Why are so many more people choosing to be cremated rather than buried in the UK? Between 70 and 75% (and over 80% in Greater London) now choose cremation over a burial, although as we explained in our recent article looking at the history of cremation, it has not always been the case.
Cost and space were key reasons why people campaigned for cremation to be allowed 140 years ago. Since then, the population of England has increased dramatically from 30.5 million in 1901 to over 53 million by 2011, and a problem that existed 140 years ago has only increased. Land in graveyards and burial grounds around the UK is scarce, and even though many churches have bought neighbouring plots of land to extend their existing burial grounds, these “overflow” graveyards are also fast becoming full. This has led to the cost of a burial plot rising dramatically, making cremation a much cheaper option.
Another issue is our increasingly mobile population. People frequently move around the country because of work, family and a whole host of other reasons. It is becoming less common for people to stay all their lives in the town or village where they and their family grew up and therefore less common for them to be buried in a local family graveyard. Previously, if family members were buried in the local churchyard, it was easy for relatives to visit their grave regularly to pay their respects, talk to their loved ones, maintain it and add flowers. Now, they might only be able to visit the grave of their loved ones once a year, perhaps at Christmas. This can be very upsetting for many people who want to feel that their loved one is near them or around them and that they can talk to them. Having your loved one cremated gives you more flexibility than having them laid to rest in one place – you can keep their ashes in an urn or container, or you can scatter their ashes. To many people, scattering ashes can make them feel like their loved one is around them all the time and can therefore make their passing feel less final.
Personalisation and religion are also factors. There has been a decrease in recent years in the number of people that associate themselves with a religion. Burying a loved one in the local churchyard can hold little meaning if that person was not religious, whereas a ceremony in a crematorium does not have to have any religious association. However, everyone will have a place somewhere that means something to them – a favourite holiday destination, the place they grew up, became engaged, married, or just a favourite view point or walk. Scattering ashes in this place can have far more meaning to some people than burying a body in a churchyard.
Coupled with the decline in religious association has been a trend in recent years for a funeral to be more of a celebration of a person’s life than a chance to mourn their passing. Graveyards can be quite depressing places, whereas, if ashes are scattered in a place that had a special meaning to someone, visiting that spot can be a far happier, although still poignant, experience that allows mourners to reflect on their life rather than their death.
To read more about what people are choosing to do for funerals, please have a read of our helpful guide to funeral trends.