preserve remains forever. Caskets are generally a rhetorical way to encase the body—there is really no way to improve how they function.

Two types of caskets exist: sealed and unsealed.

  1. A sealed “gasketed” casket has a protective, air-tight seal between the lid and the body of the casket. This type of casket does protect the body from outside elements.

  2. An unsealed casket doesn’t have an air-tight seal between the lid and body of the container leaving it prone to more damage from outside elements.

Misconception 6: Green burial is illegal.

Within the last few years, more than 50% of Americans have expressed interest in green burial. Green burial is a natural way to bury a loved one with minimal environmental impacts.

Green burial in Ohio is legal but there are state and federal regulations for dealing with remains that do have to be followed. Keep the following in mind when planning a green burial for your loved one:

  1. Ensure the funeral home is Green Burial Council-certified. To ensure the funeral home is up to date with Green Burial Council (GBC) rules and regulations, visit Find a Provider to review certified providers in your area.

  2. Select Green Burial Council-certified products. A GBC-certified provider can guide you in selecting the appropriate products for your loved ones final resting place.

  3. Ask about Green Burial Council-certified services. A funeral director can walk you through all your options and help you design a green burial service that honors the life and legacy of your loved one.

>>>Related Resource: 6 Certified Green Burial Cemeteries in Ohio

Misconception 7: Burial vaults are required by law.

While burial vaults (a lined and sealed outer receptacle that houses the casket) are not required by state or federal law, they are required by most cemeteries. This is done as a preventative measure to prevent the ground from sinking in above the casket.

Burial vaults from reputable manufacturers offer a warranty that their seal will provide adequate protection. While these warranties are for a minimum of 50 to 100 years, modern burial vaults are typically well constructed and can last for several centuries.

Misconception 8: You cannot be buried if you're cremated.

Families choose cremation on a case-by-case basis, with some selecting it because it has a variety of memorialization options. Cremated remains can be scattered, memorialized in an urn and even buried in a cemetery.

While a cemetery and headstone are often associated with traditional burial, families can also bury cremated remains. Cremated remains can be placed in a columbarium or a traditional burial plot with an urn vault. Some cemeteries also have designated urn gardens.

Check Burial Planning Off Your List

Are you planning a service and still have more questions about burial? Our funeral planning checklist will provide you with the necessary steps and answer the most common questions we hear as you embark on planning final arrangements. Download your own today.Download our funeral planning checklist

Robert Solich
Robert Solich
Thirty years of experience helping people on the hardest day of their lives, and one of Busch's longest-standing staff members. Bob provides valuable guidance to families with his expertise and compassion. He serves on two non-profit boards in the greater Cleveland area, promoting healthcare and the arts. Proudly serving Busch families since 1983.

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