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Cremation or Burial? Families Don't Always Agree

"Our Family Serving Your Family Since 1946"

Family differences on cremations vs. burials

by Susan Cox

Has anyone experienced this situation? You want to be cremated but your mate wants you to be buried? This is an excellent question. This is a problem that comes up a lot. When you have spouses or "legal next of kins" who have strong feelings but cannot agree on cremation or burial, it's time to look at the reasons behind the feelings. People usually have good reasons for feeling the way they do. Many people have the impression that cremation always means "direct cremation," in which the deceased person is taken from the place of death and never seen again or memorialized. This is rarely a good experience for the loved ones who are left to mourn the loss of the person's existence from their lives.

Deciding between traditional earth burial or entombment in a mausoleum versus cremation is a matter of final disposition, not memorialization. A good funeral director will discuss with the parties involved the reasons behind their feelings. Many people oppose cremation because they won't get to see the deceased person again and don't believe the deceased person will be memorialized. This doesn't have to be the case.

Many funeral professionals now offer several options with cremation. Some of these options include:

  1. A full traditional service followed by cremation: The body is embalmed and prepared for viewing/visitation/calling hours and a funeral is conducted. The change is that a cremation casket or a ceremonial casket would be used instead of a traditional casket. After the funeral service, the body is taken to the crematorium.

  2. A public or private viewing/visitation/calling hours followed by cremation.

  3. A cremation followed by a memorial service.

  4. A cremation followed by a graveside committal service. Once the decision for cremation is made, families still must decide what will be done with the cremated remains. Options for this include:

  • Scattering in a rose garden or other "special place" on private property or public property set aside for this purpose. Regulations require that the scattering of the ashes at sea be done three miles off the coast. (EPA)
  • The cremated remains may be placed in an urn which may then be placed in the home (on the mantle, or in a niche), or buried in the family plot at the cemetery.
  • Cremated remains may also be divided up among family members and placed in "keepsake" urns that hold only a small portion of the cremated remains.
  • Vials, in the form of jewelry, containing portions of the cremated remains, are also becoming popular.

Once the decision about the final disposition of the physical remains is made, the decision on how to memorialize the life of the person may be easier to make. Options for this may include:

  • A religious ritual or ceremony
  • A Humanistic service, or a celebration of the life of the deceased person.

The important thing is for families to TALK about their wishes BEFORE the need arrises. To take a huge emotional burden off of your loved ones,after you have discussed your wishes, call your funeral professionals and ask if they have a workbook you may fill out that contains your biographical information along with your wishes for your final disposition and memorialization. Once you have documented your wishes, ask your funeral professionals if they will place a copy of the information in their "Unfunded Funeral Pre-arrangements" files. Then if you want to relieve the financial burden from your loved ones, your funeral professional will explain how you can do that also. This is a wonderful final gift you can give to your loved ones.

Again, the important thing is to discuss your family's wants and needs in an open and non-judgmental way--open the door to understanding why you and your family members want the final disposition and memorialization in a certain way. Whatever decision is made will contribute to the "celebration" of the life of your loved one. This will go a long way in the journey through grief when the loss occurs.

Susan Mitchell Cox has served as the managing funeral director of Alexander Funeral Service in Taylorsville since it's opening in 1996. She was the first woman in a ten-count area of northwestern North Carolina to be a licensed as a funeral director and embalmer. She was recently elected as the District 10 Director for NCFDA.




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