Decisions to be Made Before Our Death — Cremation or Burial?

Debbie Centeno
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels
“In times of grief and sorrow I will hold you and rock you and take your grief and make it my own. When you cry I cry and when you hurt I hurt. And together we will try to hold back the floods of tears and despair and make it through the potholed street of life.” ~ Nicholas Sparks ‘The Notebook’

I once had a conversation with a coworker at one of my previous jobs. It was an uncommon topic, maybe morbid to some. We talked about death. I never thought about what to do if any of my children died. Would I cremate or bury my child? Of course, it’s not something we, as parents, talk or even think about. We believe, or should I say, expect that our children outlive us. Therefore, when we outlive our children, it leaves us with so many decisions that we are not ready for. My coworker had a unique experience when his dad died. He sat with his father beforehand to write what arrangements his dad preferred. Hence, they could grieve and not dwell on the arrangements.

When my son died, we didn’t know what to do. We were clueless and in a state of shock. My then-boss is a pastor. He helped us every step of the way and for that, I’m thankful. What funeral home to choose from, casket, clothes for my son, memorial cards, where to hold the memorial service, and so much more. After looking at what was available, we made our choices. Frankly, I just agreed with whatever. My grief was too unbearable to focus on those things. My husband made most of the decisions and I just went along with it.

I felt worst after the burial. It was as if I had abandoned my son in the rain, cold, and heat. What some consider just a body in a grave, for me, was more than just a body. He is my son. I felt so tense. The tension ran from my upper back through my shoulders towards my head and extended through my arms. My teeth hurt from clenching my jaws so tight. And my chest ached with every breath I took. Nothing helped the pain I felt. The anti-depressant prescription numbed it but did not take it away. I cried in the morning, afternoon, while driving, showering, at work, before going to sleep — all day, all night, and all the time. I just wanted to bring my son back home.

We, as a family, concluded to exhume my son’s body, cremate, and bring him home on the first anniversary of his death. Therefore, on July 12, we brought his ashes home. We gathered with some family and friends to celebrate his life and the Pastor did the blessing of his ashes. We also enjoyed my son’s favorite meal, dessert, and drinks.

I’m sure some family members didn’t agree with the cremation. There were too many opinions on the matter, especially from different religious groups and family members. But we didn’t care. The important thing was that we felt at ease and content with our decision. It was as if it lifted the weight off my shoulders. My jaw relaxed, and I could finally breathe without feeling the pain in my chest. Plus, I truly believe that the Lord would not have given me the peace I felt once we cremated our son’s remains and brought him home if it was not to be.

That was when we realized we needed to have a plan. When you have a plan, it helps you proceed with the arrangements and focus on your emotional well-being, rather than figure things out at the last minute while grieving. Like my coworker said, it helps to avoid confrontation within the family about what needs to be done. There are many questions to consider. Where to bury the deceased? Did the decease prefer cremation? Where to scatter the ashes? What music to play? And so many other questions. Spare yourself the agony of having to go through this. With your parents’ death, it will avoid any conflicts that may arise if one sibling prefers cremation while the other wants to bury the deceased parents. Just honor the deceased wishes, as simple as that.

It probably is a morbid topic, but for the tranquility of all involved, I think it's a topic that warrants discussion with our loved ones before it happens. What are your thoughts?

Originally published at on July 7, 2018.

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My writing journey began as a way to cope with grief. I realized I enjoyed writing and began a blog, Debbie’s Reflection ( I also enjoy traveling. Therefore, as a traveler, I began another blog, Traveler Wows (, in which I share tips on places, landmarks, and reviews on airlines, hotels, and restaurants. Thank you for joining me on my writing journey.

Orlando, FL

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