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Cremation is Not the End...It is Preparation for Memorialization
Each year on Memorial Day in the United States and Remembrance Day in Canada, thousands of individuals travel to local cemeteries and memorial parks to pay their respects to departed family members and friends. This once-a-year event, originally established to honor our war dead, signals the time for taking plants to gravesites, placing flowers in columbarium vases, and meditating in churches and chapels. Visits to final resting places, however, are not limited to just this one day. Throughout the year people remember those who are no longer with them by going to the areas where special memorials have been established. Remembering those who have died is not a modern-day phenomenon. Thousands of years ago when the funeral pyre and the “sacred flame” were used, survivors fashioned beautiful urns to hold the cherished remains from what they termed the “purifying fire.” Today, cremation has advanced from the crude funeral pyre to modem scientific methods. It is only in the handling of those “cherished remains” that we link up with the past. We recognize as did those long-ago individuals the importance of memorialization.
Those who say – whether in jest or serious – “Just cremate me and throw me out!” do not realize the burden this places on family members. Direct disposal of cremated remains without funerals or memorialization of any kind can cause serious traumatic problems for survivors. An executive of the Forum for Death Education tells of one patient under therapy as a result of scattering the cremated remains of a loved one. She had no focal point for her grief until he suggested that she obtain a niche at a local mausoleum and place some memento of the loved one within. In day-to-day contact with bereaved families, many cemeterians have noticed signs of severe emotional stress among the survivors in instances of cremation without memorialization and without funerals. In some cases, such problems may take the form of delayed reaction many months later and are more apt to come to the attention of the medical community or clinical psychologists than to the layman or to the general public.
Many psychiatrists feel that the funeral serves a very real need for the survivors. One of them stated that the primary purpose of the funeral is to fulfill the need for grieving for the living and that this need goes unfulfilled for many in our culture. The result, in many cases, is that months or years later, people require psychiatric treatment for severe depression.
In suffering a loss, the traditional rites of passage and memorialization can be beneficial in helping individuals pass through the stages of grief.
When the practice of cremation is accomplished with human dignity and recognition, it Will:
- help assuage grief
- alleviate guilt
- contribute to emotional stability
- create peace of mind
Worldwide, cremation has rapidly expanded. Since 1973, the number of cremations in North America has more than tripled. Countries such as Japan (97%), the Great Britain (70%) and Scandinavia (over 65%) continue to show a high percentage of cremations. It is predicated that by the year 2010, cremations in the U.S. will be close to 40%. Many well-known Americans have selected cremation following their deaths, and are memorialized in prominent U.S. cemeteries. They include statesman, prominent military persons, as well as many from the field of sports and entertainment.
Cremation with Dignity
Nowadays you have a wide choice on where to place cremated remains. You may select a niche in a columbarium with space for one, two or even an entire family. You may choose interment in a single burial site, an urn garden or family plot. You may prefer scattering in a specially prepared garden within cemetery grounds, with or without a marker. You may even select a personal type of memorialization such as a tree, rose bush or other type of perennial to plant in a special area. Whatever your decision, you will have created a lasting memorial that will serve as a focal point not only for present-day survivors, but also future generations. This is cremation with dignity!
Published by CANA – Cremation Association of North America – www.cremationassociation.org