Burial or Cremation?

Posted on October 17, 2014

                Our European traditions have long dictated burial as the final means of disposition in the Midwest United States.  However, as we are becoming a far more diverse and ecologically minded society, the use of cremation as the final means of disposition is growing.  What shall you do about final disposition of your remains?  This is a question with no right or wrong answers on a large scale.  What is right for you, may not be right for your neighbor, your close friends, nor for your spouse.

                What goes into making this decision?  Religious beliefs certainly must be considered.  Economics plays a role in this decision.  Ecological pros and cons are often contemplated.  Place of residence and portability issues may be factors in this decision.  Varying family opinions may pop up.  There are no cookie cutter decisions to apply to all circumstances. 

                The religious beliefs are a primary concern to most individuals.  Some religions, such as Buddhism, cremation is accepted, but not mandated.  Catholicism did not accept cremation as an alternative course of disposition from 1866 through 1963.  Hinduism believe cremation is most spiritually beneficial to the departed soul.  Many Protestant churches did not initially accept cremation as an alternative until the late 1800’s or the early 1900’s.  There are Christian churches who forbid cremation to this day, such as the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches.  Much of the Jewish faith did not accept cremation until it became a more practical issue of overcrowding cemeteries in the early 20th century.  Other members of the Jewish faith reject cremation today as a reaction to the Holocaust.

                Generally speaking, cremation is less expensive than traditional burial.  However, this is not always true.  There are variables to consider here which will affect the expense of cremation.  Is it to be a direct cremation or cremation after a funeral service?  For a cremation after a funeral, you will most likely have embalming expenses, as well as, a rental casket or the purchase of a cremation casket to consider. 

                Ecologically, cremation has a smaller carbon foot print than does a traditional burial.  However, there are some carbon emissions and other pollutants the crematories have to contend with.  What are the consequences of spreading ashes?  Is it legal to spread your cremains in the location of your choosing?

                In today’s world, families are more spread out.  Families who are more centrally located have less travel considerations and may go to a place of memorial, like a cemetery, more easily.  Families who are more spread out may choose not to have a memorial.  What if you wish to take the cremains across state lines?  An urn is far easier to transport.  Some may choose to retain the cremains with a member of the family or choose to divide the cremains amongst family members.  Maybe you choose to plant a tree in your loved one’s honor. 

                All of these issues weigh differently on different members of the family.  This may cause discourse between family members.  Some may not want to even consider cremation, some may only want cremation.  How do you find a point of compromise?  Would it be a good idea to make your preferences known to the family ahead of time?  Would it be a good idea to discuss it with your funeral director of choice?  What do you believe and does it agree with what your loved ones believe? 

An open and frank discussion ahead of time will make the decisions at the time of death much easier.  A discussion with your funeral director of choice will give you a far more educated decision.  Having a talk of final wishes, beforehand, is in your and your loved ones best interest.  



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  1. Zoe Campos | Feb 26, 2020
    When you said that an urn is easier to transport, it solidified my choice that I should just be really cremated after death. As much as I hated discussing this with my children, I recently turned 60 and I realized I'm not getting any younger. It's good to know that cremation is generally less expensive than traditional burial so we won't have to spend much, and I also wanted my ashes to be scattered around the beach when I first met my deceased husband. I will discuss things with my funeral director of choice for a far more educated decision.
  2. Amanda Drew | Sep 13, 2017
    I like how you say that cremation is the less expensive option between it and a traditional burial. My grandpa is having me help him plan his funeral. He is a bit of a penny pincher, so he likes how that sounds. We'll have to find somewhere that offers cremation services that we could further look into. 

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