Cremation is a relatively new trend in the United States, but you’re not alone if you’ve been getting curious about this end-of-life interment option. In 1960, only 3.5% of Americans chose cremation. Today, nearly half of Americans choose cremation and almost 70% of Baby Boomers will choose to be cremated.
Why choose cremation over burial? For most people, there are three main reasons that drive interest. Many people are attracted to the environmentalism aspect of cremation, while other folks are inspired by their religion’s evolving acceptance of the practice. The changing role of cemeteries in family life might also be cause to reconsider a traditional burial.
There are also emotional and practical factors to consider. For instance, choosing cremation gives you more freedom about how you honor someone’s remains. The practice allows you to keep your loved one with you at all times if you so choose, or scatter them in a peaceful location of significance — both of which can be a great source of comfort for many families. Cremation also costs about one-third of what traditional burial costs. Let’s explore why cremation may be the right end-of-life plan for you or a loved one.
3 reasons why people choose cremation
The popularity of cremation has grown alongside the environmental movement and greater awareness for the need to protect and appreciate nature.
Traditional burial practices are often seen as damaging to the environment, with more than 827,000 gallons of embalming fluid and 1.6 million tons of concrete being buried each year.
Americans also have an increasing desire to be a part of nature. As a general love for the great outdoors goes up, so does the number of Americans who want their ashes to forever be a part of nature and the ongoing cycle of life. Burying or scattering ashes outside is a very serene and peaceful experience. For example, when someone chooses a memorial tree with Better Place Forests, ashes are mixed with soil and wildflower seeds. This process enables the ashes to become bioavailable to the tree, meaning that the ashes can have an active effect on the wellbeing of the tree.
While more traditional burial options focused on the preservation and protection of the body separate from the earth, today more people want their ashes or body to return to nature and protect the environment.
2. Religious acceptance
Many religions have long been in favor of cremation, while others took longer to change their stance. In Christianity, for instance, support for cremation has built over time. Cremation was once banned by the Catholic Church and fairly uncommon in other Christian denominations. In more recent years, the Catholic church has begun to officially support cremation as long as the body is present for the funeral. If this isn’t possible for your family, the church is likely to issue an exemption and allow you to explore cremation options.
Some faithful look to scripture for guidance; Ecclesiastes 12:7 includes the passage, “and the dust shall return to the Earth as it was, and the soul shall return to God who gave it. The Vatican even issued a statement in 2016 that said: “The Church raises no doctrinal objections to this practice, since cremation of the deceased's body does not affect his or her soul, nor does it prevent God, in his omnipotence, from raising up the deceased body to new life."
In Judaism, which favors burial in the ground, people who practice Reform Judaism are increasingly choosing cremation. Some funeral directors estimate that about 10-15% of their Jewish burials are of cremains. Other religions, including Hinduism, have long preferred cremation.
Many modern iterations of religion make room for cremation within the framework of the faith. This encourages more people to explore cremation as an option.
3. The changing role of cemeteries in family life
Another reason why people choose cremation is that their relationship to the idea of a family burial plot is evolving. Many families in the 19th and 20th centuries lived in the same towns and cities for generations. Because cemetery land was inexpensive, families often owned large family plots and generations of the same family could be buried together. Later generations could visit and connect with their family’s permanent resting place.
Over the 20th century, these family burial places became less common. Many family plots ran out of burial space, and the land around the plots either sold or became too expensive to purchase. To accommodate at least six family members in a family plot today, the cost will likely be at least $30,000.
As family members spread to new cities throughout the country, it also became harder for the children to visit their family burial plots. Parents often struggle to decide if they should be buried near their own parents or their children. When multiple children have moved across the country, it becomes even more difficult to find a family place.
When the role of the family cemetery declined, many families began to focus on spreading the ashes of their loved ones in a place of significance to the family or the person who died.
More Americans are turning to cremation as an interment option. Not only does it broaden your choices for where you can scatter or keep your loved one after death, but it is embraced by many modern faiths. Cremation may also allow you to afford the service you want for your family members because cremation places are often more affordable than traditional plots. In the end, cremation can be a beautiful end-of-life option for you and your loved ones.