Embalming and restoring the body, and preparing the viewing room are all pieces of the puzzle that come together when it comes to a traditional viewing and burial.
However, these traditional burials and viewings are becoming more scarce over time.
According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), in 2010 burial rates were at 53.3%, topping cremation rates at only 40.4%. As time went on, cremation rates began to increase. In 2015, burial rates were at 45.2% and cremation rates were at 47.9%.
Jessica Koth, director of public relations for the NFDA, has held this position for 15 years and was inspired to take on this job because she previously worked for public relations agencies in Southeastern Wisconsin, and felt it wasn’t for her.
“We began compiling this report in 2014 because we wanted to help our members better understand the trends around cremation, including where we currently stand in terms of the percentage of families choosing cremation, where we are going (future projections) and why there is a growing preference for cremation,” Koth said. “This kind of data will help our member funeral directors better understand the needs of the families and communities they serve.”
Projected rates for 2025 state that burial rates will decrease to 30.9% and cremation rates will tower over burials with 63.3%. By 2040, it is projected that burials will only be at 16%, and cremations will be over 75%.
“Funeral directors need to understand this data so they can be prepared to meet the needs of the communities they serve and offer meaningful ways for families to say goodbye to their loved ones,” Koth said. “For example, if a funeral director learns what the trends are for his or her state, they may want to think about adding a crematory to their funeral business or expand their selection of urns and other services they offer to families that prefer cremation.”
Arizona resident, Gertie Deason, planned her future funeral services in advance, as many people do. Deason went on disability in 2013, which led her to consider planning ahead despite the emotional impact it had on her.
“There was a guy that came around and he was selling a package deal for a funeral service, casket, and cremation for X amount of dollars,” Deason said. “I did it and gave the paperwork to Stephanie [Deason’s daughter] so that she won’t have to deal with this when the time comes. I almost cried picking out my flowers though.”
Deason chose cremation as her method of disposition because it was less costly, among other factors. She said that all together, the final cost was around $5,000 and that she has already paid the bill off so her family doesn’t have to.
“Both my mom and my dad had an open casket. When I saw my mother, I almost passed out because it looked like her. It was really scary. With my dad, I stood there and started crying, and I touched his hand and it was really hard and ice cold,” Deason said. “To bury my dad, it was over $10,000...and he died in 1970.”
Family-owned Phoenix funeral homes such as Whitney and Murphy Funeral Home include cremation services, but not every funeral home does.
According to the NFDA 2021 Burial and Cremation Report Highlights, “approximately 36% of funeral homes own crematories in the 45 states that legally allow them to do so.”
“Beyond funeral homes, this data impacts a number of other people who work in the funeral service space – cemeteries; independent crematories; mortuary science schools; and companies that manufacture goods like caskets, urns, grave stones and other memorial products,” Koth said.
“This data even impacts us at NFDA in the services we offer to our members. For example, we’re offering our members a lot more education, information and resources around cremation.”
Editor’s Note: Alexia Hill is a student reporter at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
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