With a shift in attitudes concerning death, more people are electing cremation over burial for themselves or family members at the end of life. In 2016, 50.2 per cent of Americans elected cremation while 43.5 per cent opted for burial. According to a recent report by the National Funeral Director’s Association, this is up slightly from 2015 when the rates flipped for the first time.
In addition to focusing on the celebration of life, more families and individuals are choosing cremation in an attempt to spend less money on expensive caskets or elaborate headstones in favor of a more simple and personal memorial. Grieving family and friends may find more comfort in remembering the deceased when they were full of life rather than laid out following death. Solemn religious services are frequently being replaced with less formal gatherings full of photographs, music and the sharing of memories.
Cremation may also be considered more environmentally friendly, using up less land and eliminating the need for embalming chemicals, caskets and grave liners. Ashes can be planted with a seedling to create a living memorial or used to construct a reef habitat for fish and other sea life.
And although the Vatican officially lifted the ban on cremation in 1963, fewer North Americans have religious beliefs that guide their decisions regarding funerals and memorials. Catholics are free to choose cremation but scattering of ashes is not permitted in the faith and the cremated remains are to be properly entombed in a niche or columbarium set on consecrated land.
The up-tick in cremations over burial may also be a result of individuals who have traveled long distances from their family for work or education but want to be buried close to home. Shipping cremated remains is much less expensive and complicated than transporting a body across the country or from overseas. Simply put, cremation is a less expensive, simpler and more practical burial option, allowing the focus to remain on creating a memorial that reflects the individual, their passions and their accomplishments.