Burial or Cremation?

When a loved one passes away, you are left with a lot of tough decisions to make. Perhaps the toughest of those decisions is what to do with your loved one’s remains. You have the option of choosing either burial or cremation. Both options are good ones; it’s just a matter of deciding which one is the right choice for you. You need to choose the option that will allow you to grieve and heal as best as possible, that will give family and friends of the deceased the proper closure, and, most importantly of all, that will honor your loved one in the way he or she would have wanted.

Honoring Last Wishes

Often, people will prepare for their own deaths by leaving behind a clear set of instructions on how they would like their funerals to be conducted and what they would like done with their remains. Some people specify that they would prefer a traditional funeral and burial and may even leave behind notes about what they would like to happen at that funeral and burial. Others will choose cremation and specify where they would like their ashes to be spread or whom they would like to keep their ashes. Whenever possible, you should strive to honor your loved one’s wishes, even if they are not what you would have chosen. Make every effort to find any records your loved one might have left behind about how he or she would like matters to be handled after death. Not only will following your loved one’s final wishes give you a sense of peace, but it will also take some of the burden of decision making off of your already heavy shoulders.


Many people think that they simply have to choose burial or cremation and let the funeral home take care of the rest. In truth, however, it’s not that simple. Whichever option you choose, there will still be further decisions to make. If you choose burial, for example, you will have to decide:

  • Whether you want to hold a viewing of the body
  • Who will attend the viewing
  • What the deceased will wear at the viewing
  • Which casket to choose
  • Which cemetery to bury your loved one in
  • Which headstone/other ornamentals to purchase
  • Where to hold the funeral
  • Who to officiate/speak at the funeral
  • What the general funeral service will be like
  • Whether or not you want the body present at the funeral
  • Whether you want an open or closed casket


Just as many decisions must be made when a burial is preferred, many decisions also must be made when cremation is chosen. Some of the things you’ll want to think about if you choose this option are:

  • Whether or not you’d like to hold a viewing prior to the cremation
  • Whether you want to scatter or store the remains
  • Which urn or other casing to choose for the ashes
  • Whether or not you still want to hold a traditional funeral

Pros and Cons

When it comes to honoring a loved one’s life, there is really no “right” answer. The best thing you can do is to think long and hard about what your loved one would have wanted, if no last requests were left behind, and about what will be best for you and your family. With that said, however, there are definitely advantages and disadvantages to either option. Considering these may assist you in making this all important decision.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Burial

Choosing to bury your loved one is definitely the more traditional and common choice. Most people consider this option to be very advantageous because:

  • It allows them to honor any religious/cultural traditions, such as dressing the body in ceremonial clothing
  • It gives friends and families a specific place where they can go to visit and honor their loved one for the rest of their lives
  • It feels like a “kinder” option
  • It gives families and friends more control over what happens to the body
  • Loved ones can be buried with objects that were important to them

Unfortunately, however, a burial also tends to be a lot more expensive than a cremation. Not only do you have to pay costs related to the funeral itself, but you also have to pay for the plot that the body will be moved to, for the casket, and for the general care and preparation of the body leading up to the funeral. Furthermore, someone will need to take care of the grave site indefinitely or hire someone to do it, which can take time and money.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Cremation

Cremation was once thought of as a very rare and strange choice. However, many people are choosing cremation today and for a variety of reasons. Some of the reasons to choose cremation include:

  • Lower costs
  • Allows the ashes to be spread in a place special to the deceased
  • Environmentally friendly
  • No land/plot costs or fees
  • One or more family members or friends of the deceased can literally keep a part of the deceased with them indefinitely
  • Funeral services or memorials can be held later, allowing friends and family to arrive from far away/convene at a time that works for everyone

Despite all of these obvious benefits, there are still people who feel that cremation is “wrong” or that it just doesn’t allow them to mourn like they should. There is nothing wrong with feeling this way. If you and your family do, then don’t choose cremation, plain and simple. It’s all about doing what will make you feel the most comfortable and help you to come to peace with the situation.

Talking Over Your Options

If you find that you are feeling “stuck” between these two choices, don’t feel like you have to make the decision alone. Talk with family and friends or even the funeral director to weigh your options and learn more about each choice. Ultimately, with the right support, you can come to the best decision for your situation.