|When it comes
to arranging a funeral today, you have two main options to choose between
when selecting your disposition method – burial or cremation. A ‘funeral’
refers to the activity that takes place in arranging the disposition.
A funeral or funeral service can be a burial or a cremation. Deciding
between burial and cremation is a personal choice. Many choose based
upon the traditions and beliefs associated with their faith, but changing
religiosity has meant that people tend to be less fixed in which disposition
method to select these days.
If you choose burial you will
require a casket, a cemetery plot, possibly a burial vault and you may
have the option to choose to have the deceased embalmed. These items
alone can cost in the region of $2,000 - $10,000, and therefore make burial
a more expensive option than cremation.
For those who believe in
burial as opposed to cremation, they feel that this ritual demonstrates
respect for the human body. They also believe that the body should
be allowed to decay by a normal process instead of the hastening which
occurs during cremation. Although the Catholic Church accepted cremation
in the 1960’s, many Christians are still uncomfortable with the notion
of cremation and prefer to opt for a burial. Burial still outweighs
cremation in many of the southern and Midwest states where religious views
and tradition still underpin much of the funeral ritual.
The ritual of burial is an
opportunity for family and friends to say a last goodbye to their loved
one. After the funeral, they will then often gather at the home of
a family member where food and drink is served and a funeral reception
is held. This provides a further opportunity for the sharing
of grief and mutual consolation of the bereaved. However, this same
practice can be observed and a cremation conducted as opposed to the burial.
Some people feel uncomfortable with the notion of their body slowly decaying
underground. Likewise there is a concern that the decline in burial
will result in a loss of the legacy of history. That a decline in
traditional cemeteries and grave markers may erode the remnants of our
culture for future generations.
Having a place to go to visit
the departed provides solace to many loved ones. Does a burial site
provide a tangible link to the deceased? Maybe, but cremated remains
can also be interred, either in a gravesite or in a niche or columbarium,
providing a dedicated site that family can visit. Some families even
prefer the fact that cremated remains can be kept close by at all times.
What is a ‘Green’ Burial?
‘Green’ burials have grown
in popularity in recent years, as society has become more alerted to ecological
and environmental concerns. In some ways a green burial is reverting
back to the natural method of burial we employed some hundred of years
ago, before we used embalming chemicals and reinforced steel caskets.
For a green burial, the deceased is not embalmed, is placed into a simple
shroud or wooden coffin and buried directly into the earth. No chemicals,
steel or concrete should be part of a green burial process.
Today, cremation is not allowed
by the Orthodox Jews, the Islamic religion, Eastern Orthodox religion and
some Fundamental Christian sects. Whereas religions such as Hinduism,
Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism all mandate cremation.
The practice of cremation
dates back to the Pre-Canaanites who used it until about 2,500 BC.
It was not practiced by the Egyptians, Jews, Phoenicians or Carthaginians.
The Greeks and Romans based their practices according to the way they viewed
the afterlife. Those who believed in a life after death buried their
dead with food, pets and even servants to smooth the transition from one
form of existence to another. Others who believed that the body decays
practiced cremation so that the deceased would have a speedy trip to the
What exactly is cremation?
A cremation is usually conducted
at a crematory. The body of the deceased is placed into a cremation
chamber or retort and reduced to fragments of bone and basic chemical compounds
through temperatures ranging from 1,500 F to 2,000 F degrees. The
actual cremation process takes from two to three hours with the time depending
upon the weight of the individual. A casket is not required
by law for a cremation, a suitable alternative container can be used.
This can be a basic cardboard or plywood box. To read in more detail
about cremation, visit our section on Understanding
Cremation and Cremation Laws.
of Burial and Cremation
There are environmental concerns
about both burial and cremation. As mentioned above burial today
can be extremely detrimental to the natural ecology. We actually
bury into our earth more than enough embalming fluid every year to fill
more than 8 Olympic-sized swimming pools, and there is concern about how
this is affecting our water table as corpses decompose and these chemicals
leak into the ground. In some metro areas we are simply running out
of space to bury the dead.
Cremation has been viewed
as a greener alternative as we are not burying so much chemicals, steel
and concrete into the ground. However, the use of energy to power
the furnaces can be considered detrimental to the environment, as can some
of the gases that are created as a result of cremation and poured into
Changing funeral trends
Natural or ‘green’ options
are gaining some popularity in both burial and cremation. As mentioned
above, green burials use just natural products, so they can be friendlier
to the environment and also cost less. Aquamation, Resomation or
hydrolysis cremation is the process by which the body is disintegrated
or dissolved using water and temperature. This process is considered
kinder on the environment as it does not produce inert gases and the resulting
water and organic matter can be flushed safely into our drainage system.
Promession is another alternative method of disposition that involves freeze-drying
Cremation is certainly a
growing trend in the U.S., and a trend that is going to continue.
Currently the cremation rate is at around 41% nationally but due to rise
to around 60% by 2025. Many other countries have cremation rates
as high as 80% - 95% such as England, Germany and Japan.
Burial and Cremation
Culture - Rituals and Customs
Some cultures have wakes
for the departed whereby family and friends come together to pay their
last respects. Traditional Irish wakes are occasions for food, drink
and music where grief for the passing of the deceased is mixed with a hearty
send-off to the next world.
In Mexico, the Day of the
Dead is a National holiday celebrated on November 1 and 2.
Family reunions are held in cemeteries while coats of paint and structural
repairs are made to gravesites. Fresh flowers, candles, candy, food
and drink are put on the graves as gifts to the deceased where a party
atmosphere prevails. Many candles are lit in remembrance and some
families even hire mariachi bands.
Whether you choose cremation
or burial can be based upon cultural, religious and cost factors as well
as upon the attitudes of the individuals responsible for making the final
decision for interring their loved one if no specific instructions were
provided in a Will.
||Expert Author: Sara
Sara is the Editor in Chief
for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death
care industry in the US for the last 5 years.
a funeral home
an affordable cremation provider
Last revised: 11/20/2012