According to a 2017 report released by the National Funeral Directors Association, the rate of cremation in America has steadily increased in the past several years. In 2016, 50.2% of the population chose cremation versus burial. That rate is expected to climb to nearly 80% by 2035.
Deciding between burial vs cremation can be a tough decision. Depending on your state’s laws, this can be your decision alone or it can fall on a family member or designated agent.
It’s a good idea to write down your wishes regarding the disposition of your body after death. You should also discuss your wishes with those who will be in charge of your funeral or memorial’s execution.
We’ve compiled some of the facts and figures that weigh on the decision between cremation or burial. Read on to make an informed decision.
Know Your Rights
If you have strong preferences regarding cremation versus burial, it is important to know what rights you have to actualizing those preferences.
In over 50% of the states, your surviving kin must honor your written wishes. However, certain states allow some exceptions. Others allow your kin to make decisions regardless of your preferences.
Research the laws in your state to find out what you and your surviving kin or designated agent must do. Talk with the person or people who will be in charge of your funeral or memorial service arrangements. Go over your written statement together.
Losing a loved one is a stressful time, and discussing your wishes in advance can cut down on confusion or frustration when the time comes.
Cremation Versus Burial: What to Consider
Now that you know your legal rights, it’s time to make a decision (assuming you don’t already have one in mind).
There are a lot of things beyond personal preferences to take into account. Consider the impact your decision will have on your surviving loved ones to determine which choice is the best one for everyone.
Cremation vs Burial Costs
If money is a concern for your survivors, cremation can be a better financial option. However, cremation isn’t always the cheaper option, depending on the kind of service your survivors hold for you or the build-up of optional costs.
The cheapest cremation option is direct cremation, which is the best choice for families that can’t afford funerals. In this case, your survivors are paying a crematorium directly for cremation services, and are not required to pay for burial expenses. The average cost of direct cremation is around $300-800.
In the event that cremation does accompany a funeral or memorial service, it can still cost less than a traditional burial. In many cases, burial urns cost less than caskets even when they’re customized. Urns are also much easier to transport, providing the option to cut out the cost of a hearse.
A traditional burial will require embalming, transportation, a casket, a grave plot or vault, a headstone, and possible additional costs. Many of these services cost upwards of a thousand dollars individually. They tend to add up more than many surviving loved ones are anticipating.
Establishing a realistic budget can make this decision-making process smoother for everyone involved.
Religious and Personal Beliefs
Many religions and cultures are open to the idea of cremation, or in some cases encouraging of it. Some are strongly opposed to it.
For example, it is a common practice in Buddhism and Hinduism to be cremated, while Judaism and Islam explicitly require burial. Most sects of Christianity have softened their stance towards cremation. Typically, it is now more acceptable to be cremated in the Christian faith.
For some religions and cultures, cremation is a desecration of the body and dishonorable to the deceased, offensive to the living, or even harmful to the deceased’s afterlife. In other cultures, it can be seen as more respectful to prevent the body from going through a slow decomposition. Cremation may be seen as more sanitary or beneficial to the deceased’s afterlife.
If you or a loved one have religious or cultural obligations to be cremated or to be buried, it is best to respect those wishes. If you, personally, do not feel strongly about either, but an important loved one does, it may be worth it to adhere to their wishes rather than cause a disturbance.
Sometimes, your views on cremation versus burial may not be rooted in religion, but in discomfort and fear. Some people express a deep fear of being buried alive, preferring the idea of cremation, instead. If your personal beliefs and views outweigh other factors, it’s okay to act upon them.
Beyond cost, religious and cultural reasons are some of the most important factors to consider when deciding between cremation vs burial.
Environmental and Public Health Concerns
Depending on your personal values, you may want to consider the environmental impact burial and cremation both have. You may feel that this will allow you to contribute to a better future even in death.
One issue with burial is that we are running out of land suitable for it. Between land development and the existing cemeteries that are running out of space, it can be difficult to find a proper resting place for a body that has been laid to rest in a coffin.
In fact, there have been public health concerns regarding coffins that have been buried too close to the surface. In times of increased rainfall, it is possible for these coffins to become exposed.
There have also been concerns regarding the chemicals in both embalming fluids and in certain coffins, themselves. These toxic chemicals can be released into the soil after decomposition begins.
However, cremation has its own environmental impacts, as well. During the process of cremation, chemicals like carbon monoxide are released into the air. Plus, a cremated body is sterile and, unlike a naturally decomposed body, will not provide nutrients for the earth it is buried in.
There are environmentally friendly options for both burial and cremation, although these options can be more costly and difficult to come by. If this is important to you, it may be worth your while to research these alternatives and find facilities near you and your loved ones that can accommodate these wishes.
A Sensitive Subject
It may not seem like the choice between cremation versus burial is a big deal to some, but for others, this can be a very sensitive issue. Maintaining a level of trust, respect, and patience with yourself and your loved ones while making this decision is of the utmost importance.
For more information on culture, family, and wellness check out the other great blogs on Cyber Parent.