Being part of the New York landscape for well over 150 years has given our staff here at The Woodlawn Cemetery a unique perspective on the choices families make at the end of life. Not long ago, many in our area followed this tradition: After a death, loved ones would host a visitation, funeral, and graveside burial, often at the family plot.
It’s fascinating how traditions have shifted, all in a fairly short span of time.
Today, more Americans than ever are choosing cremation. In fact, according to a 2019 report by the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the cremation rate in the U.S. is projected to be 78.7% by 2040, while the rate of traditional burial is predicted to be just 15.7%.
Why the dramatic change? Reasons vary, but include the following:
Convenience. With an increasingly transient population, and more New Yorkers migrating to retirement locations, choosing cremation offers the flexibility families need. They are able to wait weeks or even months before holding a service. Plus, if a person wanted to return to the country where they were born after their death, it is far easier and less expensive to transport cremated remains on the journey home.
Matters of finance. Cremation is typically a less expensive option. Our Family Service Associates are available to help you learn about your options and the related costs. It’s important to remember that we do offer funeral services with cremation. Many families choose to have memorial services at their local church or funeral home. For those families who prefer to have committal services at the cemetery, Woodlawn offers our beautiful and history venue, The Woolworth.
Environmental considerations are becoming more important. Many New Yorkers want to make the smallest impact on the environment as possible in life and in death. Cremation uses far fewer resources than almost any other disposition option. For families who are looking for more “eco-friendly” cremation burial options but still want a permanent place for memorialization, Woodlawn’s Brookside Cremation Garden offers opportunities for burial of cremated remains within the natural setting of a garden. Our beautiful cremation garden offers both in-ground and above-ground burial of cremated remains.
Religious restrictions are diminishing. In the case of the Catholic Church, they have historically taken a strong stance against cremation. This changed in 1963, when the church lifted its prohibition on cremation. It is now acceptable for Catholics to be cremated, but entombment or burial still remains the recommended method of final disposition (The Catholic Church does not permit scattering of cremated remains). It is still recommended that a church service or Rite of Committal take place.
Ties to tradition are becoming weaker. While some New Yorkers prefer sticking to tradition, others choose cremation and want their cremated remains scattered at a location that is special to them or buried in a meaningful location. As of 2019, approximately 42% of cremated remains are returned to families, 35.2% are buried at a cemetery, 16.0% are scattered at non-cemetery locations, and 8.1% are placed in a columbarium.