Even though I’m not morbidly obese (just “regular obese”) I’ve always had nightmares about dying at home. Wherever I died (and in whatever strange position) I would have to stay there until some burly fireman came to carry my body out.
A long life of feeling awkward because of my weight culminated in my family dealing with the final hurdle of my size…caring for my body after I passed.
Luckily, with the ever-increasing number of overweight and obese people, burial options have become much more varied and mainstream. Even just 30 years ago obese people (their families, really) would be faced with the prospect of special ordering an extremely expensive casket or having something custom-made.
So what are the options for obese people being buried? Well, there are special caskets if that’s what you want. However, there are many other body-care options that may be more suited for your situation.
Let’s start with burials and then move on to a few other options (and which one I plan on utilizing).
Just remember, the process of laying our loved ones to rest is an important part of the grieving process. There’s no reason that it should be more complex and challenging due to the deceased’s size so be sure to find someone who is willing to help you through the entire process!
4 Methods Of Burial For Obese People
Caskets – The Traditional Solution
The most common method of post-life body care is a burial in a casket
For obese individuals, there are specialized oversized caskets available that can be ordered in the same way as any other caskets.
These caskets are designed to accommodate larger body dimensions, with common widths ranging from 28 to 52 inches and lengths of up to 90 inches.
Many casket manufacturers can also create unique designs (and sizes) to meet your individual specifications.
Just be aware that you’ll want strong pallbearers as larger caskets can be extremely heavy. Most funeral homes are well equipped for caskets this size but, if the casket is very large, you’ll need to make sure everyone is aware so that the burial vault (etc.) is correctly sized.
Cremation – A Growing Trend for Larger Bodies
With fewer people staying and dying in the same town they were born in, cremation is becoming an increasingly popular option.
While cremation is not for every family, it does have some benefits that are quite appealing. However, there are some special accommodations for the creation of obese people so you’ll want to have a thorough understanding before heading down this path.
The first concern is that a large amount of body fat can cause excessive flames and heat during the cremation process, requiring special attention and additional safety measures. There have been serious problems (the building burning down) when obese people were cremated without proper equipment.
Many crematoriums are now equipped with larger cremation chambers and advanced filtration systems to handle the increased heat and emissions produced during the process.
The Appeal Of Cremation
There are several reasons why cremation has become an attractive option for morbidly obese individuals and their families.
- Flexibility: Cremation allows for a wide range of memorialization options, such as scattering the ashes in a special location, placing them in an urn, or even incorporating them into jewelry or other keepsakes.
- Lower costs: Cremation is generally less expensive than traditional burial, as it eliminates the need for a burial plot, casket, and other funeral costs (which can be extreme if the deceased is morbidly obese). While obese individuals typically take an extended time to be cremated, the slightly increased cost of this is still far lower than a traditional burial.
For families of morbidly obese individuals considering cremation, it is essential to select a crematorium with experience and proper facilities to handle the unique challenges presented by larger bodies. Look for someone with experience and a proven track record to make sure your experience is as good as possible.
Macabre Question – Do Obese Individuals Leave More Cremains?
When I have considered cremation for myself I have wondered…will my family need a plus-sized urn? Will I have to be kept in a chest?
Probably not, it turns out.
The amount of cremains (ashes) left after the cremation is primarily influenced by the size and composition of the body being cremated. Morbidly obese individuals do have a larger body mass, which could potentially result in more cremains. However, cremains are mostly composed of bone fragments and mineral compounds, not fat or other soft tissues.
During cremation, most of the body’s soft tissues, including fat, are burned away or evaporated due to the high heat. While obese people can have a larger bone structure, the amount of cremains will likely be negligibly more.
In general, the variation of cremains size varied surprisingly little (typically based on age, gender, and bone density), and weigh between 4 to 6 pounds for an adult.
Cryonics – If You’re Crazy Rich
If you or a loved one die of a disease that you feel is preventable (like obesity – shoutout to myself…) then you may want to try and preserve their body for a point in the future where they can be “brought back” and cured.
This is known as cryonics and has been the domain of science fiction for decades.
In short, cryonics is the practice of preserving a body at extremely low temperatures with the hope of future revival.
While this method is still controversial and not widely practiced, there are a few cryonics companies, such as Alcor, that offer their services to obese clients.
There are a few special considerations that make this a less attractive option for those that are obese, however:
- More difficulty cooling. Those who wish to be preserved in a cryonic temperature need to have their body cooled quickly after death to prevent any more damage. Fat individuals are typically “well insulated” and their inner organs cool far more slowly.
- More space & materials are required. The size of an individual heavily influences the amount of cryoprotective chemicals needed as well as the storage space. While this is necessarily a prohibitive factor, it can increase the cost significantly.
Green Burials – The Environmentally Friendly Option
Green burials are all the rage today for people of every size…and for good reason.
Green burials can take many forms but, in general, they involve placing the body in a biodegradable shroud or casket and burying it in a natural setting without embalming chemicals.
While the companies that perform such burials can be difficult to find if you live rurally, they are typically much more willing to work out a custom solution for you or your family if needed.
This can be especially attractive for those who care about the earth as all of the other options involve a level of long-lasting pollution. It can also be helpful for those left behind as it is described by many as a more natural and peaceful way to be laid to rest.
While those who are trying to sell the service will tell you all of the spiritual benefits, there are a few other reasons that it appeals to me (and is likely the method I will choose):
- Sustainability. Choosing a green burial is appealing to me personally as it supports environmental sustainability and reduces the impact on natural resources. I feel like I’ve consumed enough resources during my life…
- Increased availability. With the increased number of large people (both living and dying), many providers have recognized the need to accommodate larger body sizes, and many now offer oversized biodegradable caskets or shrouds specifically designed for my type.
- Reduced costs. Long story short, green burials are cheaper. The “casket” is cheaper, the plot is cheaper, the headstone (or lack thereof) is cheaper, etc.
- Personal values. For obese individuals and their families, green burials can align with their values, offering a meaningful way to honor their loved ones.
At the end of the day, obese people get buried the same way that everyone else does, albeit in a larger casket.
While the process might be slightly more complicated, the sheer number of obese people now living makes the process easier than it’s ever been (and it’s likely to get even better).
With careful planning and a great care provider, there’s no reason the process cannot be a beautiful one, no matter if you go the traditional route or decide that something slightly different would be better for you and your family.