Losing a loved one is an incredibly emotionally difficult experience. In addition to arranging funeral and memorial services, and handling their personal affairs you may be trying to decide between a cremation or burial to determine which is best for your loved one. While burial and cremation are both popular choices for memorializing the deceased, cremation has actually surged in popularity in recent years for a variety of reasons. A deeply personal and meaningful decision, there are many factors to consider in determining which will be best for your loved one between cremation and burial.
We will analyze these differences and factors of consideration to help you determine between cremation or burial to decide which is best for you and your family.
During cremation, a body is incinerated so that all that remains are cremated ashes. With a burial the body stays unscathed, and is buried in the ground in its intact state. Burial or cremation can be performed immediately following the decedent’s death, after a funeral service or prior to a memorial service. Also, contrary to common belief, you can still have a viewing of the body or a wake before a cremation, just as you can prior to a burial. With burial, the body is either enshrouded into the ground or entombed in a mausoleum. In contrast, after cremation the cremated remains of the decedent are given to a family member to be used however the family wishes. Cremated remains can either be kept in an urn, scattered at different locations or also buried in the ground if the family wishes to do so.
Cost is a major factor to consider when deciding between cremation or a burial, as funeral services can become very costly. Burial can be significantly more costly than cremation as it also includes the cost of the cemetery plot, embalming services, the casket, gravestone, ceremony, fees for burial, etc., so all those additional services greatly add up. In contrast, cremation is usually much less costly, typically costing a third of the price of a traditional burial.
One of the reasons that accounts for the growing popularity of cremation is an increased commitment to more environmentally friendly choices. Many families who prioritize environmental impact in their decision-making choose cremation over burial as it is usually the more environmentally conscious choice, leaving a much smaller footprint on the environment. There is belief that the embalming fluids used traditionally in burials take a toll on the environment and in cremation, no embalming fluids are used.
Families will choose to honor their deceased loved one in different ways, and what is seen as a venerable method of paying tribute to a decedent to one family may not be considered highly respectable to another one. There is debate over which method of memorialization is more respectful to a decedent and to their memory. For some people, cremation is considered an act that dishonors the integrity of the body, while others feel that it is undesirable for their loved one to slowly decompose in the ground.
One of the more major differences between cremation and burial is the effect on how a family is able to continue paying tribute to their loved one, after either service. After cremation, as mentioned before, the family will be given the cremated ashes of their loved one, and they can then divide the ashes between family members, and scatter them at various sentimental locations. Being able to share the cremated ashes means that potentially more loved ones will be able to continue feeling close to and honor the memory of the decedent. Also, being able to keep the cremated remains in an urn in your home enables you to continue feeling close to your loved one. For other families, having a physical location to visit in the form of a gravesite or mausoleum, in which their loved one is buried or entombed is critical and preferred over that of cremated remains.
Religious and cultural beliefs are also factors of consideration for families in determining which is best between cremation or burial. For many families, they will feel it is important to choose the method of memorialization that best aligns with the religious or cultural beliefs of their deceased loved one and family. Regions vary in their general feelings towards cremation and burial. For example in Judaism, and certain fundamentalist Christian denominations, cremation is seen as a disrespectful treatment of the body. However, in Hinduism and Buddhism, cremation is seen as an important element of the body’s journey on its path to reach Enlightenment.
Ultimately, the choice of whether to cremate or bury their loved one is deeply personal and meaningful, and it is up to the family of the deceased to weigh these various considerations to decide.