Following death, the question to cremate or bury is one of the earliest the family will face. It can be a confronting, coming so quickly after a loss. If instructions have been made clear it’s a relatively simple decision. But if there is uncertainty about what to do things might be less straight forward. It can be a tough time for families.
This decision influences what kind of service you hold – graveside committal, funeral home followed by cremation, an alternative venue with the ashes present, a delayed memorial service. As we embrace more unique and personal end of life celebrations there are more options than ever before, and it can feel overwhelming.
If death hasn’t yet happened there may be time to chat. These aren’t easy subjects to tackle, but it can save a lot of anxiety and heartache to get things in the open. Try broaching the subject by referring to someone else – “I wonder what it was about China Beach that meant so much to Sue she wanted her ashes scattered there?”. Once you get started you might find any number of strongly held thoughts on matters ranging from music to who takes the eulogies.
If you get the kind of response that goes “I don’t care, I’ll be dead”, hang in there. As hard as it is, saying nothing at this point might just elicit the kind of nugget you’re looking for – “but since we’re talking, I always wanted to be buried in that place with all the trees… ” or “…. have my ashes scattered on that stretch of coast…” or “…go out with a wonderful party at the local theatre.”
If there are no instructions or opportunity to talk then family will need to decide what’s best.. Sometimes the decision is self evident. There might be a family history of burial in a particular cemetery, or certain cultural or religious guidelines come into play. The decision could be guided by cost, whether family live close by or are geographically spread, and what other family members have done.
In recent years, cremation has become more popular than burial. Without the additional expense of a plot and headstone, it’s more affordable. particularly if the ashes are scattered or buried at home rather than interred at a cemetery. If selecting burial, you’ll need to choose a cemetery and eventually a headstone. If your loved one was motivated to touch the earth more lightly this might point to a natural burial or bio cremation.
Take a look at some of the stories on Great Goodbyes and see if other families end of life celebration resonates with yours. You might find a particular approach that could work really well for you and helps open up discussion on what you might do.