Another cost of death – dying is expensive


My grandmother passed away a few days ago. She had been on the fringe with a terminal illness for months. The best we could do was ease her pain and spend as much time with her as possible. That she was able to enjoy the holidays with us by her side was truly a gift and a blessing.

Unfortunately, now that she’s gone, the logistics of how to best proceed with a recently deceased loved one has become a reality. I overheard my parents arguing about the cost of burial services and how it might possibly jeopardize their financial stability. I’d hadn’t thought to question the matter because I’ve never been to a funeral before.

Are all burials and funeral services expensive or are there alternatives?

Death certainly brings unexpected consequences to those left in its aftermath. The practice of ritualized burial is, in fact, one of a few core features almost entirely exclusive to our species–though, we aren’t necessarily alone. The activity is both sacred and implicitly meaningful to the people left behind. In many ways, the antiquated endeavor has remained completely static, save a few minor adaptations, which tend to be culture-specific.

Here in the US, the average cost of this perennial pursuit can rapidly accrue a sum in excess of $11,000. Some families are able and willing to absorb these costs, whereas others may struggle with only the most basic of provisions. The latter scenario can be more insult to injury. It’s entirely possible that your parents find themselves struggling with the same dilemma.

You should also know that a viable alternative exists, and it might be worth investigating. Cremation is becoming increasingly popular for several reasons, including the staggering financial burden of its more traditional counterpart. Research both the subject and the process carefully because the basis of cremation (i.e., reducing the bodily remains to ashes) directly opposes that of burial (i.e., preserving the bodily remains intact).

Deciding what to do with a deceased loved one is almost always emotionally fraught with distress and uncertainty. The nature of losing close friends and family demands that we grieve appropriately, which can be easily undermined by insensitive discussions about the fate of their bodily remains. It will also be important to take your grandmother’s wishes into account or at least acknowledge and reconcile them.

Say that, for instance, your grandmother spent her entire life as a practicing Orthodox Jew. Judaism explicitly prohibits cremation; the bodily remains of all Jews are to be returned to the Earth. One could imagine that unless otherwise specified, it’s likely your grandma’s preferences would’ve been no different. This would be a complicated situation to navigate peacefully, and you could probably foresee incurring the burial costs simply to satisfy her dying wishes.

On the other hand, if your grandma spent her life more or less secular when it comes to religious pursuits, then there’s no reason why your family shouldn’t consider the possibility of cremation services. Remember that introducing the topic will require some finesse, especially since it doesn’t sound like you were formally invited to join the deliberation.

“Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone.” — Mitch Albom

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