When most people think of laying a body to rest, they usually think of a graveyard burial. While this used to be the most common option, that’s no longer the reality. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, just over 50% of Americans chose cremation in 2016. This is an all-time high.
In reality, views on death are changing rapidly. While religious and cultural customs used to reign supreme, people now have more options than ever between it comes to cremation or burial. Ultimately, this is a personal decision based on the wishes and beliefs of loved ones and their families.
In this guide, we’ll talk about why people choose to get cremated instead of buried. Not only is this an increasingly popular option, but there are many advantages to choosing this option in terms of cost, process, and environmental impact.
1. Cremation is Less Expensive
The most common reason cremation is chosen over a burial is simple: the cost. Funerals are a costly affair. When combined with the cost of laying a body to rest, this could be a huge chunk of change for families.
Because cremation doesn’t require a casket, burial plot, or any of the extras that go along with the burial process, it’s a cheaper choice. When funerals are already so costly, it’s no surprise that this is a leading reason for opting for cremation. The cost of cremation starts at $600, making it the most affordable choice.
2. It’s Eco-Friendly
A lot of people wonder if cremation’s bad for the environment. The simple answer is that it’s a better option than burials, though it’s still not a perfect solution. Cremation doesn’t use precious ground space, and it also involves fewer chemicals than burials (in terms of embalming).
Even for those who choose to have their ashes buried, the space needed is significantly less. Because we’re facing a space shortage and more people are concerned about their environmental impact, more people are choosing cremation to help the earth.
3. There Are Flexible Memorial Options
When a body is buried traditionally, it’s memorialized through a grave split and gravestone. While this is a powerful symbol for legacy, it doesn’t offer very much flexibility for the grieving family.
Cremation, on the other hand, is very customizable depending on the person’s wishes. There are a lot of options when it comes to how to scatter or keep the ashes. Many families choose to scatter the ashes somewhere meaningful, like a favorite park or on the water.
On the other hand, families can also keep their ashes in an urn or other memorial container. This makes a powerful memento and family heirloom. For those grieving, it’s often helpful to have the loved one physically close to them.
If you're looking for something very unique, you can custom order an urn from a store like Foreverence or even have a memorial diamond created with a company like Eterneva.
4. Adheres to Religious Beliefs
Different religions and cultures across the globe have their own opinions when it comes to how bodies are laid to rest. In Christianity and Judaism, for example, the traditional option is to have the body buried within the ground. However, these structures are becoming less rigid. In addition, other cultures have their own beliefs.
Buddhists and Hindus believe cremation is the best way to move closer to enlightenment or free the soul from the body. Religious beliefs are often a large motivation behind these important end-of-life decisions.
5. Mobility in Cremation
A lot of people worry about what will happen to their body when they’re no longer here. Most families go to lengths to take care of family graves, and this is even a part of many cultural celebrations around the world.
However, there is a very real fear about what will happen when that immediate family is gone. When you’re buried within the ground, there is no way to move the site of the grave. That is, there’s no simple process. Cremation is a mobile option since it’s easy to bring an urn or other small memento.
6. Donating a Body to Science
Donating your body to medical science is also a common choice when you die. In doing so, the body is put to use for research, organ donation, or other medical innovations. This allows families to feel like their loved one’s legacy lives on even in death.
After the body is put to use, the body is then cremated. The research or medical facility usually covers these costs and returns the remains to the family. This not only saves the family money towards the cremation, but it’s a noble gift to the living.
7. Cremation Gives the Family Time
If you pass away without any end-of-life plans, the burden falls on the family to make arrangements. This could take days or even weeks. Additionally, if the death was sudden and unexpected, time is needed for the entire family to travel for the funeral. All of this combined takes a lot of effort for the family.
By cremating the body immediately, there is no need to worry about preserving the body at a funeral home. This saves on costs, and it allows the family time to make plans for the funeral and family travel. Instead of a casket shown at the funeral, the urn or another memento could be used in its place.
8. Break From Tradition
Another reason cremation is becoming more common is because more people are open to breaking from traditional norms. More people don’t follow a specific religion, and they might wish to pave their own path when it comes to their burial.
Burial alternatives are more mainstream along with this break in tradition. It’s no longer taboo to suggest something that goes against the tried-and-true, and this leaves more people open to new ideas when it comes to burials.
9. Free From Fears
It’s important to note that many people have fears around being buried within the ground. Claustrophobia, a fear of enclosed spaces, is the most common fear. The idea of being “trapped” within the ground could leave many people feeling the opposite of peace.
Another common fear around death is the fear of rotting or decomposition. When buried within the earth, each body faces a slow process of decomposition. While this is completely natural, it’s understandable why many people find this idea unsettling. For those that feel this strongly, cremation is a better option.
10. Safe From the Elements
Along these same lines, burials come with additional risks in terms of the outside elements. Because the body is buried in a casket, it’s exposed to things like storms, flooding, and natural disasters. In places below sea level and prone to extreme weather, this could be a real problem.
When you choose cremation, there is no need to worry about the body staying safe from the elements. There are a number of easy memorial options and urns that keep the ashes safe and secure. For those that live in places prone to extreme weather, this could lend peace of mind.
11. Return the Body to Nature
Last but not least, many people see cremation as a way to naturally return the body to nature. When buried in the ground within a casket, the decomposition process is delayed. To many, this is seen as preventing the inevitable.
Rather than wait, many people find it empowering to have their body cremated. The ashes can then be returned to the earth through scattering or burial, allowing the full cycle of nature to take place. This is a comforting thought for families and those preparing their end-of-life.
Choosing Between Cremation and Burial
When it comes to making the decision to cremate or bury yourself or a loved one, there are no right answers. However, when people consider how cremation works and the many pros of this option, it becomes an obvious choice for some. There are clearly several reasons why cremation is growing in popularity. Now, as the most popular choice, it’s defined itself as more than a trend.
When planning your own final arrangements, it’s important to consider your final resting place. Whether you’d like a customizable, personal experience with cremation or a traditional burial, this is a highly personal choice. As long as you’re making the decision that feels right to you and your family, you’re on the right path.
If you're looking for more help with burial planning, read our guides on types of caskets and urns for ashes.
- Scutti, Susan. “Half in US choose cremation as views on death change.” CNN. 9 August 2017. CNN.com.