When you’re pre-planning your funeral service, or you’re planning a service for a loved one who has passed on, one of the things you need to answer will be whether you want a burial or a cremation.
There are many reasons for choosing one option or the other, but there really is no right or wrong answer. You may want to have a memorial service followed by a burial, or you may prefer to have that service done and then opt for cremation later on.
Here are some considerations to think about when you’re deciding.
A burial or a cremation typically happens to commemorate someone’s death. Burials are more traditional and involve placing the dead body in the ground as their final resting place. In a religious context, this symbolises our physical body’s return to the earth we came from.
Cemeteries exist for exactly this reason, giving people a place to bury their dead and, simultaneously, a special place for them to go and visit their dead if they need to be in the symbolic presence of their deceased loved ones.
Flowers and other mementos are often placed on graves to commemorate special moments and memories.
Cremation is another funeral ceremony that involves burning a dead person’s body to ashes. These ashes can then be interred in memorial sites, in cemeteries, or scattered on the deceased loved one’s most cherished place or favourite location. Many people also choose to keep these ashes in an urn at home, so they continue to be in the presence of their family members.
Both burials and cremations were used in ancient societies, where placing the dead into large tombs or burning the body on a pyre of logs were done to honour the person’s passing. Several different beliefs went with both of those, including sending the dead on to the afterlife.
In modern times, cremation wasn’t a legal procedure until the 1800s; the first crematorium was built in South Australia in 1891 and NSW at Rookwood in 1925.
If you’re having trouble deciding between a burial and a cremation for yourself or for a loved one who has passed on, you definitely aren’t alone.
It can be hard to decide which choice feels right to you, and it can be difficult to determine which one a person might have wanted if you hadn’t talked about it before their passing. You want to do what’s right for your loved one, and not knowing for sure what they would have chosen can be difficult. In those circumstances, you’ll need to make the choice that’s right for you so you can move on.
Being cremated or buried is an extremely personal choice. Even though it’s a difficult issue to discuss, making a decision and having that conversation in advance matters. It helps to put your final wishes in writing, so your loved ones know what’s right for you.
Pre-planning a funeral can take a lot of pressure off your loved ones when you pass on.
Considering your finances is just as important when planning a funeral.
Cremations are far less costly and can help you save more in the long run as you do not have to pay for the land or the lease of the grave itself. In some areas of Australia, new graves are leased for 25 years. Graves may have to be released after this time.
In the long run, cremations become a less expensive process than traditional burials.
Cremation may be out of the question for some people because of their religious views. Many Christian scholars, for example, believe that a burial is the only biblically approved way to handle the dead.
If this is a big part of your belief system, or the belief system of your deceased loved one, honouring that can be very important. For other religions, such as Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism, the tenets of their holy books may also need to be followed. While not everyone is religious, many people are important to honour their wishes as much as possible when planning their funeral service needs.
For eco-conscious people, cremation may be the right choice. But there are also movements toward more natural burials where the body is placed in the ground without embalming and encasing, allowing a return to the earth naturally. This form of burial is becoming increasingly popular.
In June 2010, Sydney’s first natural burial ground was created. Unlike a traditional cemetery, there are no manicured lawns or headstones as the burials in biodegradable coffins are designed to blend in with nature. This process is not necessarily cheaper but is more environmentally friendly.
In a statement, NSW Lands Minister, Tony Kelly, said, ‘Natural burial grounds respond to an emerging need within the community for an internment option more environmentally friendly than traditional burials or cremation’.
The burial ground has minimal disturbance to the bushland environment and instead acts more as a beautiful park to walk through and remember the life of a loved one. If the earth, environment and nature, in general, played a big part in someone’s life, a natural burial is an option to consider.
It can be tough to know whether a loved one would have preferred to be buried or cremated. Sometimes this decision is based on religion, sometimes on environmental beliefs, and sometimes on a precedent set from past family members.
No matter the reasons, not knowing which option a loved one would have wanted can add to the stress you feel when planning a funeral. Fortunately, you can avoid all of that for your loved ones when you pass away by pre-planning your funeral and making your wishes known ahead of time.