Cremation vs. Burial: Which is the Right Choice For Your Family?
Following the loss of a loved one, families need to make a myriad of end-of-life choices - all while managing their grief. The difficult part is that decisions must be made in a short timeframe. One of the most important and necessary decisions is what will be done with the remains of a loved one. Cremation or burial?
In some cases, your loved ones may have already preplanned their funeral and made the decision in advance about what they would like to be done with their remains when they pass. In the absence of forethought, you may have to make the decision for them after their death. Is it a cremation? Is it a burial? Are there any alternative options? All of these questions come up and the choice may not be clear or straightforward.
Ultimately, every individual is unique and the choices that you make are up to you. To help, we have put together this resource below to make tough end-of-life choices a little bit easier.
Historically, cremation has not been as popular as burial. However, since the 1960s, cremation has grown to become the first choice for end-of-life disposition. This can be attributed to a few reasons:
Cremation is the process by which remains are exposed to extreme heat and are reduced into what is called bone ash, a fine white powder.
Burial is not required. The ash can be kept in an urn or several urns and shared among a family. Or they can be scattered. They can also be deposited in a columbarium at a cemetery or buried in a plot.
The options are flexible. You can choose how to memorialize your loved one and when. That can include scattering their ashes in a place that is meaningful immediately or at a later date. It also may be a choice that is rooted in a religious rite of passage; many faiths have used cremation for centuries as an end-of-life choice. With cremation, you have the flexibility to choose when and where you hold the memorial, if at all, and where you scatter the ashes.
No need for a physical location for remains
Going hand-in-hand with flexibility, not having a need for a specific burial place can give your family more options for how you choose to manage your loved one’s remains (or even your own). Having your loved one interred in one place forever may not fit with your lifestyle or choices. Say that you decide to move, but would still like to be able to be close to their final resting place.
Cremation affords you the ability and flexibility to not be rooted in one place but still allows you to respectfully honour and remember your family members that have died.
Flame vs liquid cremation
In recent years, a new type of cremation process has been introduced as an end-of-life option for the disposition of remains.
A process called alkaline hydrolysis -- also known as aquamation, flameless cremation or liquid cremation – is a process by which remains are reduced to bone ash (a fine powder) using water, heat, and pressure. It is considered to be a sustainable funerary process because it uses less energy and is a consideration for anyone that might say they want an “eco-friendly funeral”. It is more expensive than flame cremation but more affordable than a burial and all the resources that can require.
Cost of burial vs cremation
Perhaps the most important, and compelling argument for a direct cremation vs. burial lies in the cost. There are many costs associated with end-of-life arrangements, and choosing a direct cremation can help alleviate some of those costs in a friendly, respectful way. Funerals can be a significant financial burden and have traditionally been seen as the “only proper way” to show someone that you love them when they have passed on.
With changing times and attitudes, a person’s funeral is no longer a measure of the magnitude of a family’s love or respect for the deceased person. As a comparison: direct cremations cost between $1,500 to $3,500 whereas a funeral that features a burial can amount to $10,000 or more. Learn more about cremation costs and breakdowns in this cremation cost post.
Burial of remains is traditional and time-honoured. It is sometimes a religious choice too. Burials have historically been the go-to choice for managing your deceased’s remains. There is a myriad of reasons why burial is chosen. Here are a few reasons:
The decisions you make for end-of-life arrangements for yourself or for your loved ones could be heavily impacted by religious or cultural practices. If you or your family member have follow a certain religion, funeral arrangements are usually in line with a family's religious practice. There are many religions, and even more sects, that have ranging beliefs around cremation. Some have a preference for cremation while others prefer burial as an end-of-life tradition. See what the major religions say about cremation.
If you are considering either a burial or a cremation for yourself or a loved one, it’s important to carefully assess not only your own beliefs and attitudes on the subject but also to consider the options with your religious leader or community to make the best decision for you and your family.
A place to visit your loved one
Some people do not need a fixed place to visit or memorialize their loved ones, and having a specific place that they can visit to honour of their loved ones is a necessity for them.
Usually, if there is a place that was “home” or holds a special place in a person’s heart, they may choose to be interred in that spot out of nostalgia.
When it comes to these spaces, people have pre-arranged plots in a cemetery and have planned their end-of-life arrangements around that location. For some, a burial can provide closure as they witness a coffin lowered into a grave.
That said, if that location is a preference then ashes can also be buried in a cemetery or scattered at a favorite spot. Some people even choose to have their ashes turned into a memorial reef that supports marine life.
Burials tend to me significant more resource intensive, requiring caskets, headstones and a burial plots. Cremation, on the other hand, requires minimal resources although. Cremation is consider more sustainable for the environment, leaving less of an eco-footprint. Aquamation improves on flame cremation by removing the burning of fossil fuels as a factor.
Cremation vs. burial: It’s up to you
There are a lot of choices to make when choosing end-of-life arrangements for yourself or your loved ones. While there are a lot of differing opinions on what is best, the choice is ultimately up to you. And while it may be a difficult choice to make, with the right information and the right services available to help, you can make the choices you need to make a little bit easier.