Although cremation has been the norm in some cultures for centuries, it's only been within the last few decades that American families have started to seriously consider options beyond the traditional funeral and burial. In 1960, only 3.5% of Americans chose cremation for their loved ones. By 2015, cremation and burial were equally common, and in the last few years cremations have outnumbered traditional burials.
There are a lot of reasons for this shift. Some are historical, like the Vatican's changing stance to allow cremation for Catholics in 1963. Some are cultural, like a rising concern for eco-friendly options. All of them are personal, because the decision of how to say goodbye to a loved one always is.
Here are three main reasons why people choose cremation, and what you might want to consider when deciding for yourself.
Cremation Is Traditionally More Affordable than Burial
Direct cremation, where there is no funeral or viewing, is the most inexpensive way to lay someone to rest. In a direct cremation, the funeral home picks up your loved one, handles the cremation, and returns the ashes to you for storing or scattering. Since there is no funeral, grave plot, casket, cemetery fee, or headstone, the planning is simple and the costs are kept low.
However, there are more options available to families who choose cremation than just the direct option:
- You can have a full traditional funeral prior to the cremation
- You can have a public or private viewing before the cremation
- You can have a memorial service after the cremation with or without the urn of ashes present
- You can hold a celebration of life service that's as simple or lavish as you want
For many people, the money saved by choosing cremation is better spent on other ways to memorialize and honor their loved one. For others, cost isn't even the deciding factor. There are plenty of other reasons to choose cremation.
Cremation Offers Greater Flexibility
A traditional funeral and burial makes a lot of sense when multiple generations of a family live in the same area. Every family member can attend the funeral within a few days of the death. Family members can stop by the family grave plot to visit their deceased relatives whenever they wish.
However, not everyone's family looks the same. It's common for family members to live all over the country or around the world. Cremation allows the memorial service to be delayed so that everyone can attend. Some families even choose to divide a loved one's ashes among family members and friends so that each person can choose to do something meaningful with them: scatter them, bury them, incorporate them into keepsake jewelry, store them in an urn at home, and so forth.
Being cremated also makes it possible for a person to share a grave with a different family member. Cemeteries have limited space, and it's not always possible to be buried next to your ancestors. An urn can be buried in an existing grave without disturbing the casket beneath, or it can be placed inside a family mausoleum. For Cape Cod and South Shore families with a long history, being buried among ancestors in this way is very meaningful.
Some People Just Prefer the Idea of Cremation
Aside from these more practical concerns, many people simply find cremation more personally meaningful or like the idea of it better than burial. People might prefer the idea of having their ashes scattered in the sea or some other beautiful, significant site rather than being buried in one place. They might also appreciate the simplicity of cremation, which requires no pallbearers, no grave plot, and no casket.
The choice between burial and cremation is a personal one. Whether you're preplanning for your own final arrangements or are deciding how to lay a loved one to rest, what matters most is that you choose the option that works best for your situation.
Chapman Funerals & Cremations has been helping Massachusetts families navigate these decisions since 1862. Whether you need help deciding between burial and cremation for your loved one or want to make preplan cremation arrangements for yourself, we can help. Contact us any time or stop by to visit us at our locations in Bridgewater, East Bridgewater, Falmouth, Harwich, Marstons Mills, Martha's Vineyard, Mashpee, Wareham, West Falmouth, or Yarmouth.