What’s Usually Inside a Casket With the Deceased’s Body?

Updated

Are there items that you wish to be buried or cremated with at the end of your life? Perhaps you recently lost a loved one and it would give you comfort to drop an item or two in the open casket during the visitation. Let’s discuss some common things that people have buried with them, as well as some things that you should avoid placing in a casket set for cremation.

1. Photographs

It’s common to put photographs inside a person’s casket before burial or cremation.

The picture could be of the family or significant other of the deceased. You could also add photos of a special place or a pet. 

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2. Flowers

It’s only natural for flowers to be placed inside a person’s casket before burial. After all, they are beautiful items available during the funeral. While flowers usually aren’t placed inside a casket during an open-casket visitation, a mourner may slip a bud onto the chest of a loved one before the coffin is permanently closed.

Some families may choose to add flowers to the casket in a more ceremonial way. For example, each grandchild or great-grandchild may file past the casket and toss in a specific type or color of flower.

3. Cremated Remains

Some people struggle to know what to do with the cremated remains of their loved ones. They may keep the remains tucked away in a closet as they think about the best time and place for scattering. Some families choose not to scatter the cremains but may try to figure out the most appropriate eternal resting place for their loved ones.

That’s why you may consider placing a loved one’s cremains in another family member’s casket. Talk with your funeral home director about this process if this is what you wish to do.

4. Jewelry

Some families choose to bury their family members wearing their wedding rings, while others have the jewelry removed to keep as a family heirloom.

You may also request that the rings or other pieces of jewelry stay on the body during the open-casket visitation but remove them before the casket is buried. 

Keep in mind that the jewelry must be removed from the body before cremation.

5. Religious Books

People of faith may ask that their Bible, Koran, or other religious text be placed inside the casket before burial. Some families request that their loved one “hold” the book in the coffin during the viewing.

6. Rosary Beads and Other Religious Tokens

Catholics may choose to be buried with their rosary beads. These may be placed in the hands of the deceased for an open-casket visitation. The rosary beads would need to be removed from the casket if the body is eventually cremated.

You may see a body in an open casket holding a crucifix as well.

7. Hobby Items

Was your loved one a golfer or painter? Inter him with golf clubs or paintbrushes. Did Grandma love knitting? Maybe her hands would look empty in the casket without her knitting needles.

Every hobby or profession has its tools, and you can arrange to place most of those tools in a coffin headed for burial.

8. Honorary Medals

It’s sometimes hard to know what to do with a person’s belongings after they die. If specific instructions are not left by the deceased in a will, some family members might argue about who should be the new rightful owner.

To alleviate this problem, you may choose to have your loved one buried with the item in question. For example, if you can’t figure out who should own the Medal of Honor that your grandfather earned during Vietnam, perhaps you could bury him with the award.

9. Stuffed Animals or Blankets

Some parents choose to bury their children with comforting items, such as a favorite stuffed animal or blanket. 

10. Letters

Do you have the love letters that your parents wrote to each other when they were forced to be apart? You may consider placing these letters inside the casket. Some belongings may be too personal in nature to go to the next generation, but it may be too emotionally difficult for the family to destroy them.

Sometimes family members choose to write letters to their deceased loved ones as an act of grief writing therapy. Those letters may be placed inside the casket or in the pocket of the dead.

11. Alcohol, Cigarettes, or Cigars

If you can’t imagine Grandpa without a pack of Marlboros in his shirt pocket, perhaps you should ask that the funeral home staff place a pack in before the burial. It is said that comedian George Burns was buried with three of his iconic cigars in his jacket pocket.

Some families may also include a bottle of booze in a casket destined for burial. Of course, placing a bottle or any glass item in a casket that will be cremated is not recommended. 

12. Electronic Devices

Amazingly, some people request to be buried with their cellphones or laptops. With how addictive these items are, it is almost understandable how a person might crave them in the afterlife.

13. Flags

If a person was particularly patriotic, he or she might have requested that a flag be placed inside his or her casket before burial. 

14. Special Clothes

While some people are buried in their “Sunday best,” others may choose an outfit that has a special significance. Your loved one may have chosen to be buried in a sports jersey, martial arts gi, or hunting clothes. Maybe the deceased was a superfan for a particular rock band and wanted a concert tee on in his casket. 

While it may be difficult for family members to lose those clothing items, you still want to follow the deceased’s wishes.

15. Musical Instruments

Both famous and amateur musicians may choose to be buried with a beloved musical instrument, conducting baton, or musical score. 

16. Hats

While it may be difficult for some hats to be placed on your loved one’s head inside a casket, you may find space to tuck a beloved cowboy or fishing hat in the side of the casket. 

You can configure some hats to place on the head of the deceased during the open casket visitation. To learn more, read How a Body is Placed in a Casket.

17. Money

Some people want to be buried with cold, hard cash. Beneficiaries may grimace but they may do it anyway.

18. Weapons

Some people request swords or firearms in their casket with them. 

19. Pet Cremains or Photos

Does your loved one want a beloved pet’s cremains placed inside his or her casket?

If the pet is still alive, you may want to place a photo of the animal in the casket with your loved one. 

20. Glasses

During an open-casket funeral, mourners often remark how “natural” or lifelike the deceased looks. Funeral home staff may request photos of the dead and try to mimic his or her same hair and makeup style.

If the deceased wore glasses, they might be placed on the deceased’s face and buried with him or her in the casket.

You May Want to Think Twice About Including These Items in a Casket

Green cemeteries continue to gain in popularity. Many of these cemeteries have rules about the type of caskets used, as well as what items you can place in a coffin. If you wish your family member to become part of the earth as quickly as possible, then you would bury your loved one in natural fibers and only include materials that will decompose quickly.

If your loved one will be cremated, it is important that you carefully consider what items will be cremated with your loved one. Any metal items will be removed from the body by the staff. Some items that can be burned may let off toxic fumes harmful to the environment. Even so, some natural objects, such as a coconut, may cause havoc in a crematorium, as reported in this article by the BBC. 

Also avoid placing mobile phones, TV remotes, e-cigarettes, and bottles of alcohol in the casket if you plan to cremate the item.

What do you want to have placed in your casket with you? To learn more about the burial process, read Why We Bury the Dead

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