How to Choose Your Final Resting Place
Deciding in advance how you'd like your remains to be buried, displayed or scattered can save your loved ones further stress and grief after you're gone. By doing some research beforehand into both cost and the impact on the environment, you can take into account what is most important to you when it comes to your final resting place.
The first thing to decide is how you would like your remains disposed of after your death. There are several options available, including some overlap depending on your needs.
- Embalming: Embalming is the process of preserving the body by draining fluids and injecting chemical preservatives. It usually costs around $1,000, give or take. Embalming is required if the body is going to be viewed for a funeral or a viewing service before cremation or burial. Some people forgo embalmment because the chemicals used for preservation are harmful to the environment.
- Refrigeration: If there is a delay between the death and a burial, refrigeration at the funeral home can be substituted for embalmment to preserve the body for several days. This can cost several hundred dollars depending on the length of time.
- Direct Burial/Cremation: Those who are not interested in a viewing or service involving their body can opt for direct burial or cremation, which do not require preservation.
- Cremation: Cremation is the process of introducing the body to intense heat and reducing it, over the course of two to three hours, to ash that is then ground into smaller chips and placed in a container or urn. Cremation can cost anywhere between $1000 and $6000, depending on what is included in the service. Cremation means less land is required for burial and that, due to fewer caskets, less rare hardwood and toxic plastics are put into the earth. However, cremation uses a lot of energy and can create byproducts harmful to the environment.
- Aquamation: Also called resomation or liquid cremation, aquamation is not currently available everywhere due to the large upfront cost to the funeral home. However, it is an environmentally friendly alternative to cremation with largely the same results and at around the same cost. The process takes longer (up to 16 hours) and produces up to 30 percent more ashes, but because it uses heat and water, it uses one-eighth the energy of cremation, and it does not use fossil fuels or create greenhouse gases.
Once you have determined how you prefer the disposal of your remains, it's important to consider where you want them to be at rest. Whether it's scattered in a well-loved place or buried next to family, it can be a process that gives peace to your loved ones and lets them say goodbye.
- Burial: In many places, it is traditional to be buried in the ground, often in a casket. Caskets can be made of metal, plastic or wood, and are often priced anywhere between $2,000 and $9,000. However, there are some environmentally friendly alternatives, such as burial shrouds or wicker caskets, which only cost a few hundred dollars. Burial in the ground also requires you to buy the plot and the coffin vault and pay the fees for excavating and refilling the plot (for a total of roughly $2,000 to $6,000). Burying an urn with the remains is generally cheaper than a full-size plot, as it takes up less space. After the burial, a headstone can be used to mark the spot, which can cost anywhere from around $1,000 (flat) to $3,000 (upright), and even more for especially elaborate monuments.
- Crypt: A crypt is a stone chamber, often under a floor or within a wall, that holds remains such as a coffin or urn. Individual crypts can be purchased within a mausoleum for $2,000 to $4,000.
- Mausoleum: A mausoleum is an above-ground structure that can hold anywhere from two to dozens of crypts, depending on the size. Purchasing a small mausoleum is roughly $30,000, depending on location, while larger mausoleums can be hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- Urn: If you are cremated, you may choose not to be buried at all but rather have your cremated remains (ashes) displayed in an urn. The price of an urn depends on the materials and size, but generally a keepsake urn will be smaller and more representational. Those can be as low as $50. Cremation urns are larger and meant to hold the entirety of the remains; they often cost several hundred dollars.
- Scattering: You may wish to have your ashes scattered rather than displayed, which costs nothing and does no harm to the environment. You do not need permission to scatter ashes on your own private property, but you must obtain permission before scattering ashes on other private property (even public-seeming places such as museums, stadiums and amusement parks). Ashes may be scattered at National Parks (although permits are often required) and at sea (although it must be done at least three nautical miles from shore). There are many companies that can arrange a full burial at sea for varying costs.