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By: Shama Rhoden

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Choosing what to do with our own bodies, or those of our loved ones if they haven’t made a choice by the time they die, can be a difficult process. Many factors come into play, including cost, religious or spiritual concerns, cultural traditions, and time constraints which may influence your decision.

The two most popular options are burial and cremation, both of which come with their own unique benefits and drawbacks. Below, we’ll outline the major differences between the two, and outline a few basic differences which are designed to help you with the process of choosing what’s right for you or your loved one.


Burial involves burying a body in the earth, or placing it in a mausoleum. When the body is buried in the earth, it’s laid in a casket or wrapped in a shroud and placed in a plot in the earth, which is then covered. When a body is entombed in a mausoleum or crypt, it is laid in a casket which is placed in a large niche in the wall and sealed.

These options usually take place in a cemetery, though if you live in a rural area you may also have the option of being buried on your own property.

Basic features of burial

  • The body remains intact 
  • The body can be buried immediately after death, after a traditional funeral service, or before a memorial service, depending on the family’s wishes
  • The body may be buried in the ground in a graveyard, or entombed in a mausoleum
  • Generally more expensive due to casket costs, burial plots or spaces in a mausoleum, and the cost of a tombstone


Cremation involved burning a body to ash, sometimes called “cremated remains” or “cremains” which may be buried in the earth, interred in a columbarium niche, kept by the family, or scattered somewhere.

Many people believe that cremation interferes with having a traditional funeral, which is incorrect. Many people choose to have a “traditional funeral” despite choosing to be cremated, and many cremations take place after a traditional funeral has been held. Ultimately, the process and traditions surrounding the cremation and how the person is remembered and honoured is up to the family.

Basic features of cremation

  • The body is burned to ash
  • The body can be cremated immediately after death, after a traditional funeral service, or before a memorial service, depending on what the family wants 
  • The cremated remains (or ‘cremains’) may be kept by the family, scattered, buried in the ground, or entombed in a columbarium
  •  Generally more economical

Whichever option you choose, make sure you are informed and make a choice that is in line with your beliefs, or the beliefs of your loved one if you are making the decision for them.

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