Cremation vs. burial: Which is better?
- The act of burying human remains dates back hundreds of thousands of years, with Britannica stating, 'Burial in the ground by hollowing out a trench in the earth for the body or covering it with rocks or dirt dates back at least to the Middle Paleolithic Period.'
- Scholars believe that the origins of cremation can be found in Europe and the Near East around 3,000 BC.
- In terms of casket pricing, the Federal Trade Commission notes that 'Although an average casket costs slightly more than $2,000, some mahogany, bronze or copper caskets sell for as much as $10,000.'
- According to CremationResource.org, there are seven methods of scattering cremation ashes (or cremains): casting, trenching, raking, ringing, water scattering, and aerial scattering.
The choice between cremation and burial is a very personal one, typically influenced by religious or cultural traditions and individual convictions. However, the two final arrangements are vastly different from each other, with burials being a better choice for several reasons.
First, visiting a loved one's grave after they've been laid to rest may bring a sense of serenity and comfort to many individuals. Some believe that visiting a loved one's final resting place could bring further heartbreak, but this isn't necessarily the case. It may be vital for individuals to be reminded of the past in order to move forward. Even if the pain is palpable, facing the reality of a situation can bring someone closer to recovery.
Secondly, the act of habitually tending to a loved one's burial site--whether it be on an anniversary, a birthday, or any other important day--provides a much-needed routine and a way to connect to those who have passed on. Bringing flowers, decorating the headstone, talking to the deceased about family news or future plans keeps the loved one's memory alive and creates a meaningful tradition. Additionally, relying on routines may be quite reassuring while going through the process of grieving.
Finally, one of the strongest arguments for burial over cremation is that a gravesite is a permanent location that family members can visit to pay their respects for generations. Cremation urns can be misplaced or mishandled, leading to ashes disappearing. There is no such risk with a beautifully tended burial site where mourners can assemble, in what some consider to be a sacred event, to remember and reconnect with the deceased.
Modern times call for modern solutions, and traditional burials have been on the decline in recent years for good reasons.
From a purely financial perspective, the Cremation Institute reports that a basic burial service can cost anywhere from $5,000-$18,000, while a direct cremation starts for as little as $700 and goes up to only about $2000. This may be the primary reason why, as the Cremation Association of North America related, cremations rose from 48.6% in 2015 and were expected to peak at 54.3% by 2021.
Cemetery plots are becoming extremely scarce across the United States—and will continue to become scarcer with the aging baby boomer population approaching average life expectancy in the coming decades. With scarcity comes price increases. Public cemetery grave plots for traditional burials with a casket are estimated at $525 to $5,000 for a single space, while single private cemetery spaces can be priced at $25,000, depending on the area. Cremation doesn't necessitate the purchase of any plot.
Aside from the financial considerations that burial brings, the toxic chemicals used for embalming a corpse can be detrimental to the environment. An estimated 800,000 gallons of formaldehyde and other toxins like menthol and phenol are placed in the ground each year.
Finally, cremation allows for the memorialization of a loved one to be more flexible. Instead of a deceased family member or friend being tied to a burial plot, ashes can be scattered at meaningful places, or urns can be placed atop a family member's mantle for free.