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Making The Cremation Decision

What's involved in making the decision to cremate? For that matter, how can you make the right decision about such a complex issue? One which affects not only you, but your entire family? Here's the long and short of it: in any situation (including this one) you can only decide on an issue based on the available information. Knowing that as well as we do, we've done our best to provide you with as much of the necessary information as possible; right here on our website. (For example, there's The Process of Cremation, Cremation Facts, Religious Views on Cremation; and Cremation Services for detailed information on the services we offer.)

What are the factors you should weigh when considering cremation? All of them are deeply personal: there are your spiritual or religious beliefs, your level of environmental consciousness; the family's financial interests, the expectations of your social group or wider community expectations, and your philosophical leanings. And these five factors make for complexity in making the decision between traditional casketed burial and cremation.

Let's Talk about Making Decisions

The Wikipedia entry, "Decision-making" declares the act of making decisions involves "identifying and choosing alternatives based on the values and preferences of the decision maker." And here's the big issue about making the cremation decision: it's not all about your personal preferences and values; it's also about those held by members of your close circle of family and friends. It can become a situation of decision-by-committee, where more than one voice is heard; yet at its heart, exactly how we make decisions (whether on our own or in a group) has a lot to do with our basic personalities.

In a recently updated online article from The Wall Street Journal, "How You Make Decisions Says a Lot about How Happy You Are" (complete citation below), columnist Elizabeth Bernstein tells readers psychological research has led to the conclusion there are two basic types of decision-makers: maximizers (who like to take their time and weigh a wide range of options), and satisficers (who "would rather be fast than thorough; they prefer to quickly choose the option that fills the minimum criteria). She goes on to explain the logic behind the word “satisfice”,(which a blend of satisfy and suffice).

She quotes Barry Schwartz, a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and author of the 2004 book, The Paradox of Choice. “Maximizers are people who want the very best. Satisficers are people who want good enough.”

Interestingly enough, Dr. Schwartz "found nothing to suggest that either maximizers or satisficers make bad decisions more often", but he did find that satisficers "are happier than maximizers", who "tend to be more depressed and to report a lower satisfaction with life." So, when sitting down to make the cremation decision–either on your own, or as part of a group–consider the basic nature of everyone involved: maximizer or satisficer? Such awareness, of self and others, is invaluable when making the decision to opt for cremation. (You can listen to Dr. Schwartz discuss the paradox of choice in the 2005 TED Talk of the same name, noted in the Online Sources below.)

Basics Aside...Here are Four Helpful Decision-Making Tips

One more thing: despite the fact you make decisions every day (both large and small), perhaps it would help you to know more about how to make a decision of this importance? In the Lifehacker 2013 online article, "Four Tricks to Help You Make Any Difficult Decision", columnist Thorin Klosowski offers readers four creative ways to ensure good decision-making:

  • Pretend like you're advising someone else. Klosowski tells his readers to make use of their visualization skills to engage in an imaginary conversation. Certainly, this might be easier for someone with a good imagination; but do your best to picture a friend coming to you with the question you now face: "Is cremation the right choice in this situation?" Imagine what you would say to them to help them work through  to the right answer. What questions could you ask them? Here are a few suggestions:
  1. Let's talk about emotions: how do you feel about the idea of cremation? What about whole-body burial? Which alternative makes you feel better?
  2. Is cost a big concern to you? When it comes to the cremation decision, are you most interested in saving money?
  3. What are your spiritual beliefs? How do you think they would impact your decision about cremation?
  4. Let's talk about the environment. Do you have concerns about minimizing your carbon footprint, or otherwise reducing pollution?
  5. One more thing: how do you think your family will react to your final decision? Will it cause them unhappiness or will they be comfortable with your choice?
  • Limit the amount of information you take in. In the Psychology Today article, "Why Too Much Data Disables Your Decision-Making", Dr. Ron Friedman shares this observation: "We like to think that more information drives smarter decisions; that the more details we absorb, the better off we'll be. Knowledge, we're told, is power", but Friedman is quick to tell readers that even though human beings are "hard-wired" to do what they can to reduce uncertainty (this internal programming kept us alive in more challenging times and places); our obsession with information actually reduces the quality of our decisions.
  • Embrace Contradictory Thinking and Reverse Assumptions. Klosowski writes, "It might sound a little crazy, but you're so prone to continue making the same kind of choices throughout your life that challenging yourself and doing the exact opposite is often the best way to get around this problem. The idea here is to confront your default behavior, step outside your comfort zone, and use your imagination to test some completely new ideas."
  • Make Use of Technology Tools. "A spreadsheet", Klosowski writes, "is one of the best ways to help make a better decision. A simple spreadsheet filled with pros, cons, qualities, rankings, and more can help give you the big picture of a decision." (See the 2012 Lifehacker article "Make Better Quality Decisions with the Help of This Spreadsheet", listed in the Online Sources below, for additional insights into using a spreadsheet for complex decision-making.)

Certainly, everyone's idea of a difficultly-made decision is different; and maybe making the choice between traditional casketed burial and cremation isn't at all challenging for you. But if it is, using one or all of the above suggestions can help you become confident in your final decision.

When It's Time to Decide...We Can Help

When faced with making the decision to cremate, many people find consolation in knowing–as they wrestle with this significant life decision– they can turn to our cremation experts for insight and guidance. We extend this invitation: call us at (519) 941-1392 if you would like the assistance of an experienced ally, a funeral service professional you can trust to help you examine the facts, weigh critical factors, and ultimately arrive at the cremation decision which is right for you and your family.

Online Sources:

Bernstein, Elizabeth, "How You Make Decisions Says a Lot about How Happy You Are", Wall Street Journal, updated and accessed October, 2014

Klosowski, Thorin, "Four Tricks to Help You Make Any Difficult Decision", Lifehacker, 2013, accessed 2014

Pinola, Melanie, "Make Better Quality Decisions with the Help of This Spreadsheet", Lifehacker, 2012, accessed 2014

TED Talks, Barry Schwartz: The Paradox of Choice, filmed in 2005, accessed 2014