Whether the person who has died is to be buried or cremated is a first decision. The choice is often emotional – one feels better than the other. There may be a family tradition. They may have expressed a preference. Cremation is the choice of over 70% of people. For some the association of cremation is with the purifying and transformational properties of fire; for others it is seen to be less ecological. Having the ashes afterwards can also feel important, with a chance for another, personal ceremony when scattering or interring the ashes.
For others, burial feels comforting and the completion of a natural cycle, being enfolded back into the earth, into Mother Nature. If choosing burial there are 4 main options: burial in a churchyard; in a town cemetery; in a natural or woodland burial ground; on private land. Many churchyards are now full, but there are lovely alternatives to these and, in Devon, there are burial choices no more expensive than cremation.
Choosing cremation does not mean you have to hold the funeral at the crematorium. Most people don't like crematoria, with their sterile atmosphere and time restrictions. We hold many funerals at our Riverstone venue, followed by the gathering after. The cremation then takes place either late in the day with just a few people or often early the next morning with no one in attendance except ourselves. This is a much more flexible and gentle way.
Much is said now about 'direct cremation' and this is heavily advertised on TV. We offer direct cremation as one of the choices. But it is worth remembering that this choice can deprive family and friends of an important opportunity to honour the person who has died and to say a proper goodbye. We have known many bereaved who have been devastated by not being allowed a proper funeral. We are concerned they are being denied a vital part of the grieving process.
A green burial or green funeral is often part of a funeral where family and friends take more control of proceedings and the atmosphere is informal. Over a third of the funerals we undertake are green burials. The choices are likely to include a more ecological choice of coffin, such as willow or cardboard, or perhaps a locally made felt shroud, and less formal transport, for example an estate car or Black and White VW. Only a flat plaque is allowed instead of a big headstone, and the body must not be embalmed.
We have been organising and pioneering Green Funerals for many years and are founder members of the Association of Green Funeral Directors, and recommended by the Natural Death Centre.
Woodland burial sites in Devon
There are 12 in Devon and vary in price from £800 to £1800 for a single plot burial.
For further information:
You are also allowed to make a burial on private land. See the helpsheet below.
We undertake cremations at Torquay Crematorium, Exeter Crematorium, Efford Crematorium and Weston Mill Crematorium in Plymouth and East Devon crematorium.
Cremation is the choice of over 70% of us. Ceremonies at the crematorium tend to be 20 – 40 minutes. You can book a double time if this is not enough, or have the main ceremony somewhere else, for example in our ceremony hall, at home, in a village or community hall, in a church or anywhere that will host it. A few special touches can take away the worry of a crematorium funeral being impersonal. And you can have an individual, non-religious ceremony if you choose, something beautiful and contemporary. Ask for a green fuse celebrant.
Having the ashes to scatter or inter after the funeral can also feel important, with a chance for an intimate family moment or a larger gathering when the grief is not quite so raw. Ashes can be scattered or interred, or how about the idea of a Viking ship to take them out, the nearest we are allowed to a Viking burial.
There is a growing trend towards “direct cremation”. In this case we arrange the cremation for you and it takes place with no mourners present. Then you can have a funeral ceremony afterwards, in a place of your choice, with the ashes present. This can give you more choice and save money.
Do I get the right ashes?
We have made a 10 minute video showing what happens behind the scenes at the crematorium because so many people are unsure about this and whether they get the right ashes. This has been watched over 800,000 times
This video shows some footage of an actual cremation, so please be aware if you think you may find that upsetting.
You may not know: cremated remains have normally been ground down in a machine into the familiar gritty and powdery ashes. But you can also ask for the bone to be returned as it comes out of the cremator – usually in small, fragile pieces. Also, if you want, you can ask to witness the coffin being “charged” into the cremator.
Every parishioner has the right to a churchyard burial in their parish (if the cemetery is still open), even if they are not religious. These tend to be quiet oases in a busy city or town, or a beautiful rural churchyard setting.
A headstone can cost between £500 and £2500. You can reduce the cost by not buying the rights to a grave, in which case you cannot personalise it with a headstone or other memorial, or you can buy a shorter lease and the grave could be reused in the future.