End of Life Planning

2/5/2021 | By Kari Smith

The time immediately following the death of a loved one is emotionally taxing. In addition to dealing with grief and loss, which is often unexpected, the costs of laying a loved one to rest can be an unpleasant surprise. With full-service funerals costing thousands of dollars and requiring a strict time frame, cremation is an option that offers flexibility and has many benefits.

Financial Savings

Cremation costs are significantly less than funerals, because the need for a headstone, casket, embalming, and hearse are eliminated. The most inexpensive option, direct cremation, involves cremation directly after death, without a funeral home’s involvement. This option eliminates any “stops” between the place of death and the crematorium, eliminating the expense of a funeral director and preparing the body for viewing at a service beforehand.

In these cases, you may still choose to have a celebration of life or memorial service in a place that was meaningful to your loved one – such as at their home or a favorite outdoor location. Cremation with services is still a less expensive option than burial, but allows for viewing of the body before cremation takes place.

Eliminate the Rush

When considering a typical funeral and viewing of the body, services and viewing must happen in a timely manner. If family is coming from a distance, it can be difficult to schedule. With cremation, you are under no such time constraints while choosing your venue, inviting important friends and loved ones, or even waiting until the seasons change to accommodate specific plans. When considering cremation vs burial, remember the huge difference in time frame.

A Final Resting Place(s)

When a loved one is buried in a cemetery, this provides a place to go and visit their grave and see their headstone; however, if you move away, or lived far from them to begin with, visiting a gravesite may not be feasible. Cremation allows you to keep their remains with you, or to scatter a portion of their remains in a place (or places) that is meaningful to your loved one.

Options for Family

People sometimes pass without specific instructions for how they prefer to be laid to rest, and it can be stressful when family members disagree on how to handle these decisions. Many individuals have the cremation vs burial debate among their own clan. With cremation, remains may be shared amongst multiple family members.

One member may want to keep remains in an urn in their home, and another may want to scatter ashes in a beloved outdoor location. Still another may want to store ashes in a niche in a columbarium (a room or structure in a cemetery or church where urns with cremated ashes are stored) so that they have the option to go visit a final resting place. Ashes can also be buried, used to make keepsake jewelry, and a number of other creative options for keeping a part of your loved one close by and treasured.

Caring for the Earth

As more generations pass on, the amount of land used for burial obviously continues to grow. In addition to the costs of burial plots growing with the cost of land, cremation is a more environmentally friendly option over burying a casket in the earth. We each think only about the loved one we are burying; but with millions of people dying each year, one must consider the bigger picture of the growing need for land where bodies may be buried. In addition to increasing need for land, cremation skips disturbing the earth and filling it with wood, steel, concrete, and toxic embalming fluid.

It is painful to consider loved ones passing on, and that makes planning for such an event difficult. However, having plans in place beforehand will help ensure that those plans are carried out; they will also eliminate the need to make difficult decisions – like cremation vs burial – in an already stressful time following their death.

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Kari Smith

Kari Smith is a frequent contributor to Seniors Guide, helping to keep those in the senior industry informed and up-to-date. She's a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a songwriter recording her own music. In addition to teaching music and performing in the Richmond area, Kari also enjoys riding horses and farming.

Kari Smith