When we lay a loved one to rest, we always do our best to honor the deceased with an attractive looking headstone and burial plot. However, what was once as beautiful grave site can start to look neglected over time. Properly maintaining a grave site isn't something that requires a lot of time or effort, but if done on a fairly regular basis, will keep your loved one's memorial looking the way it did when they were first laid to rest.
We often assume the cemetery will provide all the maintenance necessary to keep a grave site in pristine condition, but that isn't always the case. Most cemeteries only provide maintenance of common areas and general cleanup and mowing around individual graves. If your loved one is buried in a cemetery that has fallen on tough financial times, or is no longer being actively managed, it can be in a complete state of disrepair.
Before embarking on any cleanup or decorating work, be sure to check the rules for your cemetery. Some are very specific about what type of work you're allowed to do, and what types of decorations can be left on graves. Once you're familiar with the protocols, here are some items you should consider for the grave site:
Headstone Repair and Maintenance
Headstones don't stay perfect and don't last forever. Weather and freeze/thaw cycles will stain, deteriorate, and in some cases, even break headstones.
Depending upon how old the headstone is and how long it's been since the last cleaning, this can be easy or difficult. If the headstone is in pretty good shape , the best cleaning option is water and a soft bristled brush. Never use a wire brush, steel wool, or any type of scouring pad. These items will damage the stone.
If water and a soft brush doesn't do the job and a detergent is required, you need to make sure you use a non-ionic detergent. Most household cleaners are NOT a good choice. Non-ionic detergents can be found at janitorial supply stores and some farm and home stores. Don't ever use bleach or other harsh detergents. You'll do more harm to the stone than good. We always recommend the use of D/2 Biologics for headstone cleaning.
If the stone is chipped or broken, modern epoxies make it possible to put the stone back together and look good (assuming you can find all of the pieces and it hasn't actually crumbled). Below is a video demonstrating how to do this:
Landscaping and Planting
Since most cemeteries provide mowing and overall landscape work, there isn't typically a lot to do in this area, but often times, a little effort can make a grave site look that much better. There are often weeds that need to be pulled trimming that needs to be done to the grass that's right next to the grave marker. These jobs can easily be done by hand.
If you're considering planting flowers or a small bush, you should definitely check the cemetery rules first. Otherwise, your efforts could be wasted. Since flowers require extra maintenance and have a limited life span, you may want to consider artificial flowers. Today's artificial flowers looks very realistic, stay looking good for extended periods of time, and don't cost much more than real flowers.
Decorations and Memorials
This is the area you need to be most concerned with when it comes to rules and regulations of the cemetery. It's natural to want to leave mementos, flowers, stuffed animals, notes, etc. However, it's important to keep in mind that one man's touching memorial is another man's eyesore.
Generally speaking, when it comes to decorating a grave, less is more. Before leaving anything at a memorial site, think about what weather might do to it. Will it blow away? Will it break, etc. You definitely don't want to create a mess or hazard that as maintenance worker will have to deal with later.
Grave site maintenance shouldn't take you more than an hour, if you do it twice a year. That isn't a very big commitment for something that memorializes the life of somebody you loved.