Cremation: Choices and Considerations

The term used by the funeral industry to describe the final handling of the remains of the deceased is “disposition”. Disposition requires a decision between burial and cremation.

Almost half of all funerals in Canada and the United States involve cremation. Those who choose cremation, either for themselves or others, often believe that it is better to honor the memory of the person, not the dead body.

  • There are a variety of reasons for choosing cremation. It may be that cremation is traditional in your family, your religious affiliation or country. You may prefer that the body be returned quickly and cleanly to the elements. Many people believe that a cremated body becomes one with nature more quickly.

  • You may have concerns regarding the environment. Perhaps you are worried about the use of valuable land for cemetery space and believe that it is wrong to fill the ground with materials that won’t erode such as metal coffins and concrete vaults.

  • It may be necessary for you to keep costs down. Selecting cremation may be a cost saving decision; however, cremation does not guarantee that you will have an inexpensive funeral. You might still choose an casket and/or a viewing. You may decide to have the cremated remains buried in the ground or placed in a structure lined with small vaults in which urns containing cremation remains can be stored forever.

  • Some choose cremation because they feel that it is easier and less complicated. No casket is legally required for cremation, just a simple container, which is strong enough to hold the body. This could be a box of unpolished boards, press board, or heavy cardboard. Crematories require the container to be combustible or able to be burned.

  • If the decision has been made to choose cremation, decisions must be made about the process, service and disposition of the ashes. You will have to decide who will do the cremation – either a funeral home or a firm that specializes in direction cremation. You will also have to decide whether to use an urn or container for the ashes.

  • It is a common misunderstanding that with cremation, there is no need for a funeral service.However, a memorial ceremony is an important step in helping the bereaved overcome their grief and gives the opportunity to friends and family to honour their loved one. A ceremony can proceed or follow the actual cremation. Before the cremation, there may be a gathering, either private or public. The casket may be open or closed. When a service follows a cremation, an urn containing the cremated remains may be displayed. After the ceremony, the final disposition of the cremated remains takes place.

  • The disposition of the remains is the final decision in the cremation process. There are several choices. The remains can be stored by the family in an urn or other container. The remains, contained in the simple cardboard box supplied by the crematory can be distributed over land or water. Alternately, the remains can be placed in a niche within vault.

  • The remains can be buried in the ground in a regular plot or in a smaller cremation plot. Alternately, the remains can be entombed in a vault within a monument above ground.

  • Some jurisdictions have laws prohibiting the scattering of remains; others require a permit. Your funeral director will assist you in determining the laws in your municipality.

  • Choosing a final resting place for the disposition of the ashes may be easier if you consider places that were especially loved by the deceased, such as a favorite lake, the family farm, a cottage or mountain.

  • If you wish to use private property to scatter ashes, the owner’s consent must be obtained. If most instances, distribution of ashes on Crown Land is permitted. Your funeral director will assist you in determining the legality of the appropriate choice.

  • In some instances, families wish to honour the life of the deceased by creating new life. Some choose to plant a tree or flowering shrub at the plant of final rest. Every time the tree grows a new branch or the shrub produces new foliage, the deceased is honoured and respected.. If you decide to do this, however, consider what will happen if, some day, you move away.

Decisions are not easy, especially in times of grieving; however, your most important consideration when deciding on cremation as your method for disposition should be to honour the memory of the person.

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