Disposing of the remains of the deceased can be done in many ways. Today there are many options to choose from, the common ones being burial or cremation. Under burials and cremation, you have even more options to choose from. Given the rise in population and the continuous reduction of free burial plots, or crypts in cemeteries, cremation is becoming increasingly popular. Additionally, it is a great way to cut costs during your funeral planning. It’s anticipated that 60% of Americans will opt for cremation as a disposition method by 2023.
While for most people cremation may be a personal preference, for others, such as Hindus and Buddhists, their culture or religion demands it. Similarly, some religions like Islam and Judaism forbid it. Regardless, like most funeral-related topics, many people do not know much about cremation until they are faced with the choice. To prepare you in advance, however, we have provided you with a complete guide on what you need to know when it comes to cremation. This includes the type of cremation and service as well as the costs.
Cremation Services: You Have Many Options
To begin with, the act of cremating involves passing the dead body through intense heat for long hours until it is reduced to ashes. Most people have the misconception that cremation has limited options when it comes to services as compared to burials. This is, however, not the case. Cremation is simply a method of disposition and not a substitute for a funeral service. With that said, the following are some of the common cremation services families can choose for their loved ones:
Traditional Cremation Service.
This type of cremation service allows the family to visit and view the body. During this time, they get to pay their last respects and say their goodbyes to the deceased. Afterwards, a funeral service is held and the body is later cremated. Alternatively, the family could opt out of viewing the body and simply have a funeral service before cremation. Either way, this is similar to a traditional burial, only instead of caskets and burial plots, the body is simply cremated and the ashes given back to the family.
Ceremonial Cremation Service.
This service excludes viewing and visitation. Instead, direct cremation is performed and a memorial service is held to honor the deceased. The family can decide to have the memorial service during the cremation without the ashes present. Alternatively, they could decide to have the memorial service after the cremation with the ashes present. Additionally, the memorial services can be held at the funeral home or outside, like the family home or a garden.
Celebration of Life.
Compared to a memorial service, a celebration of Life ceremony is less formal. It involves a private cremation with no viewing or service. The family simply plans a small get-together with loved ones, where fond memories of the deceased are shared. Like the memorial service, it can be done during or after the cremation.
After the cremation service, the family has the choice to dispose of the ashes. As you can see, there are many choices to make when it comes to cremation. The type of service you pick will determine the overall cost of the cremation. For example, a traditional cremation service will have additional charges for embalming and a casket for the viewing. It is, therefore, important for you to preplan your funeral in advance. That way, you get to make the decision that’s right for you and relieve your loved ones of the burden of having to make that choice.
How to decide if cremation is right for you?
The choice of cremation as a method of disposition is preferential. There are, however, several factors to consider when making this decision. These factors will determine whether or not you opt for cremating a body. The most common factors are usually finances, cultural beliefs, and religion. There are certain questions you should ask yourself when considering these factors. There is no right or wrong answer at the end of the day, just what is right for you.
Questions You Should Ask Yourself When Considering Cremation Services
What does my religion’s stance on cremation?
Different denominations and sects vary in their positions when it comes to cremation. There are those religions like Islam, Judaism, and Greek Orthodox that strictly forbid and are against cremation. Such faiths view the body as sacred; therefore, cremating it is a form of mutilation which is forbidden. They believe that a body should be left to naturally decompose back into the earth as was intended by God. Other religions like Christianity are neutral when it comes to cremation, especially, protestants. While they won’t openly support it, they leave the choice up to the individual. In religions like Hinduism and Buddhism, cremation is required. Such religions believe that once a person dies, the spirit leaves the body, leaving it as an empty vessel that is offered up as a sacrifice.
Your faith and your religion’s beliefs about cremation are therefore a strong deciding factor. You need to consider it before taking any steps. Additionally, if you are unsure about your religion’s stance on the issue of cremation, you should seek help from your spiritual advisor to help clarify.
Is cost a factor?
The price of cremation often varies, first based on the state or city you’re in. It also varies based on the service provider and the type of cremation service you pick. Generally, however, cremation is significantly cheaper than in-ground burials. This is especially true if you choose direct cremation, which cuts costs on funeral items like caskets, cosmetics, embalming, and burial plots.
For this reason, your finances are another important deciding factor when it comes to cremation. If you’re trying to cut down on cost, you can opt for cremation. You can also reduce the cost of cremation by choosing a cheaper cremation service and comparing the pricing of different funeral homes or service providers.
Am I comfortable with the process?
Even with factors like finances and religion, you need to be comfortable with the choice you make at the end of the day. That is why it’s important to decide based on your comfort. Both cremation and burial involve processes that lead to the deformation of the body. The only difference is that the cremation process involves heat, while the burial process involves decomposition. Also, one happens within hours while the latter occurs over a long period. Based on this, you can decide which process you’re more comfortable with.
Do I need to consider family customs and traditions?
Some families have customs and rituals revolving around how they honor or lay the dead to rest. Cremation may get in the way of such rituals. Another consideration, therefore, is what customs or traditions your family has when it comes to death. It is also important to consider whether you believe or follow those customs in the first place.
How does my family feel?
