Cremation vs. Burial: Which Is the Right Choice?

At the end of a loved one’s life, many decisions are made by the family in order to celebrate the deceased and enable those left behind to move on in the face of their loss. Among these decisions is how their loved one will be finally put to rest. Earth burial is one of the most common means of bidding farewell in Ghana. However, cremation, which involves reducing the body of the deceased to ashes, has also become a common option in Ghana. In 2016, the Ghana Cremation Society revealed that Ghanaians opted for cremation 50% of the time as an end-of-life care.

When deciding how to say final goodbyes, the family may want to consider factors such as the budget for the funeral, their belief systems, how they wish to remember their loved one and the wishes of the lost relation.


Why Burial?

Earth burial is what is traditionally practised in Ghana. This is what is usually done and usually expected when we lose someone. There is always the psychological need for anyone who loses a loved one to ‘send them off’ properly. In Ghana, there is also the social component of putting together a befitting burial for family and friends to mourn the dead. The idea of burning the body of the dead may not always satisfy these psychological and social requirements. A burial enables the family to mourn the dead and get closure as they see the coffin lowered into the earth. Knowing that the remains of your loved ones are available in a location which can be visited, can also be psychologically satisfying. The burial site will forever be marked as their final place of rest and peace. Some religious organisations prescribe earth burial and do not accept cremation or other forms of disposition such as water burial. The family will have to inquire about their religious sect’s position on cremation if they intend to abide by their faith.

Why Cremation?

Despite these aspects of burial, some people may opt for cremation as a rite of passage to honour a religious belief or the wishes of the lost relation. Cremation is often considered the cheaper option for giving our loved ones their final rest. It limits the expense that typically goes into financing items such as caskets, burial vaults, lowering devices, cemetery plot and grave marker services among others. Experts have also described cremation as a more hygienic and environmentally friendly end-of-life choice because it avoids the use of chemicals that could have adverse effects on land resources. Assistant Secretary of the Ghana Cremation Society, Victoria Boi-Doku, explained that,

“The procedure avoids embalming chemicals. The fire disintegrates all diseases that the dead person might be having, and it is environmentally-friendly”.

Cremation helps to conserve our limited land resources. The practice allows people to try creative ways of memorializing their lost relations and maintaining that sense of presence we normally crave for at such a time. Some people who cremate their loved ones keep their ashes in an urn which is placed somewhere symbolic in their home. The urn allows for the lost one to still be a part of the home. Tree-urns are another modern innovation for memorializing a cremated loved one. The ashes of the dead are mixed with soil and used to nourish a grow a plant. The options available after cremation are many and they keep growing.


In Ghana, the body of the deceased belongs to the external family. They are also the final decision-makers in everything related to it. Whatever the choice of the family, it must be one that enables those most affected by the loss to go through the final rites with significant ease. The loss of a relative is by itself a challenging period and great consideration must be given to the family’s psychological state.


Earth burial is still the most popular means of disposition in Ghana, however, you can contact local funeral homes and cemeteries if you are considering cremating a loved one here in Ghana.

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