Death Rituals in the 21st Century: The Importance of Funerals and the Increase in Cremations

Approximately 2.5 million people die annually from all causes in the United States every year. In the United States, there are some death rituals that are widely followed when a person dies. The pinnacle of these death rituals is the funeral or memorial service and burial. One trend associated with death rituals in recent years has been an increase in the number of people who elect to be cremated when they die.

In order to have a better understanding of death rituals, it’s important to understand the reasons why funerals are important. In addition, it is important to understand why cremations have been on the increase in recent years.

The Importance of Funerals in the United States

Funerals remain important rituals in the United States and elsewhere around the world. There are a number of primary reasons why funerals remain important rituals.

Religious and Spiritual Purposes Underlying Funerals

Over the course of generations, and continuing to this juncture in time, funerals have been important for religious and spiritual reasons. Having a funeral following the death of a person is part of the ritualistic practice of many religions in the United States and elsewhere around the world.

Externalizing Grief to Assist in Healing

Another of the reasons why funerals and memorial services are important is because these rituals permit people the ability to externalize their grief. Grieg counselors and other associated professionals believe that having a public forum to express grief provides people assistance in working through that and other emotions.

Memorializing a Loved One Who Passed On

A very fundamental reason why funerals are important is because they permit the memorializing a loved one who has died. Funerals also permit a celebration of such an individual’s life. Indeed, the process of memorializing a deceased person is so important that many people set forth in their wills or other documents how they want their funerals are to be conducted.

Getting and Giving Support to Others

Finally, funerals are important because they provide an opportunity for grieving people to garner emotional support from others. In addition, funerals provide people the opportunity the ability to give support to others as well.

Underlying Reasons for the Increase in Cremations in the United States

As mentioned previously, cremations have been on the increase in the United States in recent years. There are a number of reasons why cremations are becoming more widely used, including:

  • Change in religious doctrines
  • Ecological concerns
  • Financial considerations

Change in Religious Doctrines

One of the primary reasons why there has been an increase in cremations in this day and age in the United States and elsewhere around the world stems from religious doctrine. In the past two decades, a number of religions have relaxed their rules regarding funerals. The Catholic Church is a prime example of this change.

Historically, the Catholic Church prohibited its members from cremation as a means of disposing of their remains after death. In fairly recent times, the Catholic Church has lifted its prohibition on cremation.

Although the Catholic Church now permits cremation, it does have some specific restrictions on what can be done with cremains. According to Church doctrine, cremains must be interred in the same manner that a body is dealt with after death. In other words, cremains must be buried in the earth or interred in a mausoleum. Ashes cannot be scattered as a good many people desire when they select cremation upon death.

Ecological Concerns

In addition to changes in religious doctrine, an increasing number of people who have been committed to green living are not interested in carrying this commitment beyond life. These individuals want to take advantage of green disposition practices when it comes to their remains.

A generally green way of disposition of remains is cremation. Cremation is considered a generally green disposition practice because a body does not necessarily need to be embalmed. By avoiding embalming, the chemicals used in that process do not end up released into the environment.

In addition, the burial of a human body takes up space, uses land that can be put to other uses. This is another of the eco-reasons why some people are electing to indicate that they want to be cremated upon death.

Financial Considerations

The body costs of embalming and the body preparation process, coupled with the expenses associated with burial, have all been on the increase in recent years. A third key reason why cremations have become more commonplace is because of financial considerations. Overall, the estate or family of a deceased person can save what amounts to a notable amount of money when a deceased person’s remains are cremated.

Going forward into the future, funerals are expected to remain important when it comes to mourning the loss of deceased loved ones. In a similar vein, the use of cremation is anticipated to continue to be more widely utilized with each passing year.