When people think of a cemetery, usually only two alternatives, burial or cremation, come to mind. While this is the most common way to think of the alternatives, there are other options for the interment of the body or disposition of the ashes at most cemeteries. Below-ground burial sites and above-ground mausoleums are available. Remains can be interred in the ground or in a mausoleum, which means that the choice between burial and cremation can be more about how the body is prepared rather than a choice of a final resting place.
At a cemetery, each of these alternatives create a permanent resting place for loved ones, and generations to come, to gather, memorialize and remember.
Making the decision about a final resting place can feel intimidating and overwhelming, but with a little help, such as that provided by CMS Mid-Atlantic, the choice can become simple.
Ground burial is the most traditional type of burial that the majority of people choose. This is just as it sounds, with the body interred in the ground. Typically a stone monument or a flush memorial is used to designate the location and provide a marker of the person’s life. Families can usually choose from a variety of locations throughout the cemetery, including those that are specifically reserved for various faiths, nationalities, or organizations. It is not unusual for cremated remains to be permanently memorialized as ground burials.
A mausoleum is a structure for above-ground entombment and cremation inurnment. There are oftentimes both interior and exterior locations available for a mausoleum entombment or cremation inurnment. An interior location is often preferred because it provides for visitation year-round, when weather conditions might otherwise be prohibitive.
Many families currently opt for cremation instead of more traditional full body burials. They might also wish to permanently inter the ashes in the ground or in a mausoleum niche, to provide a place for family members to visit and pay their respects for generations to come.
Until very recently in the US, far fewer people had their remains cremated. In fact, in the 1980s, according to Time Magazine, cremation rates in the US were only at 10%. This has shifted dramatically and now cremation is more popular than the traditional treatment of the body. This shift has driven the opportunities for memorialization with cremation and cemeteries are keeping up by providing more ways to create the same permanency as a traditional burial.
Choosing Between Cremation and Traditional Burial
Cremation is taboo in some religions, and some people will always feel more comfortable with the idea of traditional full body burial. But as society and its allegiances to religion and tradition shift, so too are preferences regarding treatment of the body and final resting places. Cremation bridges the gap between tradition and modern sensibilities, typically with a cost that is much lower than the expenses that come with a traditional preparation of the body by a funeral home, casket, hearse, and other details.
Cremation allows you to take up a smaller footprint in the cemetery with the same alternatives for headstones, markers, and mausoleums. An urn can be interred in much the same way as a body. However, the process of cremation also offers the opportunity to spread some of the ashes at an alternative location or have them turned into a memento. The opportunity for both a final resting spot and these options is not available with traditional burial.
In many religions, not only is the method of burial prescribed, but also the way that the body is handled from the time of death until after it is interred. Instructions may continue through to the way that the headstone or memorial is presented and is laid out. Such religious traditions will not soon pass, which means that there will always be full burials available at cemeteries regardless of how far most people’s priorities around death shift. A more traditional burial carries a larger expense and requires more things such as caskets and larger earth movers. In spite of the added expense, it is familiar and can be very comforting to people who are used to this way of treating the deceased.
If your choice has less to do with traditional or modern preferences than it does with financial realities, it is important to note that there are significant differences in costs for both funerals and burials. The National Funeral Directors Association keeps funeral statistics and has tabulated and published the average national cost of a funeral since the 1960s. In 2016 it cost on average $7360 for a funeral with viewing and burial (without the cemetery plot, memorial or mausoleum). Funeral, viewing and cremation averaged $6260. Without a viewing this cost would drop again. Not included in these costs were incidentals like flowers and food for a funeral meal, or a headstone or marker, as those fees are extremely variable.
The number of choices may seem overwhelming. However, there are helpful online and written resources, as well as knowledgeable people, who can help. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of these resources as this will be the most permanent decision you ever have to make.