Though burial has been the default end-of-life service for hundreds of years, research suggests that cremation is becoming more popular in the modern era. Around 44% of Americans include cremation in their end-of-life plans these days, while only 35% prefer a traditional burial.
Of course, deciding between both options can be difficult, no matter how common they are. When it comes to cremation vs burial, how can you decide which one is best for yourself or a loved one?
Let’s take a look at a few key differences between both options as you navigate this choice.
The Basics of Cremation vs Burial
Before we dive into the major differences, let’s discuss what you can expect from both burial and cremation.
Both options can take place right after death. Neither is a substitute for a funeral, wake, or memorial service, which can be arranged before or after the burial or cremation. To be clear, both options allow surviving loved ones to hold a viewing of the body, provided that it takes place before cremation, if chosen.
If you choose cremation in the state of Texas, the process can begin no sooner than 48 hours after a loved one’s death. This allows you and your state officials to complete the necessary authorization forms permitting the cremation.
During the cremation process, specialists place the body of the deceased into a cremation chamber. The deceased will be the only person in the chamber, as cremations happen individually.
The cremation process burns the body to ashes within a matter of hours. Afterward, surviving loved ones will receive the ashes and have the opportunity to decide what to do with them.
With a traditional burial, the deceased’s body remains intact. You can choose to embalm the body for a funeral or place it in refrigeration if you need more time or must transport it to another location. You can also choose to change the clothes, jewelry, and cosmetics of the deceased per your family’s wishes.
Burials allow for a natural and slow decomposition over time. When the funeral is complete, the body will be placed inside a grave or mausoleum.
Though it’s likely obvious, it’s important to remember that the process of cremation is irreversible. You cannot change your mind, nor can you decide to exhume the deceased’s body later. As a result, it’s crucial to ensure that you and your loved ones are on the same page about this decision before you move forward with it.
If you opt for a burial, you can change your decision at any time. If necessary, you can exhume the body at a later date, and you can also switch to cremation should your family revisit the decision during the funeral arrangements.
As we mentioned above, families can opt for cremation no sooner than 48 hours after a loved one’s death.
Beyond this, families can choose how and when they wish to schedule the cremation. This choice can be very personal, and many families opt to give loved ones time to visit with the body before cremation takes place. However, the average cremation takes place between three days and two weeks after death.
The cremation process can take several hours, depending on the size and weight of the body. Once this process is complete, your chosen crematorium will return the ashes to you. The timeline for this depends on the crematorium; some return the ashes within hours, while others will deliver them to you within seven to ten days.
When arranging a traditional burial, you can delay a funeral for up to two weeks after the date of death. This is thanks in large part to modern preservation methods.
However, it’s ideal to begin the embalming process, if you choose to do so, within 24 hours after the time of death. Refrigeration should also happen around the same time.
For many, the cost of end-of-life services is a crucial part of the decision.
The cost of cremation tends to be lower than the cost of burial. There are also several different types of cremation, each involving different costs.
A traditional cremation includes embalming and a funeral service, after which the body is cremated. Families can also choose cremation with an end-of-life memorial service, during which the body is not present. A direct cremation, the most affordable option, does not include a service, viewing, or visitation of any kind.
In general, you can spend anywhere from $1,000-$3,000 on cremation services.
When it comes to a traditional burial, on the other hand, you may spend anywhere from $7,000 to $10,000 on average. A casket alone can cost thousands of dollars, and the additional cost of a grave plot and headstone can increase the price.
Though there are many benefits of cremation, it’s important to ensure that you choose this decision in accordance with the religious beliefs of the deceased’s surviving loved ones.
According to both Jewish and Islamic law, for example, the dead must be buried. On the other hand, cremation is often preferred under certain Buddhist teachings. Though Catholics were once opposed to cremation, the Catholic Church allows this option after funeral rites with the body present.
If your loved one was religious and you are unsure which option would be best, consider calling their local church to ask about the practices around cremations and burials.
If you choose direct cremation, meaning cremation without visitation or a service, it may be difficult for the deceased’s surviving loved ones to get closure.
For some, spending time with the body is part of the grieving process. It gives loved ones the chance to mourn and start healing. This can be especially important for small children, who may need help understanding their loved one’s death as something true and tangible.
A traditional burial allows everyone to witness the passing of their loved one. It also gives the community a chance to come together to honor the deceased.
However, you can also perform a funeral or visitation service prior to a cremation to offer a similar sense of closure.
Another important consideration when weighing cremation vs burial is the ease of visitation.
After a cremation takes place, you and your family will receive the ashes of the deceased. These ashes are portable, and you can transport them anywhere.
This allows you to keep them in a place of honor in your home, if you choose to do so. You can also place the ashes in a mausoleum or columbarium.
You can also scatter them in a place the deceased enjoyed in life. However, keep in mind that there are still laws about where you can and can’t scatter cremated remains. For example, you can scatter ashes on federal land with a permit, but the laws vary regarding inland bodies of water.
It’s worth noting that not all of these options allow easy visitation. Well-wishers may be willing to visit a mausoleum, but they may not want to intrude into your home to visit an urn on your mantlepiece.
A traditional burial, on the other hand, provides an accessible gravesite for friends and family to visit. You can choose the location of this site according to your convenience or your loved one’s final wishes.
Flexibility of Choices
When you choose cremation, it’s worth noting that your options extend beyond storing the ashes for visitation. You can use the ashes in a variety of ways to honor the life of the deceased.
For example, you can place cremated remains into jewelry and give it to friends and family members of the deceased. You can use them in a portrait of the deceased, convert them into a memorial tattoo, or use them to seed a new tree.
With a traditional burial, your options are more limited. You’ll be able to make choices about things like the casket, headstone, and gravesite, but there won’t be as much variety.
In addition, cemeteries may have rules you need to follow when making your decisions, and there may also be state and local laws that limit your options.
If you’re trying to reduce the ecological footprint of your choice, know that both cremation and burial have an impact on the environment.
Cremation uses very few raw materials aside from those in your chosen urn or vessel. However, the cremation process consumes energy and emits gas, though both of these must stay within certain legal limits.
With a traditional burial, you’ll need to consider the raw materials of the casket and its creation. Biodegradable choices like wicker, bamboo, or cardboard are preferable. If you choose to embalm, you’ll also place harmful chemicals from the embalming process into the ground.
Find the Right Option for Your Loved One
Choosing between cremation vs burial is a difficult and personal decision. Though each of these options has its pros and cons, both of wonderful them can provide an opportunity for loved ones to visit, honor, and grieve the deceased.
As you navigate your decision, don’t forget that Lone Star Cremation is here to help. Whether you’re looking for cremation pricing or you have further questions about the process, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.