The Cremation Association of North America (CANA) projects that in 2020, the United States will have an overall cremation rate of 54.3%, surpassing burials sometime in the previous years. It’s easy to assume why families choose cremation, but it’s also important to remember that these statistics represent real people with families and thought processes we may not be privy to. We wanted to better understand why families chose cremation, so we interviewed individuals who had recently lost a loved who was later cremated. Here’s what they told us:
"My grandpa wanted to be scattered over the Rocky Mountains and the Matterhorn in Switzerland."
- Rebecca A.
A common wish for loved ones with wanderlust is to have their ashes scattered in locations that they love. In 2010 alone, 135,000 families scattered their loved ones across the world, which roughly calculates to 338 tons of cremated remains. The practice was even used in a recent Volkswagen commercial as a grandmother and her grandchildren traveled across the U.S. to spread Grandpa’s ashes.
Being with Family
"My grandfather told the family he wanted to be cremated so that a portion of his ashes could be spread out over the family property and the rest could be buried with his son and daughter."
- Nicole M.
In life, it’s impossible to be in two places at once. But in death, it’s a little more feasible. Some families choose to cremate their loved ones so they may rest with several different family members or in several different places. By dividing up the remains, every family member can feel close to the person who has passed away. Some families may choose to make cremation keepsakes while others may have multiple cemetery plots.
"My dad knew that being cremated was the most economical thing to do when we planned his funeral."
- Jerry L.
Yes, there are some client families who will choose cremation because they perceive it to be less expensive than a burial. Generation, socioeconomic status and upbringing can all play a factor into how someone approaches spending money. However, they are often the minority. According to research, about 56% of our policy owners chose cremation for a reason other than cost.
Celebration of Life
"My stepfather chose cremation so the family could concentrate on the celebration of life. I was quite relieved not to focus on an empty shell in a casket, just good memories of the love he showed my family."
- Jim C.
More and more families are choosing to host a celebration of life service instead of what we historically view as a funeral. When it comes to celebrating someone’s life, there are no rules. You can be as creative as you or you loved one wants, which can mean forgoing a wake or public viewing and just having the cremated remains present.
In fact, in 2016 more than one-third of families associated cremation with a memorial service. Only 7.4% did not associate cremation with any kind of service, whether that was a celebration of life event, funeral or visitation.
"My husband's ashes are scattered in Oak Creek Canyon, AZ, where we took our kids and grandkids camping. He didn't want to take up space!"
- Sue C.
In 2015, 33% of Homesteaders policy owners said they chose cremation for reasons such as disliking the idea of being buried, helping the environment and adhering to personal preference. It’s no secret that cemeteries all over the world are becoming full. It’s estimated that half of England’s cemeteries will run out of gravesites by 2033. The space constraints often result in higher costs associated with cemetery plots, which contributes to higher cremation rates in large metro areas.
Just take a look at the images from the National Geographic series on the Top 10 Cemeteries to Visit. Famous cemeteries like the St. Louis No. 1 in New Orleans, LA, boast a thousand above ground vaults. Travelers may also find it hard to walk through the crowded Xoxocotlan in Oaxaca, Mexico, or Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague, Czech Republic. By contrast, cremation gardens or columbaria take up very little space.
"Our family had to gather from all over the country, so cremation was the only logical option."
- Hannah L.
Long ago, many families lived and worked in the same town for many generations, so having a quick funeral and burial when a loved one passed away was not a problem. However, with advances in transportation, technology and infrastructure, families are splitting up and moving across the country and the world.
Today, when a loved one passes way, people still have time to gather their families together thanks to the advances in embalming. But, when travel constraints require long delays between death and disposition, cremation is often the family’s choice. In fact, around 5% of Homesteaders’ policy owners indicate that family living far away was the main reason they chose cremation.
Every family is different, which is something that funeral professionals know all too well. The reasoning behind families’ decisions may not always be clear at first, but funeral professionals are becoming more skilled at asking questions to ensure families get the services they really want. Homesteaders’ Preneed Motivators eBook can give funeral professionals a deeper look into the thoughts and decision-making processes of the client families they serve. Download our free booklet today to get started.