While we’ve already discussed that the choice of cremation is an individual thing, your family’s opinions may matter in such a case. Therefore, you can use your family’s opinion about cremation as a guiding factor of whether or not to opt for it. So ensure you ask for their feedback before deciding if their opinion matters to you.
What to do with the ashes
After cremation, the remains are usually referred to as cremains. The cemetery normally delivers the cremains in a temporary or permanent container of choice (like an urn) back to the family. The family then decides what to do with the ashes. Although most people commonly keep the ashes in an urn, there are several other ways to handle the cremains, including the interring options offered by cemeteries. The most common options are as follows:
You have the option of scattering the ashes of a loved one. You can do this in many locations, including in the sea, on private or public land, or in the air. The place you choose should mean something to the deceased. There are, however, different regulations that govern the act of scattering ashes. You need to be sure that you aren’t violating any laws before scattering the ashes, even if it is on your property.
Although the body has been cremated, it does not mean the ashes cannot undergo interring as you would a body. Some people choose to bury the ashes underground in a casket. You also have the option of keeping the ashes in a columbarium niche or a mausoleum, where the families can visit.
Sharing the ashes among the loved ones.
If the family can’t decide who should keep the urn or each member of the family wants some of the ash as a memory, then it can be divided amongst them. In these small quantities, one can place the ash in tiny containers and wear them as jewelry. You can also turn the ashes into keepsakes or unique items like vinyl records.
Cremation and the Environment
Funerals tend to have an impact on the environment; however, cremations are considered more eco-friendly when compared to traditional burials. This is especially when biodegradable containers are used for cremation and use urns to keep the ashes. The following are some of the ways cremation is better for the environment than traditional burials:
Carbon footprint – The cremation process produces typically about four times the amount of carbon dioxide a traditional burial would produce. Still, cremation has a smaller carbon footprint in the environment. This is because cemeteries, where burials take place, need constant maintenance, involving the use of fertilizers and other chemicals.
Pollution – Burials are said to pollute the earth by polluting the soil due to embalming fluids used to preserve the bodies before burial. The embalming fluid slowly seeps into the soil over time and may even get to drainage systems. With cremation, on the other hand, especially direct cremation, there is no need for embalming, therefore, no soil pollution.
Forest preservation – With traditional burials, there is a need for caskets or coffins to contain the body before it is buried underground. Due to coffin and casket productions, a lot of wood is required leading to deforestation. Cremation, however, does not need a casket or coffin. For this reason, they help preserve the forests.
Availability of land – With the growing population all over the world, space is becoming an issue, especially in cities. Through cremation, you free up more land for better use rather than using it up for burial.
Cremation Services: Understanding the Costs & Prices
As mentioned before, many factors result in the price of cremation service varying. The price can vary based on location in terms of state or city. The type of cremation service you choose also matters, as well as who is providing the service. A traditional cremation service will cost more than direct cremation since the latter doesn’t require viewings or embalming.
Questions to Ask About Cremation Costs
While shopping around for the best offers for cremation services, it’s important to have a clear idea of what type of service you want as it will be charged based on that. It is also important to compare the prices from different funeral homes or service providers. The items of each package, however, varies based on who is providing it. To determine the best cost for you, therefore, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- What type of service is the price for, a direct or traditional cremation?
- What else is included in the price?
- Are there any extra charges to be added on top?
- Does the price include the final resting place where the ashes will be kept, like an urn or a columbarium?
- Is the price inclusive of cremation fees as well as local and state taxes?
- What elements of a memorial service are included in the price, if included at all?
Your Rights as a Consumer of Cremation Services
Each state and some cities have specific and strict laws that govern the funeral process and activities. It regulates whether or not embalming is necessary or where certain burials can take place, for example. Still, the biggest complaint about the funeral industry is that service providers are never truly transparent, especially with pricing.
As a result, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) came up with the Funeral Rule. This rule was put up to safeguard grieving customers from being taken advantage of. Through the Funeral Rule, as a consumer in the industries, you have the following rights:
Price shopping. As a consumer, you have the right to shop around and compare prices. This is because prices differ from one place to another. Comparing, therefore, helps to find the best possible deal.
Understand your options. When visiting funeral homes, ensure they give you’re the comprehensive price lists, including cheaper options. That way, you can make a more informed decision about what type of cremation you would prefer.
Be aware of what you buy. Ensure you check quotations to ensure it’s what you asked for. Also, ask the specifics like what the stated price includes and if there are any additional charges to be incurred.
Pros and Cons of Cremation.
As a method of disposition, cremation has both its benefits and its downsides, especially when compared to traditional burials. The following are its pros and cons:
- It’s economical because it doesn’t need the body to be embalmed nor a burial plot.
- It offers more time for planning a proper memorial ceremony since ashes do not decompose.
- Ashes are easier to transport compared to a dead body.
- Ashes offer more memorial options than a buried body; you can keep the ashes in an urn in the house, for example.
- Cremation is not as easily accessible everywhere compared to traditional burials.
- It’s subject to religious and sometimes cultural beliefs.
- A body cannot be exhumed after it’s been cremated.
Cremation is increasingly becoming a popular option amongst most people. This is especially because it is more cost-effective. For the environmentalists, it is also more eco-friendly compared to traditional burials. Most religions are also increasingly becoming open to the idea. The choice, however, falls on the individual as it’s a matter of preference.