According to recent research, over half of all Americans opt for cremation over burial nowadays, and that number is only expected to grow in the coming years.
Cremation has always been a viable alternative to traditional burial. However, the reasons why are not always clear to those in the process of making essential end-of-life decisions. After all, the burial process is easy enough to understand, but cremation can seem shrouded in a little more mystery.
What is cremation, and why is it becoming more popular? Here’s what you should know.
What Is Cremation?
Humans have been practicing cremation for around 2,000 years—but that doesn’t mean it’s any less of a mystery to those who are unaccustomed to dealing with it.
At its most basic, cremation is just what you’d expect: the body of the deceased is burned to create ashes, which are then given to surviving family or friends. However, the step-by-step process may be of interest to anyone considering this practice for themselves or a loved one.
Cremation often happens during what’s known as “cremation services,” in which the family can create a celebration of life ritual in much the same way they would for burial services. During this time, the body of the deceased will be placed in a coffin and positioned in a place of prominence within the chapel or funeral home so mourners can pay their final respects.
After the cremation services are complete, the body of the deceased will be moved to a special chamber, called the cremator. This chamber is heated to a temperature between 1400 and 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. The process takes between one and three hours, and the intense heat reduces the body to dried bone fragments, which comprise the ashes given to the family.
Why Is Cremation Becoming More Popular?
Though cremation has been around for millennia, it’s only in recent years that it’s become a more popular choice for end-of-life treatment, for several reasons.
First, funeral costs continue to climb, with caskets alone costing anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 on average. Pair this with land scarcity in cemeteries, and it may be hard to even find a place to lay the casket! Cremation, on the other hand, costs just $1,000 to $3,000 on average, making it easier for families to plan for the cost.
Second, many modern families are scattered across the country or the world, making it difficult to gather for an immediate funeral. With cremation, it’s easier to keep the remains on hand for a service when everyone can attend.
In addition, the Vatican has relaxed its stance on cremation in the past decades, though it does call for ashes to be buried instead of scattered. This relaxed stance has allowed more practicing Catholics to take part in cremation services.
Finally, many modern mourners find comfort in doing something memorable with their loved ones’ remains. From scattering the ashes in a special place to creating memorial jewelry to adding them to fireworks, there are plenty of new and attractive options for mourners wanting to honor their loved one.
Choose the Right End-of-Life Process for You
At the end of the day, your choice in end-of-life services is your own. Whether you’re considering the next steps for you or a loved one, knowing your options helps. Now that you’ve stopped wondering, “What is cremation?” you can begin deciding whether cremation services are right for your needs.
For more guides to the critical decisions you have to make in life, check out our other helpful resources.