Making the Right Choice: Cremation Versus Direct Burials

Since the economic crisis, more than 40 percent of Americans choose cremation over direct burial, and the Cremation Association of North America, or CANA, statistically proves that out of the 2.5 million Americans who die each year, more than 50 percent of families will choose cremation to say goodbye to their loved ones by 2025. Experts claim there are many reasons for this rising trend, but the primary choice revolves around one thing: money.

A Change in Beliefs and Cremation’s Cost Benefit

According to Christianity Today,many families chose direct burial over cremation because of Christian beliefs. Cremation was once a popular practice amongst Romans, Greeks, and Hindus whom believed in immortality of the soul, so the body held no importance. However, Christians believed in “coemeteria,” or cemeteries, which provide the sleeping places for our bodies and the place Christian souls find resurrection. Christians also believed in proper disposal of the body because God created the human body in His image; the Holy Spirit dwelt within the body’s of believers; and Jesus was buried and his body resurrected from the dead.

Today, however, that belief has changed somewhat because of a change in religious ideology. In his article “Examining the Growth of the ‘Spiritual but Not Religious,'” Mark Oppenheimer explains how one-fifth of Americans polled in the 2012 Pew Religion and Public Life Project survey claimed to have no religious affiliation. Out of that number, 37 percent referred to themselves as “spiritual” rather than “religious.” This number continually increases each year and plays a role in the choice of cremation and direct burial.

Although religion and spirituality exist as part of the cremation choice equation, most experts claim the economic crisis and cost are the primary reason people choose cremation. The National Funeral Directors Association notes that since 2012, funerals, with the inclusion of a vault, has a median cost of $8,343. Many families cannot afford this, so they turn to cremation as an alternative. On average, families can pay between $3,500 – $10,000 for a cremation burial service.

The Problem With Cost and Cremation

Although funeral costs affect families, we ask our readers to consider a few things before choosing cremation based on that aspect. In this case, the founder of this site and long-time member of this industry, Chris Brown, considers the subject of burial a very personal topic and wanted to share his story to help users make the right choice.

This past summer, Brown attended his High School Tennis Coach’s Wake. The family referred to it as a “Cremation Celebration of Life Memorial.” When he walked into the room, he noticed several picture boards around the room. He then visited with family members and old friends as they scrolled through old tennis pictures. Brown noticed his coach’s cremation urn sitting in the middle of the room with a turquoise watch hanging from it along with a 5X7 picture of the man he loved and respected. After about an hour of paying his respects and staring at that urn and memorabilia, Brown left the funeral home and went to his car where he sat for a few moments contemplating what just happened. After reflecting a few moments, he figured things out.

“I was very close to Coach,” Brown said. “We kept in touch all these years. But what happened was I felt no closure after leaving the funeral home.”

Brown believes many families choose cremation because of billboards advertising cheap cremations. They don’t realize though that there’s a big difference between what a funeral costs and the psychological ramifications of grief that comes without having the body present, especially at a Wake.

Direct burials, on the other hand, provide that closure for families. Regardless of religion or cost, families want to see their loved ones and remember all the things that made them great. They want to touch that person one more time and compare images with the body. They want to watch the closing of the casket and sprinkle dust on the top of it as the body and casket lowers into the ground. All of these steps provide that closure, and for most people, that’s a big deal.

Making The Final Choice

So before making the choice of cremation over direct burial, Funeral.com encourages our users to consider what death means to them. Planning a funeral is a task for the living, and it’s a choice that has to be well thought out. Before choosing cost as the primary reason for cremation, consider what it means to have closure. Sometimes, when it comes to closure and honoring a loved one, paying a little more is worth the price.

Sources:

“2012 Funeral Statistics”: National Funeral Directors Association
George, Timothy. “Cremation Confusion”: Christianity Today
“Industry Statistical Information”: Cremation Association of America
Oppenheimer, Mark. “Examining the Growth of ‘Spiritual but Not Religious'”: The New York Times