Direct Cremations and Direct Burials, are They the End of Funerals?

Direct cremations and direct burials are on the increase as more people are choosing this for numerous reasons. Will funerals as we know them be replaced by direct cremations and burials?

What is a Direct Cremation?

A direct cremation or an unattended funeral as they are sometimes referred to involves the body of a person being cremated or buried without any funeral needs such as an expensive coffin or ceremony taking place and without any family or guests present.  A person’s body is taken from a hospital or a funeral director at a given date and time and cremated or buried. If cremated, the ashes are then collected from the crematorium or the designated funeral director to be scattered or buried if required. If not, the ashes are disposed of by the staff at the crematorium.

Direct Cremation Companies

An online search for direct cremation will list numerous companies offering a ‘no frills’ cremation for a variation in price depending on the geographical area and requirements. These companies collect a body and take it to their storage facilities where it is kept until they cremate it in their cremator. Coffins are generally plain, simple coffins of wood or cardboard. Ashes are then returned to a given address of a family member to scatter or keep.

Why Direct Cremations are the Right Choice for Many People

Some people do not want to have a funeral as they feel their loved ones shouldn’t have to experience further emotional pain and this is prevented with direct cremation. Some feel they received their closure when their person died, especially those who were present when death occurred so there isn’t a desire to have a funeral.

For some the traditions of a funeral aren’t for them, including viewing the body of their person who may have been and placed into a coffin. When direct cremation is chosen, this isn’t available.  

Discussions over the inclusion of religious hymns, texts or prayers can cause people to be divided and with direct cremation this is prevented. Family feuds, estranged families, only a few guests likely to attend or a large amount of guests wanting to attend have been other reasons direct cremation has been chosen.

Privacy is also another reason if the person who has died or their family want their privacy protected. This happens when famous people choose direct cremation to avoid a media frenzy as Yoko Ono with John Lennon and David Bowie wanted to avoid.

For many the costs associated with a funeral are unobtainable and direct cremation is more cost effective for them.

The Cost of Direct Cremation

Direct cremations financially cost far less than a funeral as there isn’t a need for any flowers, a hearse, mourners car, funeral directors fees, a celebrant to create and lead the ceremony, orders of services, music services, ceremony room hire and for most the cost involved with the after ceremony reception. Direct cremation and burials are much cheaper and in these expensive times this is a deciding factor for most people who decide to be directly cremated. What is the overall cost though? What is the emotional cost to a family or person who want to have a funeral?

When a direct cremation is chosen in the belief it spares further emotional pain for loved ones, does it if they are prevented from saying goodbye? Funerals are for the living, about the dead and they are the last thing we can do for those we love and care about.

Wicker coffin and pallbearers

Image: The Good Funeral Guide via Unsplash

Why Direct Cremations Could be the Wrong Choice for Many People

Funerals are part of the grieving process as they provide more than the result of a cremation or burials. Funerals give closure to all in attendance and denote a new beginning to living without the person who has died. They are a time to gather with other family members, loved ones, friends, neighbours, colleagues, and associates of the person who has died.

Funerals give the opportunity to support each other as goodbyes are said to the person.

Charities benefit through donations (this can still happen with a direct cremation but is possibly less likely too). Attendees celebrate the life of the person and can decide to have a more formal, traditional funeral, or a celebration of life involving personal memories, funny stories, favoured music and then move on to eat and drink as we humans do in celebration and acknowledgement of a situation.

Religious observations bring comfort to those who have a belief. Reciting The Lord’s Prayer or hearing familiar religious or spiritual texts can help some as can the ritual of a funeral. Most families have customs, traditions, and rituals which they implement and observe when somebody dies regardless of any religious or spiritual beliefs. Many want to view the body of their person, and this isn’t possible if direct cremation through a specialised company is chosen once the person’s body has been moved from their place of death.

Memorial and Celebration of Life Ceremonies After Direct Cremation

As funeral celebrants and funeral celebrant trainers, we train our funeral celebrant trainees to understand how powerful and life changing grief is. Part of the grieving process is to say goodbye and to be part of the rituals associated with this. We are seeing an increase in the demand for memorial ceremonies after a direct cremation or direct burial has taken place.

Families are choosing to arrange a memorial or a celebration of life ceremony for those who have had a direct cremation. These aren’t as formal as a funeral and can take place in any desired venue. People gather, eat, drink, talk, sometimes sing, shares personal memories, funny stories, sometimes show videos or view photos and remember the person who has died.

This works for many, but for others it may not as the event has passed. No funeral means no reception, and many do not want to have a memorial at a future date as they feel they are starting to adapt to a new way of life, and this would be too emotional for them. This is something we hear from people when we meet with those arranging funerals. Getting time off work for a funeral is usually acceptable, but getting time off to attend a memorial in a pub may not be possible as personally experienced.

Direct Cremations are an Alternative to a Funeral

Direct cremations or burials aren’t the end of funerals, they are an alternative giving people choice (which we here at Choice Celebrant Training are all about). Funerals and celebrations of life will continue and as in recent years will be different from what was a traditional funeral. Alternative and non-religious funerals created and led by trained funeral celebrants are more popular than traditional, religious funerals. They are an alternative to what was previously the only kind of funeral.

Direct cremation and burials with or without a separate memorial or celebration of life ceremony will continue to be chosen as more people become aware of them. Funerals will continue in various ways. We ritually celebrate news of pregnancies, birth, relationships, commitments and will continue to gather to mark the death of those special to us.

Blog by Choice Celebrant Training