5 reasons why cremation is on the rise

More families are choosing cremation over casket burial; here’s why

A loved one passing away generates a lot of big and little decisions for a family. But for generations past, at least one thing was a given: at the end, a casket would be lowered into the ground.

That’s changing — and fast. Cremations have outpaced burials for the last three years. The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) has forecast that the national rate of cremation will reach almost 80% by 2035. While some states, like Maine, Hawaii, and Michigan, are embracing cremation more quickly than others, the overall trends are clear: cremation is on the rise; the embalming rate is decreasing; and casket burials are going to become less common. Even the Vatican has called the trend toward cremation “unstoppable.” (The Roman Catholic church allows its adherents to be cremated, as long as the ashes are kept in a sacred place, not at home or scattered.)

A number of factors have come together in recent years to create the perfect storm, so to speak, for cremation to become the end-of-life option of choice. Here are the top five:

1. It costs a lot less.

The most-cited reason for choosing cremation over traditional burial is financial. A direct cremation, in which the body is taken straight from the place of death to the crematorium, costs about two-thirds less than a traditional funeral and burial. If the deceased is placed in a casket prior to the cremation to allow for a funeral service and viewing, the costs naturally increase.

It’s not uncommon, unfortunately, for an adult child, spouse, or sibling to cremate a loved one solely to avoid the higher funeral expense associated with burial. Nothing is wrong with saving money, of course — if that’s what the deceased wanted — but preplanning can eliminate such a scenario. With a Preneed Funeral insurance plan, nobody will have to weigh cremation vs. burial under pressure because it allows the policyholder to specify his or her wishes and set aside money to cover them.

2. It’s easier on the environment.

A traditional burial requires the use of land, metal and/or wood for a casket, and potentially toxic embalming fluids. Despite the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere during a cremation, it’s still considered eco-friendlier than a traditional burial.

An even greener type of cremation is now legal in 15 states and gaining popularity: water cremation, a.k.a. bio-cremation or liquid cremation. Water cremation produces much less carbon dioxide because the body is placed into a special compartment filled with a solution that reduces it to an “ash” of bone minerals. Right now, it costs more than regular cremation, but as it becomes more commonplace, the price will most likely fall in line.

3. It’s seen as the less traditional, more creative option.

To many people, a casket burial is linked with religious tradition. Those who don’t want a religious funeral service — and there are many, as America becomes an ever-more secular nation — seem to feel there’s no reason for a casket burial either.

Baby Boomers are also driving a trend to personalize final arrangements, and cremation offers an array of customized ways to commemorate the life of the deceased that a casket burial just can’t match. One popular option is to have ashes made into jewelry. Lesser-known but interesting alternatives include having the urn set into a reef on the ocean floor, scattering ashes high in the Earth’s atmosphere, or pressing ashes into a vinyl record of a favorite song. And don’t forget placing ashes into live ammunition — a particularly enticing option when the deceased was an avid hunter.

4. Family members increasingly live far apart.

Because families are often spread across the country, or even the world, it isn’t as simple as it once was to gather children, grandchildren, and extended family members together on short notice for a traditional funeral service and burial. Cremation buys the family some time, especially if the death was unexpected, to plan and gather for a memorial service.

5. It’s convenient.

It may be hard to imagine that folks might choose their loved one’s final arrangements based on what’s easy. But sometimes, planning a funeral is more than the bereaved can handle. Other than providing the option to have a funeral service before, after, or not at all, cremation offers a few other conveniences:

  • It’s quicker. Making funeral decisions is emotionally draining and overwhelming for mourners. They may choose cremation to end the process sooner.
  • The ashes are portable if they’re placed in an urn or other container, so they can be taken with loved ones if they move.
  • Families have more time to decide what to do with the ashes, like the creative pursuits listed above.

No matter the reasons for its popularity, it looks like cremation will evolve from a funeral trend to a common alternative in the years to come.
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Photo credit: iStock

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