Not too long ago, planning you and your family’s memorial was a straightforward proposition. More likely than not, you or a family member would purchase burial plots at the local cemetery and there wasn’t much else to think about.
For better or worse, things have changed. Families are more spread out around the country, most people choose to be cremated, and prices in urban cemeteries are at an all time high.
All of the above means that families, more than ever, need to discuss their memorial choices together.
Given that it’s just about Thanksgiving, we thought of the 5 things that families need to cover when discussing memorials together.
I’m someone who is very close with my mom even though I don’t live in the same city as her. When it comes to creating a family memorial, it’s a fairly easy choice where we’ll choose as she still lives in my hometown and I would eventually like to return there.
It’s certainly not that simple for everyone.
People move and start families all over and then they have to consider whether they would like to return to the earth where the rest of their family is or where their husband or wife and kids consider home.
There’s no rule that everyone should return to the same place when they die, but it’s something to openly discuss if you’re thinking of creating a family memorial.
2. Cremation vs. Burial
Depending on when you were born, your religious considerations and where you live, there’s a very good chance you’re at least considering cremation. While only about 5% of people chose cremation in 1970, about 50% of everyone in the US chooses it now.
What does that mean? That you might have a divide in the family over cremation versus burial and the types of memorials available to you.
Better Place Forests co-founder Sandy Gibson’s parents purchased burial plots for both him and his brother beside theirs in Toronto. Sandy not only now lives in San Francisco, but his preference is for cremation.
With the large shift towards cremation, you can reasonably confident that most people in your family will prefer cremation. But if you’re planning a family memorial, it’s definitely something to discuss.
3. Who to Include
There are only a few types of memorials that can include every single person you can name in your family. For the most part, it’s not practical to try to account for everyone anyway.
When thinking about a family memorial (or even just a memorial for you and your husband and wife), you should think about who you would like to include. (e.g. Your siblings? Cousins? Grandkids?)
With cremation, there is an opportunity to create family memorials that have the space for much more people than historically with burial. At Better Place Forests, we’ve had a request for over 25 spreading rights around a redwood tree. The vast majority choose for themselves, their husband or wife, and their children. (And pets!)
But if you’re planning your memorial, you should discuss who to include with your children so you know how many spaces to reserve.
4. Style of Memorial
If you’re choosing cremation, there is a range of options for memorials and different people have different preferences. We speak to people all the time who are on the fence about what they want or they want a tree memorial while their husband wants to be spread at sea.
The important thing is to first know your choices. Unless you are choosing a very out of the box option, the main choices for those creating memorials are the following:
- Displaying an urn at home
- A niche at a cemetery
- Urn burial
- Private spreading at sea
- Private spreading in nature
- Protected Tree Memorials (e.g. Better Place Forests)
And after you decide which style of memorial you are looking for, there is a world of choices; from urn types, to headstones, to types of trees.
Just knowing what is out there helps to discuss the options with your family so you can let them know what there is to choose from.
5. Who is Going to Pay for It
From the people I’ve spoken with, this has usually been a straightforward answer. Most people will pay for their own, while some parents are interested in covering the costs for their kids to create a family memorial.
If you’re planning a memorial that will include more than just yourself, you should discuss the cost with the other people who will be included.
For tree memorials like Better Place Forests, you can reserve space for additional family members who might want to join later but are undecided at the moment. For others like a family niche in a cemetery, you might need to pay upfront for everyone.
A Family Decision
In our experience, memorial discussions usually happen when families get together. The above 5 topics hopefully should at least get the discussion started if this is something you have wanted to bring up with your relatives.
The important thing is that if you’re considering a memorial, you should discuss it openly with your family since it’s something that involves them.