Choosing to Cremate or Not
by Jerri Haaven, Grief Recovery Specialist and Celebrant
Image: Skerryvore Memorial Gardens*
Coming to terms with your own death is never an easy task, let alone the decision between burial or some other form of end-of-life preference. Being buried wholly beneath the ground may seem cold, dark, and lonely to some. Others may find solace in the decision to be cremated when they die.
The steady rise of cremation over burial services begs the question of why anyone would choose not to be cremated. Choosing to cremate or not may depend upon any religious objections, concerns, or memorial needs you have.
Religious Objections to Cremation
Though cremation is widely accepted today across many cultures and communities of faith, there are a few religions that continue to forbid the practice of cremation. Islam, Orthodox Judaism, and the religion of the Baha’is are among the few religious institutions that still disapprove of interment by fire. Christianity has also been opposed to cremation throughout most of its history, condemning that the practice interfered with the physical resurrection of the body.
For faithful followers of these committed religious communities, cremation is not an option. However, incineration is widely becoming an accepted practice throughout the world. What once may have been the taboo in a majority of religions is now an openly accepted option for those that prefer an alternative to traditional burial.
Cremation Myths and Falsehoods
We all have or will lose someone special at some point in time. Loss can be a difficult burden to bear in many ways. Few people walk away from the thought of burning away in a flame without reconsidering their decision to cremate, but cremation does not actually involve fire at all. Instead, the body is exposed to high temperatures. This process reduces the body to bone fragments and particles, which are collectively referred to as cremation ashes. You can learn more about the cremation process by reading our article, Cremation: What is It?
Choosing to cremate or not might actually be an easier decision than one might believe. The financial repercussions of a traditional burial are reason enough to explore alternative possibilities. However, some people might be limited by those alternative preferences depending on the necessity for a permanent memorial site.
Preference for a Permanent Memorial
Without a physical location to reflect and commemorate, your loved ones may feel cheated or lost without a space to feel your everlasting presence. Choosing to cremate or not is an important decision for any individual person to make. Your loved ones may appreciate the possibility of honoring you in a place that holds special significance.
Some people experience a secondary loss of not knowing where to go, which can only further the grieving process. However, cremation ceremonies and rituals have evolved in the last several decades to include memorial services and life celebrations. Today, there are a wide variety of urns, jewelry for ashes, and keepsakes to choose from.
Displaying a memorial urn in your home creates a permanent place to memorialize a loved one. Keepsake urns allow you to share nominal portions of ashes with multiple family members or friends. Companion urns are traditionally for couples that choose to be displayed or memorialized side by side.
Green Burials and Memorial Sites
Choosing to cremate or not can be a difficult decision for anyone, but there are other alternatives to traditional burial. Some people are choosing to be composted rather than cremated. In Seattle, this practice is synonymous with the Green Burial movement. They ensure that a burial site remains as natural as possible and prefer this earth-friendly alternative way because it is done without waste, byproducts, or any harm to the environment. Learn more about the Green Burial movement by reading our article, Recycling: The New Green. If cremation might not be the best solution for you, it’s important that you do your research and speak to others who have gone through the process. Make sure that your loved ones are on board with whatever decision you make.