In 1958 the rate of those who chose cremation was 3.6%. In 2015 the rate in the US was 48% - 63% in Canada. Why the dramatic change? North America is a culture of transient people. We no longer are born and die in the same community. Many of us have lived in a variety of places, making the “traditional” family plot something of the past. In 1960, the price of the average funeral was $700. That was still a steep price for the time - about $5000 today. Today’s average cost of a “traditional” funeral is about $7000. We are paying more today for the same service. In ten states, citizens are required to hire the private death care industry funeral directors who can by law charge whatever they determine to be as a basic price before you add any services. These costs of course do not cover burial. That is another different story. The point is that the death care industry increases costs, and people choose the lesser-priced option – cremation. (Direct cremation can range from $500- $4000.)
What does all this say to those of us working to change the death care industry? It tells us we can indeed change the industry. Even the average citizen can help change the industry by shopping around, asking questions. Know your rights, and stand by them. If a funeral director or a family service counselor tells you something is a law – have them show you the law. If the funeral home of cemetery is not following the law or shading the law, contact the Funeral Consumers Alliance. They know how to handle the death care industry when it does not treat the consumer right. Use a death doula, even in states that require you to hire a funeral director. Funeral directors might need to be hired, but you can still use the alternative death care industry. Doing this will help forge relationships between the two sides of the industry. Who knows what can come from people having to work together? Make “nontraditional” choices in your plans. If you must use a “traditional” cemetery and a vault, invert the vault and have a natural body. All these little things disrupt thought. Talk with our friends about your experiences with the industry and what you might have done differently that made all the difference. You might have to learn how to time these conversations, but people do want to talk about it because the current industry had done so much wrong. Hire someone in the alternative death care industry, like the Midwest Green Burial Society, to speak to your community about your rights and death care options. Make plans to have someone make your coffin or shroud. Once we make a step outside the box of “tradition” we might just find ourselves doing great things, changing minds and ultimately changing the industry as a whole.