Tips and resources to help you throughout your caregiving journey

Planning end of life: cremation or burial?

We have partnered with Eirene on this blog post, and are offering our readers a $500 discount to arrange for a cremation using the Eirene platform, from which we may receive a commission.

I am on a roll writing blogs on topics that many of us would like to avoid. They all revolve around death and dying and planning for end of life. Today’s topic is planning for a cremation or burial.

When my Mom was arranging to have my Dad’s tombstone engraved after he died, she casually asked me if I would like to be buried in the extra plot they had (because my uncle ended up being buried elsewhere). If I had any illusions of being immortal, my Mom helped me move out of it right there and then. I am wondering what it took or what it will take to get you to contemplate your own death and what you want done with your body. And just as importantly, what will it take to do what needs to be done to ensure this happens?

When I started thinking about this blog, I did a survey of friends and family and just like many end-of-life care wishes, I discovered that literally all of them had thought about this and had a clear preference for cremation or burial. Also, like end-of-life planning, most of them had not written this down anywhere or had pre-arrangements. By the way, this wasn’t a survey of a group of young folks. They ranged in age from their 50s to 70s.

Planning and preparing for your death in a death phobic culture

As we know, death is more certain than anything else we can plan for. Ironically, we avoid planning for it. Death and dying are a natural part of the life journey, but we live in a death phobic culture, wherein death and dying is denied its place in our lives. But planning for this can not only help us find peace, but can also reduce stress for those who are grieving. 

Stephen Jenkinson, in my mind, is the deepest thinker about these matters. Conversations about dying, states Jenkinson, “…won’t be protection against fear or pain or grief, nor should they be. They’ll be something like proper preparation for the time that dying comes to your door or to your friend’s door. That preparation should be a birthright for all of us, but a death phobic culture cannot deliver on the right.”

Undoubtedly, it takes bravery to prepare and plan for your death in a death phobic culture. This bravery will be worth it, however, serving you and your family beyond what you can currently imagine.

Planning as a gift to your family

It is an understatement to say that it is a difficult and highly emotional time when a family member dies. What adds more stress is the pressure the family feels to make decisions quickly, especially when nothing has been planned in advance. This is a recipe for unnecessary added stress and potential conflict between family members.  In my experience, most family members are ungrounded in their grief and whether emotion is expressed or not, it is the primary driver of behavior. Any decisions that can be made beforehand can ease the pressure on families and let them just be in their grief. Where they belong.

The relief we felt

I vividly remember when we met the funeral director after my Dad died, and the incredible relief we all felt when we found out that Dad had already been to the funeral home to pick out his casket. (As an aside, it also paved the way for my Mom who wryly stated that she wanted the same expensive casket my Dad had chosen.) Seriously, though, I can’t convey in words how relieved we all felt that Dad himself had made the decision. We had all been dreading this part of the funeral arrangements.

Cremations are becoming more popular

For my Dad, we already knew he had chosen a burial, which, for older generations, was less a choice and more about “just how it was done”. Cremations, however, are becoming more popular in Canada, probably because they generally cost less and also because of weakened religious ties. The statistics surprised me. In 2004, the percentage of cremations in Canada was 52.4 % and by 2019 was 73.1 %. These numbers suggest it has moved from an individual choice or preference to a cultural shift – a new tradition. Cremations may also be a preferred option during this COVID-19 reality. The flexibility that comes with cremations gives everyone a chance to celebrate their loved ones in the way that they desire. 

At the very least, it now means that a choice is to be made.  This blog from our friends at Eirene breaks down the differences between funerals and cremations in an easy, bite-sized way. If you go the cremation route, we have partnered with Eirene to currently offer a $500 discount.

Whether to be cremated or buried is just one of the many decisions to be made for end-of-life. You can look forward to future blogs about all the other decisions. My tongue is not in my cheek.

Have you thought about your choice – cremation or burial? We would love to hear from you.



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