Biggest Cremation Myths Debunked

The way we say goodbye to loved ones, while always a deeply personal decision, tends to follow certain social patterns. Recently, cremation has become a popular alternative to traditional burial. In fact, nearly 75% of Canadians chose cremation for themselves or a loved one in 2022, according to the Cremation Association of North America.

Still, myths persist about the practice, which dates back tens of thousands of years. Dignity Memorial® providers are experts in cremation, and we'll help you get answers to your questions and the facts about cremation, so you can make the best choice for your family.

Get A Guide for Families Choosing Cremation

Learn what you need to know to choose the best provider for your family’s needs.

Myth No. 1: Cremation is a sin

Though certain faiths, such as Islam, discourage cremation for their followers, cremation is accepted by most religions. Even Catholics and Jews, who have traditionally chosen burial over cremation, are making the choice more and more.

Decades ago, the Vatican denied Catholic burial rites for those who chose cremation. However, in 1963, the Vatican changed its position. It stated that while traditional burial was preferred over cremation, the Catholic Church no longer opposed the practice under certain conditions.

In 2016, the Vatican clarified its rules for cremation, stating that the ashes of a loved one must be kept together, rather than scattered, divided among family members, or preserved in jewelry or another memento. It also stated that ashes must be kept in a sacred place, such as a cemetery, rather than at home. A cremation that abides by these rules is not considered sinful for a Catholic.

Traditional burial is also a time-honoured practice in the Jewish faith, but the cremation rate is rising among Jews as well. There are rabbis from every Jewish denomination who do not accept cremation. Many Reform rabbis, most Conservative rabbis and virtually all Orthodox rabbis oppose the practice. However, a growing number of Reform Jews are choosing cremation for themselves or a loved one.



Myth No. 2: Burial is always more expensive than cremation

The question of whether cremation is more or less expensive than burial does not have a simple, one-size-fits-all answer. Costs depend on many factors, including the type of ceremony a family chooses.

Generally speaking, burial is more expensive than cremation. At Dignity Memorial providers in Canada, the national average cost in 2021 was around $6,721, including a service, cremation casket, crematory fee and urn. Of course, this cost does not include cemetery charges such as a burial space or merchandise and services. Prices vary from city to city and even among providers in the same city.

Simple or direct cremation is the least expensive type of cremation. It can cost thousands less than a funeral with traditional burial. However, some families who choose cremation also choose to have a visitation and funeral prior to cremation. Others choose to hold a memorial or celebration of life with food, music and more afterward. A cemetery memorial can also be part of a cremation. All these choices add to the total cost, and some cremations are more expensive than some burials.

Myth No. 3: Multiple bodies may be cremated at once

The mistaken belief that crematories cremate multiple people at once in the same chamber has led to the also-mistaken belief that the ashes of several different people become mixed together in the process. This is simply not true.

Absent special circumstances upon the direction of the family, crematories in most countries do not cremate more than one loved one at a time. According to the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association, multiple simultaneous cremations would never occur without written permission. Funeral homes and crematories are strictly regulated to ensure loved ones are treated with dignity and respect throughout the cremation process.

Unless there are special circumstances and the family has requested otherwise, Dignity Memorial providers cremate only one loved one at a time and thoroughly clean the cremation chamber after every cremation. Our custody-of-care program ensures that we meticulously safeguard your loved one's identity with every step of the process—and that the ashes you get back after a cremation are your loved one's own.

Myth No. 4: Ashes are not a person’s remains

After cremation, bone fragments remain in the cremation chamber. The fragments are processed to a more familiar texture, which resembles coarse sand more than soft powder, as many expect. Cremation destroys DNA, and perhaps that's where this myth originates. Ashes are the cremated remains of a loved one, but they do not contain that person's DNA.

Myth No. 5: Ashes don’t decompose

Whether ashes decompose depends on the manner in which they’re kept. If ashes are sealed in an urn and kept on a shelf at your home, for example, they generally won’t decompose. If they are scattered outdoors or buried in the earth in a biodegradable container, they will decompose naturally over time.

Myth No. 6: You can’t have a service for a loved one who is cremated

Not only are cremation memorial services common, they take many forms. In fact, cremation has the benefit of more options for memorialization than traditional burial. You may even be surprised by all the choices:

  • Religious or nonreligious.
  • Before or after cremation.
  • In a funeral home or another location of your choice.
  • Traditional funeral or celebration of life.
  • Intimate ceremony or extravagant event.

Pathway through a cremation garden in a cemetery with niches, boulders and benches.

Myth No. 7: You can’t have a permanent memorial for a loved one who is cremated

Though most families opt to take a loved one's ashes home, some place all or part in a cemetery. Cemeteries offer many cremation property options:

  • Scattering gardens.
  • Cremation burial gardens.
  • Mausoleum niches.
  • Columbaria.
  • Ossuaries.
  • Benches, boulders and pedestals.

Establishing a permanent place to visit, remember and reflect can help with the grieving process and create a lasting legacy. We believe that every family should be able to create an ongoing tribute to the person they loved. Select Dignity Memorial cemeteries offer a free cremation placement or you may choose a credit toward another cemetery option. See our list of participating cemeteries and ask your provider for details.

English Consumer Cremation Guide - Pencil

Plan a memorable cremation funeral

Planning a personalized cremation funeral or memorial is an event unlike any other. We created a guide to help you understand all of your cremation options and how to plan a truly memorable event. Understanding Cremation—A Complete Guide is free, and it will help you start planning today. Then, when you are ready, a Dignity Memorial provider will be there to walk you through every step of the cremation process.


* indicates a required field
Please enter a valid email
Please enter a 10-digit phone number
Please enter a valid postal code