New England Burials at Sea respects all religious practices and protocols for burials at sea, adapting to variations and family and personal preferences. Each burial at sea event is unique, reflecting the wishes of the deceased and the attending families.

Different Final Event Practices and Death Beliefs

This section of our website will help in preparing you when attending or planning a final event or burial at sea in the listed religions.

Buddhism

There are many faiths within the Buddhist religion: Zen, Rinzai Zen, Kadampa Tradition (NKT), Theravadin, Tibetan, Tibetan Kagyu, Western Tibetan, Triratna, Shambhala, Western Triratna, Thich Nhat Hanh. Many local Buddhist organizations and communities are comprised of Non Sectarian or Mixed Traditions.

Planning: Buddhist Merit Transferrance at Sea

Christianity

In the Christian traditional, there is a service where the body is viewed as friends and family members  pay their respect to the deceased and the surviving family. At the viewing service it is customary to pass or kneel before the casket and to acknowledge attending family members. Flowers and religious gifts are a sign of respect to the deceased and the family, as are donations in the deceased’s name to a charity of his/her choice.

With some exceptions, Christian faiths typically recognize cremation as well as entombment and earth burial.

Christian services can occur or last from 1-5 days for viewing and burial. A prayer service is often follows the viewing. Directly after the prayer service, the hearse, with a procession of vehicles travels to the cemetery or crematory, where prayers and eulogies may be delivered by family members, accompanied by vocalists or music chosen by the families. The deceased is laid to rest at the cemetery, or the cremated ashes accepted by the family. Following these events is often a social gathering of family and friends, during which food and refreshments are often served.

Greek Orthodox

There is usually an open casket at the ceremony. When viewing the body they bow in front of the casket and kiss a cross or icon placed on the chest of the deceased. At the grave site, there is a short prayer, after which attendants to place a flowers on the casket. A memorial service is typically held on the Sunday closest to the 40th day after the death.

Traditional Greek Orthodox religion does not favor cremation. However, in 2006 a law passed by the Greek government states  According to the law, Orthodox Greeks can choose cremation as long as they have stated this in writing before their death or their immediate relatives wish it. “A pre-condition for the cremation is the clear, unequivocal statement of the deceased, or their relatives,” that they wish to be cremated. In Greece, an ancient tradition of ash scattering in the Aegean Sea was resurrected in 1977 by opera singer Maria Kallas, with full support from the Greek Orthodox Church.

Judaism

There are different types of practice within the Jewish religion. They are Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Reform and Conservative. A Jewish service will last anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes and is a time of grieving and mourning. Orthodox believe in the physical life after death and the resurrection where Reform do not believe in life after death or any type of resurrection. The Reconstructionist does not believe in a body resurrection but simply that the body rejoins the universe, and the Conservative speaks about the resurrection of the dead but does not explain whether it is physical or spiritual.

There is never an open casket, and the service is solely spoken by a Rabbi who may recite a eulogy or prayers, and guides the family in the mourners Kaddish which is a prayer for the deceased. In Reform ceremonies flowers are allowed but for Conservative, Reconstructionist, however flowers in Orthodox ceremonies are no considered appropriate. Instead of flowers, contributions may be made to a charity or the family may have created a special charity in the deceased’s name. Contributions may also be made to a Jewish organization, such as the Jewish National Fund, which plants a tree in Israel in the deceased’s name, sending a letter to the family of the deceased to confirm. Traditional Jewish faith does not allow cremation but it is accepted among the Reform following. During the “Shiva”, the family will sit for seven days after death. During the Shiva, traditionally, an immediate family member sits on a small chair or a box wearing a Cria ribbon that has been cut in honor of the deceased.

Hinduism

The Hindu faith believes in cremation only. At a gathering at the home of the deceased within 24 hours of the death, it is customary to wear white clothing. There is a final food offering to the deceased befor cremation, a process is called ‘Mukhagni’, participated by immediate family and a Hindu priest. It is not customary for friends to attend.

Islam

The Muslim belief is that the dead human body should be respected and not harmed in any way. After death the body of the deceased is anointed with scents and washed by family members. A husband may wash his wife and the wife may do the same for her husband. Otherwise, men wash the bodies of men and women wash the bodies of the women. After death of a child, a man or woman may take part in the washing ritual. After the washing, the body is placed in a plain white shroud, with the shroud tied in such a way were the head and feet can not be distinguished from one another.

The burial usually occurs within 24 hours of death and gives reason for preplanned funeral arrangements relieving the stress on the family. Silence is recommended for most of the funeral proceedings which take place outside of a mosque. The deceased is laid in the grave on his or her right side without a casket if permitted by law with the head facing the Muslim holy city of Mecca. At the gravesite, placing flowers, headstones or markers is discouraged, though it is appropriate to send flowers during the three-day mourning period. According to the Quran, a surviving widow has an extended mourning period of 4 months and 10 days, during which the widow may not remarry, move, or wear jewelry or decorative clothing. A special meal is offered to remember the deceased, attended by friends and family.