Funeral planning is often a topic many of us would prefer to avoid. However, this is something we should turn our attention to eventually. Not only does forethought and preparation in this area relieve the stress and burden for loved ones left behind but it also ensures our final requests are honored and observed.
One of the most significant decisions many people face when making funeral arrangements is the choice between cremation and burial. There can be many reasons that influence their decision ranging from religious beliefs and cultural traditions to environmental factors and cost. In this article, we will take a closer look at the differences between cremation and burial helping you to make an informed choice regarding your end-of-life arrangements.
The process of cremation involves burning the body through intense heat, reducing it to ashes. The closed furnace or cremation chamber in which the corpse is laid typically reaches temperatures of between 1,600 and 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit and takes around three to four hours to incinerate the body completely, depending on its weight and size.
The remaining ashes are transferred into a temporary container and given to the family. They may then choose to store the ashes in an urn in their home, scatter them according to the deceased’s wishes, perhaps in the sea or in a memorable place in nature, or bury them in a crypt or garden. Below is a list of the pros and cons of this funeral choice.
1. More affordable: According to figures from the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the national median cost of a funeral with a viewing and burial in 2021 was approximately $7,848 while the median cost of a funeral with cremation was roughly $6,971.
Without the need to purchase a burial plot and pay for its maintenance the cost of cremation is usually cheaper and can be even more so if direct cremation is chosen as this cuts out many of the costs associated with a traditional funeral service such as embalming, caskets, flowers, and other costs involved in holding a memorial service. This can make cremation a more affordable funeral option.
2. More environmentally friendly: Although fossil fuels are used during the cremation process and greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere as a result, cremation is generally seen as a more environmentally friendly option compared to burial. This is because it eliminates the need for burial plots, significantly reducing the amount of land used, and also avoids the need for embalming chemicals and natural resources like wood which are used to build caskets.
3. Greater flexibility: When it comes to funeral planning, cremation offers a more flexible approach for loved ones. Without the time constraints associated with burying a body, family members can carefully consider how to store or memorialize their loved one’s ashes in a meaningful and thoughtful way.
1. Religious and cultural beliefs: Some religions or cultures such as Islam, Judaism, and Orthodox Christianity do not permit cremation, making it an unsuitable option for individuals and families from those faiths. This belief is often rooted in the sanctity and holiness of the human body and funeral practices such as cremation are seen as a form of desecration or violation of this sacred principle.
2. No burial site: Without a burial site, family members and friends do not have a designated place they can visit to pay their respects and remember their lost loved ones. This can make the grieving process more difficult for some people.
A burial typically involves a formal funeral service where loved ones can view the body in its casket and pay their last respects. The body is then taken to the cemetery or funeral site by a hearse and ‘interred’ or placed in its grave. Below is a list of the pros and cons of this funeral choice.
1. Traditional and cultural significance: Burial has deep-rooted cultural and religious significance in many societies, and provides a funerary method that aligns with their views on death and the afterlife.
2. Physical location: Having a designated place for loved ones to visit and pay their respects can offer great comfort to those left behind as well as a way for them to process their grief and difficult emotions.
3. Exhumation is possible: A physical location where a loved one is buried offers flexibility and meaning for those who wish their final resting place to be next to the deceased such as surviving couples or family members. The ability to exhume a body once it has been buried and bury it elsewhere allows for family plots and new locations to be created, allowing a sense of togetherness and continuity.
4. Green options: While traditional burials can take up land resources and often introduce harmful chemicals into the ground from casket remains such as alloys, paint, and preservatives, there are modern green burial options available today that promote eco-friendly practices, doing more good than harm. These natural burials often involve the internment of the body in a biodegradable casket or shroud, allowing for natural decomposition and recycling of materials into the soil, without the use of harmful embalming fluids.
1. Higher cost: The costs associated with traditional burial are typically higher than those of cremation as they include costs such as a cemetery plot, headstone, and grave liner fees. Many cemeteries also charge fees for perpetual care and maintenance of burial plots, which can be an ongoing financial burden for families.
2. Harmful to the environment: A traditional burial usually gives loved ones the opportunity to say goodbye and pay their final respects to the deceased at a viewing service. To prevent the decay of the corpse, embalming fluids are used containing toxic chemicals like formaldehyde, glycerin, and phenol. In addition, casket material consumes precious natural resources such as wood, copper, steel, and bronze. Burials can also take up scarce land supply which can contribute to the destruction of local ecosystems.
Deciding on the most appropriate funeral arrangements for you or your loved ones is an important matter that deserves careful forethought. By taking these factors into account you can make an informed decision that is aligned with your values, beliefs, and end-of-life wishes.