Learn Before You Burn – What I Dislike About Cremation

| Grief Expert and Counselor

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Still undecided about burning your body up after you die? Well, it is like a friend said to me last week, “doc, I guess it comes down to burn me up or slit my throat.” I think the latter reference was to embalming, but in the “end” you will not feel a thing–at least that is what the medical profession tells us. Anyway there are two reasons I do not like cremation.


You might think a 72 year old daughter would have very little grief over a mother who dies at age 92, but that was not the case with Mary. She was an only child who never married and had no children. She lived with her mother and father all of her life. You might want to say, “get a life!” But when her widowed mother died Mary was devastated. She had been her care-taker. I met her at a support group where she told me while her mother was dying she had no one to talk with, and absolutely no outlet for all her anticipatory grief. By the time her mother died she was ready to explode. She just wanted it over with–she just wanted her mother out of her life. So, she burned her up–had her cremated. It was simple, she thought if she got rid of her mother she would get rid of her grief. “Earth to Mary”, it does not work that way. When we love, we grieve–that’s it. If cremation is used to try to escape grief, it will not work. Why? Because “grief work” is about spending time with the body after the death, having a visitation time for family and friends at the funeral home, having a funeral or memorial service, celebrating the person’s life, crying and feeling the pain–let me say it again CRYING AND FEELING THE PAIN and selecting a container and place for the ashes. These things promote healthy grieving.


Billy was about as honest as they come. He had grown up in Alabama and was the oldest son of a large family. By the time he moved to Detroit, his mother had died as well as two siblings. His father was a truck driver who drank a lot, was never home, was not committed to his marriage or his family, and gave the family very little money. As Billy said, ” My mother was a saint. She worked all of her life and raised her family at the same time. My father was a “sinner” and we all hated him.” It did not surprise me when Billy sat in my office and said, “I could not wait for the son of a bitch to die.” (I did not say that–he did) He further stated,” I could not wait to call the funeral “parlor” and tell them to burn him up and send me the bill. I will gladly pay it. I have not talked to him in years. I was glad he was gone, and so was everyone else in the family.” The end of the story is that Billy did not do very well the next few months. He realized his anger and attitude of revenge was ” killing” him, and of course, not bothering his father at all. This dislike is also very simple – cremation should not be used to vent anger or get revenge!


Those are two of the reasons why I dislike cremation. Click here to read the two reasons why I like cremation.


| Grief Expert and Counselor

Dr. John D. Canine, Ed.D., Ph.D. is a noted author, professional speaker, educator and leading expert on grief and bereavement. He is currently the CEO of Maximum Living Consultants, Inc. and he...