- Written by Anthony Martin Anthony Martin
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every facet of our daily lives, including funeral decisions.
Choice Mutual recently surveyed another 1,500 people to determine how America’s burial preferences have changed since its 2020 report.
How the Pandemic Impacted Americans’ Burial Decisions
More and more families are facing unexpected losses, virtual funeral services, and overall community deaths.
With that in mind, it is no surprise that 37% of respondents reported that their burial/memorial choices have changed due to the pandemic. Among that 37%, over half claimed COVID-19 changed which process of body disposal they will choose.
Over 50% of Americans were invited to a funeral sometime after March 2020 and witnessed the complicated task of organizing and paying for a memorial mid-pandemic. Of the 37% mentioned above, 52% said COVID-19 changed how they’d like their memorial services arranged, and 43% claimed it motivated them to determine or finalize their burial plans.
“COVID-19 has driven the United States, a country that has for the past several decades been a country that refuses to discuss death, to have this conversation with ourselves and with our family,” Brian Waters, licensed funeral director and host of Undertaking: The Podcast, said.
“This mere shift in mindset has allowed Americans to discover the offerings of funeral homes across the nation.”
Burial Preferences in the U.S.: 2020 vs. 2021
Traditional burial emerged as the most popular funeral plan (selected by 33% of respondents), closely followed by cremation (32%). This shift is partly due to more Americans planning for a natural burial (up 7% from 2020) and donation to science (up 5% from 2020).
“The natural burial option is rapidly taking its place among the most popular end-of-life options offered as conventional burial costs continue to rise,” Joe Casper, funeral director at Casper Funeral & Cremation Services, said.
“In fact, natural burials have joined cremation as a top choice for environmentally and cost-conscious individuals and families wanting to respectfully return a loved one to the earth.”
The increased interest in donating remains to science may be tied to the heavy media coverage on the healthcare industry in 2020. The heightened exposure to medically vulnerable individuals could inspire America to choose a more philanthropic burial approach.
Unconventional Burial Decisions
For many of us, providing peace for our loved ones is the ultimate goal when planning our burial decisions. Solace may come in the form of a decorative urn that your family can cherish or a traditional burial plot in the company of past generations.
Alternatively, one can request the creation of jewelry using preserved teeth or bones, which 13% of Americans consider.
Better yet, you can prevent your favorite tattoo from “dying” with you by getting it preserved as leather for your loved ones to display. 23% of respondents would consider this alternative memorial, starting at $1,600.
Americans ages 35-44 are most on board with forever ink, with 31% saying they would consider it.
Another modern trend that some funeral homes offer is “extreme embalming,” the extensive process of preserving a body in a natural position for the duration of the funeral service.
Those who select this option often request to be positioned doing their favorite things, whether sitting at a poker table, playing the drums, or even riding a motorcycle. Thirty-four percent of Americans said they would consider this unique variation of an open-casket memorial.
Again, the 35-44 age bracket is the most interested in this option, with nearly half (46%) saying they are open to it.
How Do You Want to Be Memorialized?
Although a lot has changed since the 2020 report, one thing remains the same — Americans can get pretty creative when it comes to their burial.
Regardless if you choose a more traditional option or venture outside of the casket, it is crucial to take the proper steps now to prepare for the financial impact of your funeral.
Learn more about planning ahead so your family can focus on remembering you (in whichever form you choose).
To view the full 2021 report, visit choicemutual.com/funeral-preferences.
Cremation: What to Do with the Cremains
Although traditional burial narrowly topped it as the most common burial plan, cremation is still a widely used option. The survey asked Americans who plan on being cremated what they would like to do with their cremains.
The responses haven’t changed much since 2020, with “ashes spread in a specific location” still being the top choice overall (28%), followed by:
- Having family keep them – 26%
- Other – 21%
- Plant as a tree – 13%
- Buried in a cemetery – 12%