What is Direct Disposal?

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Direct disposal means that the body of a person who has died goes straight off to be cremated or buried without a funeral ceremony.

John Lennon was directly cremated, as were Anita Brookner and David Bowie. No one was there. If even one person pops in to say farewell, it’s not a direct cremation, it’s a funeral. If you think it’s direct disposal you want, you need to understand that. Compared with a conventional funeral it’s cheap. And it’s increasingly popular, Why do people opt for direct disposal?

  • Perhaps the person who died didn’t see the point of a funeral – what good does a funeral do, really?
  • Perhaps there’s very little money.
  • Perhaps they had lost touch with their family.
  • Perhaps there’s lots of money – there usually is – but that’s not the point.
  • Maybe there will be an alternative ceremony of some sort, perhaps involving the ashes – a harvest ritual as distinct from a corpse ritual.
  • Yes, you can still hold a commemorative event before of afterwards if you want – anything from a memorial service to a private family-and-friends-affair. There are pros and there are cons. You need to think them through.

It’s all about what you believe – Some people believe that if you’re going to hold a funeral you have to have the body of the person who has died there with you. Other people don’t. They believe you can have just as meaningful occasion without.

When John Lennon was killed, Yoko Ono wanted no focus on his bullet-ridden corpse. She had it cremated unceremoniously, unwitnessed. She held a memorial ceremony instead. “Pray for his soul from wherever you are,” she said. And people did.

Presumably this is what John wanted, too. When the playwright Arthur Miller was asked if he’d be going to the funeral of his ex-wife, Marilyn Monroe, he replied “Why would I go? She won’t be there.”

If you are considering direct cremation your beliefs are going to influence the decision you make – up to a point.

You should go with what feels right, above all else.

Who does it?

Most funeral directors now offer direct cremation and direct burial.

Some funeral directors see it for the positive choice it very often is – an alternative to a conventional funeral.

But not all of them get it. Some think it’s inappropriate, just for poor people and skinflints. You can tell by the tone they use when you phone.

Don’t deal with anyone who views direct cremation as an under-the-counter, shameful thing to do.

It’s important to do your research and ask the right questions because there are some less than satisfactory outfits out there.

What do you pay for?

  • Funeral director’s time and overheads.
  • Storage in funeral director’s mortuary.
  • Removal of pacemaker, prosthetic, etc if necessary.
  • Simple coffin.
  • Transport.
  • Crematorium fee.
  • Doctors fee x 2 @ £82 each – you need 2 doctors to certify cause of death. Note: If the person who has died has been seen by the coroner there is no fee.

A way to take someone home

Direct cremation is an attractive option for people who want to take someone who has died abroad back to their home country. It saves considerable costs of embalming and air freight.

There should not be any problem bringing ashes into the UK or taking them out so long as you comply with the laws of the country you are travelling to/from and you have enquired with the carrier you are travelling with (sea, air or road).

Not the done thing?

Direct cremation is still considered unconventional, especially as an alternative to a normal funeral. If you choose it, it may well raise an eyebrow here and there. Alternatively, some people are likely to say “I wish I’d thought of that”.

You may want to take into account the expectations and needs of your family and the friends of the person who has died. What’s best for them?

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