By Margie Zable Fisher
This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org .
Why has cremation become more popular during the pandemic?
In addition to the increasing trend in cremations before the pandemic, during COVID-19, the restrictions on gatherings and other concerns have made cremation a more viable option for many.
According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) 2020 Cremation and Burial Report, due to COVID-19, an additional 200,000 U.S. deaths are expected this year. So more families are planning funerals, and many of them are considering cremation.
In fact, more than half of funeral directors surveyed in the report said their cremation rates have increased since the start of the pandemic.
Barbara Kemmis, executive director, Cremation Association of North America (CANA), confirms her members are telling her the same thing.
“In some areas, particularly in hot spots, the number of cremations has tripled or quadrupled,” she says, adding that crematory machine manufacturers in her group report unprecedented sales and can’t keep up with demand.
“Cremations have most likely increased during the time of coronavirus due to a combination of factors, including limitations on gatherings and travel, social distancing and financial concerns,” says Kemmis. “In addition, families can choose to keep the cremated remains and have services at a later time.”
The trend toward cremation
The increase in cremation rates during the coronavirus outbreak is part of an overall upward trend in cremations.
Consider these statistics reported by the NFDA: In 2015, the national cremation rate surpassed the burial rate for the first time in U.S. history.
In 2020, the projected burial rate is roughly 37% [of those dying] and the projected cremation rate is 56%. Continuing this trend, the projected burial rate in 2025 is roughly 31%, while the projected cremation rate is 63%.
There are several reasons for this trend:
Price. Cremations are typically less expensive than burials. According to the NFDA, the average cost of a funeral with cremation is about $6,600. This is about $1,000 less than the average cost of a traditional burial with casket and funeral service, which runs about $7,600. Many families, however, choose not to have a funeral service with a cremation, and the median cost for direct cremation in 2019, according to the NFDA, was $2,495. These costs don’t include cemetery, monument or marker costs, or miscellaneous charges, such as for flowers or an obituary.
Convenience . Even before the pandemic, it was hard to get families together, since they are often living across the country or even the world. With cremation, family members can bring remains home or bury them in family plots or even have memorial services during reunions or other get-togethers.
Relaxing of religious rules . The Catholic Church began allowing cremations in 1963, and some forms of Judaism are increasingly more open to it. “In the more liberal streams of Judaism, cremation has become much more accepted,” notes Mindy Moline Botbol, managing funeral director at Shalom Memorial, in Arlington Heights, Ill., and a past president of The Jewish Funeral Directors of America.
Other factors that play a part include growing environmental concerns (cremation is often considered a more environmentally-friendly option than a burial) and the increased desire for less formal, more personalized ceremonies.