Although regular cremation is definitely popular, many people want something more. As growing numbers of people choose cremation, they start to question the environmental effects of the process. Is there a better way? Recent trends suggest that there is. Alkaline hydrolysis is a newer form of cremation that uses less energy and may be friendlier to the environment. This process is still largely unavailable throughout the United States, but it may one day become the standard.
So many times, an urn begins with an idea. Someone might think about a fond memory they had, or an aspect of their loved one that was particularly beautiful or easy to recall. That winning smile, or even a favorite tattoo, could be recreated on an urn and available for all eternity. We often hold onto an image of a loved one because we want to never forget those little things about them that could be so difficult to hang onto, decades after they leave us. Even in grief, we want to be reminded of these things. It hurts to think of a loved one who is gone, but it hurts more to feel their absence. Placing those images and mementos before our regular sight is one way to keep our memories alive, and our love green.
Religions have unique perspectives on cremation, and whether or not their belief systems can accommodate cremation as the preferred option worldwide. Many religions have re-examined their positions to make room for those who need to choose cremation.
Many people think that death is largely unpredictable, but this may not be true. Some studies show that the day of the week, and the day of the year in which people die are actually more predictable than might seem possible. Although some of these circumstances are affected by things outside a person’s control, people do have some power in deciding when they die. In the end, although the holidays may become a day of tragedy for many, there are ways to remember those left behind and build a happy future.
For an increasing number of people, the decision to cremate is simple. What they may or may not do with the ashes is a different matter entirely. While traditional burial is fairly straightforward, cremation opens up a world of choices for people planning for the future and their families. This decision comes with a variety of new concerns to address. By looking at the legal, religious and moral ramifications surrounding cremation, families can make the best selections for them and their loved ones' final wishes.
As cremation trends toward the norm across the United States, critics come out of the chemically-untreated woodwork. Cremation is an unsafe practice, they say. The act of cremation emits dangerous toxins into the environment, and consumes huge quantities of energy simply to turn one body into ashes. While some of these complaints have a small nugget of truth, the misrepresentation of information is striking. Experts claim that cremation and use of biodegradable urns are actually far more environmentally-friendly than a traditional burial, particularly when modern technologies and new approaches are used.
As a chaplain, my role is not to mandate religious doctrine, force individuals into specific choices or even advocate a particular lifestyle or worldview. Rather, the focus of chaplaincy care tends to be on facilitating the ability of individuals to articulate their own goals and values, and helping them uncover, navigate, translate and resolve some of the issues with which they might be struggling. People often ask me for guidance when confronted with the choice of cremation, as there is often religious guilt or complicated family tension associated with this decision. I know many people who have chosen cremation and are very comfortable with their choice. I also do not think that it is wise to persistently fight a family member who has made a clear minded, intentional decision to be cremated.
Updated on 11/13/20
This article covers six different ways to scatter or bury ashes, including casting, burial in a trench, raking, scattering over water, aerial scattering and green burial.
Although there are certainly rules and laws regulating the disposition of ashes on land, water or in the air, your choices are largely left up to your own discretion.
As the popularity of cremation expands throughout the United States, many religious scholars and clerics find themselves stuck in a conundrum. Within the next few years, cremation will likely become the norm in the U.S. Even in the Jewish tradition, where cremation has been considered taboo for centuries, congregations are dealing with more faithful members who seek cremation when they die. With research and new interpretation of religious texts, many rabbis have found a middle ground to allow Jews who have been cremated to have a proper burial in a Jewish cemetery. When the family observes the proper stages of mourning and keep a kosher burial plan, many congregations will honor their loved one’s request to be cremated.
A death in the winter. Difficulty scheduling a memorial. Family members unprepared to accept the death of a loved one. There are many reasons that people never go to collect the ashes of their loved ones after they die and are cremated. Unlike traditional burials, cremated remains take up little space. Since ashes do not require a prompt burial, family members sometimes allow the remains to sit at the funeral home until a better time. But, as cremation trends toward the more popular method of treating the body after death, the number of uncollected urns at funeral homes increases. And, it is a problem all over the world. While most funeral homes simply hold on to the ashes, waiting for the family to come get them, some funeral directors are taking matters into their own hands.