As the days grow colder, the ground begins to freeze and may cause concern for those needing to plan a funeral service. We may not be able to control the timing of a loved one’s passing, but thanks to technology, we can work around frozen earth to lay them in their final resting place.
If you and your family are considering pre-planning and choosing a cemetery plot, it is beneficial to ask about burial practices in the winter. Sometimes, the cost of a winter burial is factored into the initial price, sometimes there could be an additional expense if the ground needs to be thawed prior to the burial service.
If someone dies in winter and the ground is frozen, there are a few options for how to handle the burial:
Cremation – Cremating a loved one and choosing to keep or scatter their ashes circumvents the issue of burial. Ashes can also be buried in warmer months or in the winter., However, depending on the pre-arranged plan, winter burial may cost a little extra.
Cold storage – Funeral homes can store the deceased until preparations for burial are made to honor the wishes of the deceased and their loved ones. Cold storage typically lasts less than two weeks before a grave can be dug.
Burial – Funeral homes have the tools and capabilities to hold burials during the winter, but a family may opt to have the burial ceremony when the weather is warmer. However, this can become more difficult for those grieving because their mourning is extended over multiple days, visits, etc., so it may prolong the healing process. Storing the body of the deceased can also be costly for the family.
To bury the dead during the winter, cemetery workers use jackhammers, special heaters, backhoes, or thawing machines to loosen the dirt and thaw out the frozen ground for burial. Using any of these methods will take longer than digging a typical grave, but it makes winter burials possible. The thawing machine is a more recent invention that uses a propane-powered torch to soften the ground. Electric heaters and bags of lit charcoal have also been used to assist in the process.
Weather permitting, it is possible to hold a graveside service during the winter, but these can be more trouble for the organizers and attendees. The last thing anyone wants is inclement weather to produce unsafe driving conditions or icy pathways to the gravesite. Organizers will do their best to pave the area to prevent slippery walkways and may lay down a carpet for mourners to use during a winter graveside service.
Having a funeral and burial plan in place can create peace of mind for you and your loved ones. If you’re concerned about a winter burial, give us a call or drop us a note. Our team is happy to help put a plan in place and your mind at ease.