Burial Alternatives Guide: What’s The Best Option?

There was a time when we accepted that each person’s life would end with a traditional six-feet-under burial, and our place marked by a headstone.

Today is not the case, as you already know.

We have almost unlimited options to personalize rituals around death, making it almost as individualized as the way we lived our lives.

Here is a guide to some unique burial alternatives.

Cremation Vs. Burial

The most popular burial alternative is cremation. Statistically, it’s about a 50/50 split between those who choose cremation vs. burial.

However, cremation is steadily on the rise, and will soon overtake burial as the most common post-death option.

Cost Comparison

With both cremation and burial, costs vary widely depending on the services and/or materials you choose.

Burial Costs

The overall cost of a burial is significantly higher, with extra purchases adding up.

Some of these are the purchase of the grave plot (about $1000), the casket ($1000-$15,000), the burial vault ($1300) and a headstone ($1500).

Cremation Costs

Cremation is cheaper overall, however you do need to factor some potential costs which can drive up the price. This includes things like embalming, viewings, and casket rental.

The least expensive cremation option is direct cremation, which costs between $700 and $2000.

Pros and Cons

The decision to go with burial or cremation is by no means clear-cut.

There are many advantages and disadvantages for both.

Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re unsure.

Pros of cremation

There are a number of benefits to choosing cremation over burial. For example:

  • It’s usually less expensive.

  • It takes up less space, helping to reduce overcrowding in cemeteries.

  • It still offers the freedom to have a traditional funeral or memorial service.

  • It’s generally more eco-friendly than burial.

Cons of cremation

Cremation does have some disadvantages, such as:

  • It’s a permanent decision. (The remains can’t be exhumed later.)

  • It may violate some religious beliefs.

  • It may deprive loved ones of the closure that comes with having a grave to visit.

Pros of burial

There are a number of advantages to choosing burial over cremation. They are:

  • Burial is sometimes considered a more natural method.

  • It gives mourners a physical space to visit and remember.

  • It allows the body to be exhumed later if necessary.

  • It’s more respectful to some religious beliefs.

Cons of burial

Here are some reasons why you may decide against burial and opt for cremation instead.

  • It’s impractical if loved ones live far away and are unable to visit the cemetery.

  • It can be very expensive.

Burial Alternatives

It’s nice to have more than one option. However, the choice is by no means black-and-white (either cremation or burial).

There are so many unique and compelling methods for honoring a loved one’s remains.

Check out these creative options.

Cremation Diamonds

One of the newest and most intriguing trends: transforming cremation ashes into gorgeous diamonds that you can wear forever.

While this may not be the most affordable option, it is certainly one of the most beautiful.

And you can choose from a wide array of shapes, colors and sizes.

Cremation Art

There are some artists who specialize in creating beautiful glass art with cremation ashes.

Glass orbs, multi-colored glass lamps and striking glass paperweights can perch on a mantel or desk, honoring your loved one every time you look at it.

Tree Urns

You can combine the best aspects of both burial and cremation by mixing cremation ashes with a seed to become a beautiful tree.

This method benefits the environment, while also giving loved ones a lasting physical remembrance that they can visit.

Natural Burial

Today many are choosing burial methods that minimize environmental impact.

By choosing a biodegradable casket or shroud, you can reduce the amount of steel and wood that is buried underground. And by skipping embalming, you protect the earth from the effects of harmful chemicals.

Resomation (Water Cremation)

Also known as aquamation or bio cremation, this process uses special chemicals to speed up the decomposition process.

It is much quicker and more eco-friendly than traditional cremation, as it breaks the body down within hours.

Burial At Sea

Your cremation ashes can be scattered over the water, or simply left to float for a while in a biodegradable urn before sinking.

Another option: your whole body can be placed in a biodegradable casket or shroud and then submerged.

Space Burial

If your loved one was fascinated by the possibilities of outer space, you can find comfort knowing you’ve made their dream come true.

Several companies specialize in launching cremated remains into outer space, where they slowly vaporize while circling the earth.

Fireworks Display

There are some people whose mere presence in your life brought explosive beauty.

For these, it’s fitting to transform their ashes into a gorgeous fireworks display.

Several companies specialize in creating memorial fireworks from cremation ash.

Tattoo Ink

Tattoos are a popular way to immortalize a loved one, but this method allows you to go one step further: it uses custom-made ink made from their cremation ashes.

A few tattoo parlors have begun offering this unique option to bereaved customers.

Donate Body To Science

Donation of certain organs or of your whole body can help advance scientific or medical discoveries that benefit humanity long-term.

You can leave behind a legacy of helping save or improve the lives of others.

Cryonics

A new trend that is still being researched, cryonics is the process of freezing the body of a brain-dead person without damaging tissue.

This method is sometimes used in hopes that future medical advances may revive a lost loved one.

Promession

This is a special type of burial in which the body is prepared to decompose according to the patterns of nature.

Within a year after burial, the body has fully decomposed to become part of the soil.

This process is even more eco-friendly than cremation.

A Coral Reef

For a person who loved exploring coral reefs under the ocean waves, they now have the opportunity to become one with them.

To accomplish this, the cremation ashes are mixed with cement and molded into the shape of a coral reef.

This helps the environment by replacing natural coral reefs which have been destroyed.

Mushroom Burial

Even when a human body isn’t embalmed, it still harbors many toxic chemicals that can damage the environment after burial.

But now you can get a special suit which metabolizes such toxins to form mushrooms as the body decomposes.

A Time Capsule

With this unique cremation urn, your loved one’s remains can rest on the ocean floor for eternity.

It holds not only their remains, but also special mementoes of their life.

Awards, prizes, medals or other special belongings can be buried with them.

Turned Into Art

There are a few artists out there who can combine cremation ashes with paint and then use it to create a gorgeous painting.

This can be kept and displayed forever as a lasting memorial to your loved one.

Turned Into Music

For a musician or simply a music-lover, what better way to memorialize them?

Cremation ashes can be sprinkled onto raw vinyl before it is pressed into a record.

In this way, your loved one is part of the music whenever you play it.

A Viking Send-Off

Viking ships were often used to memorialize the greatest warriors as they left on their final journey.

A company called Cradle to Grave makes authentic Viking ships, complete with a sail.

After placing your loved one’s remains inside, simply set it ablaze and let it float.

Plastination

In this process, all the natural fluids are sucked out of the body, leaving tissue intact, so that it will not decay.

It is then made into a plastic mannequin, which can be used for educational purposes.

Although this option may seem creepy, it’s a great way to leave an educational legacy behind.

Alternative Funeral Options

Like burial and cremation, funeral services are not what they used to be.

While you may still choose a traditional funeral service, there is now a wide variety of more creative options for remembering a lost loved one.

Celebration of Life Ceremony

Unlike traditional funerals, a celebration of life is a way to share happy memories and maybe even some laughter and fun.

Without the traditional somber mood of a funeral, participants can tell funny stories and even engage in a fun activity that the deceased person enjoyed, such as dancing or bike-riding.

Create a Shrine

Simply decorate an area of your home with objects that remind you of your loved one.

This is even more meaningful if you set aside a special time to do it together with friends and family.

Create a Memorial Book

This works best if you assign a different page to each loved one or family member.

Each person creates their special page by adding stories, messages and memories.

The book itself can be hand-made or ordered from a company that specializes in them.

Create a Personalized Tradition

This can be almost any special tradition that reminds you of your loved one.

Sharing a meal together or volunteering for a favorite cause can be a meaningful annual ritual in honor of the deceased person.

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