Body Care After Death: Options for Disposition

Body Care After Death: Methods of Disposition Zine

What is disposition?

In death, the word disposition refers to the manner in which human remains are handled.

How do I learn my options?

Some common methods of disposition are shared in this zine. There might be a care worker, doula, social worker, or funeral director that can help answer questions and support you to make the choice that is right for you.

How do I document choices?

Disposition of remains is often carried out in accordance with a person’s documented wishes (living will, death plan, Disposition Authorization, etc.), the above referenced instruction, designated agent, and/or any documented surviving kin if a designated agent is not named.

Shroud:

At it’s most simple a shroud is a fabric covering. Shrouds can be made from animal skins, a bedsheet, and elaborate fabric, all of which are able do the important work of swaddling the body of the dead.

Coffin:

A coffin is a specially designed box that holds a deceased person’s body. It can be made of cardboard, woven, or shaped from wood. Coffins are used for viewing or keeping a corpse.

Both a shroud and a coffin can be for either burial or cremation.

Consider biodegradable materials, which must be used for alkaline hydrolysis, natural organic reduction, and green/natural burial.

Transportation of the Body Plan:

⬜ Who, What, When

⬜ How to Carry a Body

⬜ Learn Local, State, and National regulations

Obtain a Permit

Cremation:

Cremation is the process of burning the body of the deceased at very high temperatures until there are only brittle, calcified bones remaining.

Alkaline Hydrolysis:

AKA Aqua-cremation, this is a combination of water flow, temperature, and alkalinity used to used to return a body of the deceased to minerals and water, leaving bones.

What happens to the bones?

The bones are often put into a machine called a cremulator, and pulverized into what people commonly refer to as ashes. These remains can be kept in a container, buried, scattered or incorporated into objects as part of the last rites of death.

Common U.S. Burial Plot:

AKA interment or inhumation, a dead body is placed into the ground trench or pit, sometimes with objects, and covering it over. Often a concrete grave liner or metal vault is lining the grave.

Green Burial:

Usually a burial directly in the ground without embalming, in a biodegradable container. Often allows for and encourages a high level of participation.

Tree Pods, Eternal Reefs, and Mushroom Suits:

One can have their remains interred in a biodegradable urn and planted on either private property or in a burial site. Or, plant trees and plants directly on top of the grave.

A small structure or reef can be made of cremated remains, stoneware, or concrete and placed on the ocean floor as a memorial.

Mushroom suits are creative wrappings made from living materials. These claim to aid and accelerate the process of decomposition, but their effectiveness is questionable. They may hold meaning and value for those who choose them for their disposition.

Natural Organic Reduction:

NOR creates an environment in which beneficial microbes thrive, with a specific moisture content and ratio of carbon and nitrogen materials. The decomposition process is aided by breaking down matter, adding water, and ensuring proper aeration by regularly turning the mixture.

Mausoleums:

This is a structure, tree, building, or monument serving as the interment space or burial chamber of the deceased.

Cryogenic Freeze:

Low-temperature freezing of a body near or soon after death, often with the hope of revival.

Burial at Sea:

Human remains are placed in the ocean. This happens at least 3 nautical miles from shore, often from a boat. Cremated remains can also be buried, placed out in the sea, scattered in a special place, or kept with you.

Resources:

A Sacred Passing; Williams, L., & Diegel, S. (2020). Death Doula Course. A Sacred Passing: Death Midwifery and Community Education.

Burial at Sea.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency.

Green Death Technology” The Order of the Good Death, 2022.

Wilson, Peter. “The Cryonics Industry Would like to Give You the Past Year, and Many More, Back.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 26 June 2021.

RCW 68.50.160.” Washington State Legislature, WA GOV.

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