Is cremation right for you or your loved one? Are there advantages over traditional burials? Why do people decide on? Here are some facts, trends, and ideas to consider in making your choice.
In North America, more and more individuals and families are choosing cremation over traditional burial every year. In 1975, people opted for it just 6 percent of the time. But that percentage is growing steadily. It’s estimated that cremation will actually become more prevalent than ground burials within ten years. That has already happened in Canada, where more than 50% of the deceased are cremated, and Switzerland where it’s more than 75%.
A time-honored choice
Humans have practiced cremation for at least 20,000 years, across a surprising number of cultures and religions, from ancient Greece and Rome, to India and the Norse Vikings -- usually closely intertwined with a culture’s religious traditions, philosophies, and world view.
Why do people make this choice today?
According to surveys, people come to prefer it over a burial for a wide range of reasons -- from the religious and philosophical, to the practical and economic.
Escaping the cemetery
For some people, the thought of spending ‘eternity’ in a somber cemetery or mausoleum is less attractive than having one’s ashes scattered in a beloved spot, one that held special meaning in life: a favorite fishing stream, a beach, an orchard, park, or homestead. Or contained in an urn at home among family. It’s a way of making their final resting place reflect their lives.
An immediate return to nature, and the ‘universe’
Many people like the idea of having their bodily substance returned to nature very quickly after death, rather than lingering embalmed in a casket and vault. They see it as a rapid release of the soul, a completion of the cycle of ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust.’
Simpler and easier for family
In general, a cremation involves far fewer decisions and simpler arrangements for family and friends, since there is no need to coordinate all the details involved with a cemetery burial. It can also be handled locally, which eliminates the need for having the body transported long distances for services, or to accommodate family and friends.
Costs are about 50% to 75% of the costs of a cemetery burial, since there is no need to purchase burial plots, caskets, headstones, vaults, or pay for grave preparation and graveside services. Yet it’s still possible to have traditional viewings and visitations, and religious services and memorials.
Spares the land
Right now, there is enough land to accommodate ground burial. But space near populations is growing scarce. And some people feel that devoting land to cemetery use -- with all its restrictions and long-term commitments -- is not a worthy use of natural resources.
In the past 20 years, more and more religious organizations have come to approve of, or at least allow cremations for their members. Many churches, for example, are creating memorial gardens or columbarium niches for members who select this option. Others, such as the Catholic Church have formally changed policies to make it fully acceptable.
Some religions, such as Islam, Orthodox Judaism, and Eastern Orthodox Catholic remain opposed to the practice.
Other articles you’ll find helpful: