Where to bury loved ones: At home or cemetery?

A few years ago I witnessed for the first time cremation sea burial. It was a small family gathering, in the middle of nowhere on the pacific ocean. I thought it was beautiful for its simplicity.

Before then, I have never given any thoughts to complicated decisions that come with burying loved ones, then I realised that growing up in Nigeria we tend to do one of two things: bury at home or at the cemetery.

The choice is largely for the close family to make, so for most people especially for elderly parents, they are buried at home, some would even go as far as burying the corpse in a room to show how much they were loved.

In my small town we have church burial grounds in the outskirts of the town usually for dedicated members of the church, however it is not uncommon to see grave humps in neighbourhoods scattered around the town, some cemented to keep the grave intact, for others who are cash-strapped, the humps clear away in no time after few raining seasons.

In other parts of the world, say UK for example where burying at home is legal, one of the major reasons people opt for public cemetery is because of the strict rules by the Environmental Agencies to protect the groundwater and consideration for neighbours.

A few months ago a friend while at my place received a call that her 51 years old sister passed away after a few days illness. I was keen to know where my friend’s sister would be buried to see if we, especially the educated ones have moved on from the cultural home burial.

In the end I learnt the lady was buried in the front of her house. The reason for this I’m told was that the public cemetery was too far from the city and that the 60k charge for a spot could be put to better use.

The couple had 2 young adult children one still at the university – they both live away from home and likely not going to return there. Their immediate hope was to rent the property out, and perhaps sell it in the future.

With the rate of people moving out of family homes and never looking back, here I would opt to pay a tidy sum at a public cemetery as it is fairly guaranteed headstones would be intact and accessible for family viewings for years to come.

On the environmental impact of burying at home. This is my biggest concern. Around our homes many households have individual boreholes/wells, a few metres away is soakaways (sewer) and to imagine another pit to bury a loved one would not cut it if we were to think about health of the residents.

Most of our homes are quite close together, so possibility of water contamination is high in our case.

Here I wondered how Ekiti State is doing regarding the proposed law in 2012 threatening to ban residents from burying their loved ones at home. I thought Dr Fayemi’s did very well bringing this into the light. The idea of having affordable public cemetery is a fantastic one as all can contribute to look after it.

Like any change, I read about Ekiti State kicking against the idea initially, with explanation to the benefits, this should not be too hard for us to embraced.

Not that cremation will gain popularity in Nigeria anytime soon, but nonetheless, it is not environmental friendly. Here is an interesting article on burial around the world.

Categories: Nigeria

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11 replies

  1. In land scarce Singapore, more people get cremated. I suppose over time people might not bother so much if cost and upkeep of a cemetery becomes highly expensive and end up being cremated as “cleaner” – I am told these days people donate their bodies as cadavers for medical students. I suppose one day people will say once I am dead, my spirit or soul leaves and body is of no use. Lots to think about and I find your post reflective and thought provocative to plan for how I would like to “go”. Thanks for the share 🙂


  2. Interesting topic you raised FK.
    In the contemporary era in Nigeria, selfishness is the norm. This doesn’t make sense in an increasingly over-crowded country. It makes more sense for governments to cater for the collective in the provision of basic necessities. The idea of each individual family burying the dead at home is illogical with high population densities and the health hazards that come with it.
    In my own case I was introduced to this idea of burying someone at home in 1990, when my father died. I flew back to Nigeria for the funeral. There was a vigil in Lagos at his flat, that evening his brothers and sisters and myself had to walk round his neighbourhood with me carrying his picture on a pole. ( I asked why? They said so that people would know who he was. I still wasn’t convinced as you know my Dad is Igbo and people in Lagos have little time for them – but I did it anyway). Then he was transported back to his hometown in Delta state. He was buried on the ground floor of his house. To me this was strange and a bit eery as I was brought up in London, where people tend to be buried in the local cemetery. That coupled by my exposure to Western horror films about ghosts haunting houses, did not endear me to the idea. However, I’d like to say I don’t hold this point of view now, ‘each to their own’. But for the sake of public health in places such as Nigeria local cemeteries should be favoured. That’s my 2 cents on this topic.


  3. A cemetery is more orderly but then some people may not be able to afford the attendant cost. Some homesteads carve out a particular portion for the burial of their loved ones.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point Jacqueline re attendant cost.

      However, I think community based cemetery need not be too expensive so families can choose to have the basics such as the spot to bury their loved ones and in future if they so desire have the option to come back to build a headstone for easy recognition.

      Costs of maintenance is pretty minimal – admin to keep records and maintenance officer to keep weed at bay.
      Like other successful cemeteries, it is one time cost to the family, when run by the community, people can work together to make sure their fee is spent as stated in the book.


  4. A very timely look at a growing age-old problem even in cities where the old parts seem to ignore the no-home-burial by local authorities.

    Creation of. massive cemeteries by local authorities and by individuals to supplement what most Christian churches offer everywhere would alleviate the problem.

    Thanks, and regards,

    Liked by 2 people

  5. More and more people are thinking of cremation here in Canada. You don’t really need a grave site just an urn. After my mother passed, she was cremated and her ash were dispersed close to her home by the Atlantic Ocean. Feeling rather empty about the whole thing, we went ahead and bought four grave plots, near where my grandparents are buried (You had to buy them in lots of four) . Although, my mother’s ashes arn’t there she has a place with a headstone. Each of those four plots will hold 3 cremations so we are ready for 12. (Talk about planning ahead.)LOL. One has to think about these things.

    Liked by 1 person

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