The Three Types of Cemeteries

A cemetery is a cemetery is a cemetery, right? Not exactly. There are three main types of cemeteries in the United States today; Government, Private, and Public… and they have major differences.

The National Cemetery system was created by Abraham Lincoln after the Civil War. Arlington National Cemetery, the first and most recognized, was actually the plantation property of Robert E. Lee. There are now over 115 National Cemeteries in 39 states. What does one pay to be buried in a National Cemetery? Nothing. Any honorably discharged veteran, his/her spouse, and their dependent children are eligible for burial in a National Cemetery. The cemetery plot, grave line or vault, and grave marker are all provided at no cost to the family. So you don’t want to be buried in a National Cemetery even though you’re eligible? The Veterans Administration which oversees the National Cemetery system will still prove the free grave marker and deliver it to the private of public cemetery of you choice.

The private cemetery is more or less like a neighborhood. It is managed by an association for the benefit of people who own the plots in that cemetery. They determine the rules and covenants of the cemetery, not unlike a homeowners association. These cemeteries are usually funded by a trust of endowment fund. This scenario is common in old rural areas, especially in the eastern part of the country where our history is so rich. It is also likely seen within the property of a church. Many historical churches have cemeteries on their property.

The public cemetery, the for-profit cemetery, provides the services and merchandise for a fee and the profit goes to the owners. Most cemeteries in the United States are for-profit.

Many people chose a cemetery based of the history, beautiful sculptures, and peaceful feeling they have when visiting. But buying cemetery property is like buying any other property. There are rules and regulations, the long lists of “you may…” and “you may not…” The most important thing is that you can abide by the rules. If you are a person who wants to place fresh flowers on the grave several times a year, but the cemetery policy is artificial flowers only, then that may not be the cemetery for you.

Why We Should Pre-Plan Our Funerals

Pre-need is something that the anti-funeral opposition wants you to think has been somehow created by the modern day funeral service profession in an attempt to take your money before you die. In fact, pre-arranging and pre-need have been around forever, our modern day society is the first to not plan for their own deaths.

Those Pyramids in Egypt? Those were well planned out burial chambers, albeit for the wealthy. Jesus’ tomb? It was given to his family by a man who had already planned for his own funeral. Ever see a picture of an outlaw from the Wild West in his 8 sided coffin? Folks used to go down to the furniture store and get measured for their coffins so that when they died, it was all bought and paid for.

From Ancient Egypt, to Biblical times, to the late 1800’s in America, people planned for their deaths, because they knew it was imminent, and they knew financial expense was involved.

So why should you pre-plan your funeral?

It takes the emotion out of it. It’s easier to make decisions when the death hasn’t occurred, and everyone is healthy.

You Retain Control

Although you’ll be in attendance at your own funeral as compared to attending your own funeral, many people want to go out in the words of Frank Sinatra, “I did it my way.”

It will unburden your loved ones from making decisions about things you never discussed.

It protects your estate from having to pay for the funeral expenses.

You Avoid Inflation

It allows you to pick a casket and lock it in at today’s prices.

It’s Personalized

Do you have a favorite book that you want given to everyone in attendance? Do you a special candy passed out as everyone leaves the service? These are all things that you make arrangements for in advance.

You Achieve Peace of Mind

Pre-planning a funeral is like making a will, once it’s done, it’s done.

And here is a final thought …

”Death never takes the wise man by surprise; he is always ready to go.”
Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695) French Poet.

Dealing with Denial - Part 3 - How to Respond After the Funeral

shapeimage_2-43To conclude our discussion on dealing with denial, we’d like to look at how to respond after the funeral:

How to Respond After the Funeral

Although crying with a grieving survivor can be done at any point before, or during the funeral, Jesus gave us an example of crying after a funeral. The book of John, chapter eleven, verses thirty-three through thirty five say,

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. "Where have you laid him?" he asked. (v. 33) "Come and see, Lord," they replied. (v.34) Jesus wept. (v.35) (NIV, 1985)

When Jesus arrived at the mourning scene Lazarus had been in the tomb four days. Although they were still grieving, the "funeral" had been held. Jesus' response of crying is especially moving because He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the tomb but stopped to weep with Lazarus’ sisters. Jesus could have said, "Stop crying, I'm going to go raise him from the dead." But He responded to their grief by crying with them because that is what they needed at that moment. We often want to change situations for our friends who are suffering but we cannot. Jesus gave an example of where words were not needed, only tears, and what an appropriate response!

Often the need to tell the story is greater than the need for other to hear it. This is especially true when the listener was there was the person was diagnosed with a terminal illness, there when the person died, and there when the family left the cemetery. After a time society wants the bereaved to “get over it.” Repetition is necessary to process the loss. The bereaved require repeated opportunities to verbalize their feelings as they attempt to make sense of their loss; they need to ask the unanswerable “why?” before acceptance of the loss is reached.

The five stages of grief as defined by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross are shock, denial, anger, sadness, and acceptance. As one listens to the story of the bereaved it is important to remember that although the bereaved may seem to have reached the acceptance stage at any point they may return to any number of the stages and begin their grief process all over again.

After the funeral it is appropriate to write a letter of condolence to the grieving survivor. In their book, The Art of Condolence, Leonard and Hilary Zunin give the seven components of a letter of condolence.
Acknowledge the loss.

Express your sympathy.

Note special qualities of the deceased.

Recount a memory about the deceased.

Note special qualities of the bereaved.

Offer assistance.

Close with a thoughtful word or phrase (Zunin, 1991).

Some people prefer to write a letter of condolence rather than call the survivor because it gives them a chance to think through what exactly they would like to say. Letters of condolence are appreciated after a funeral because that is when support for the survivor is diminishing as family and friends are returning to their busy lives.