Changing attitudes to rites around death are leading to a rise in people choosing direct cremation products.
Direct cremations will reach or exceed 10 percent of UK deaths by 2030 according to Dignity Funerals. Current volumes in the UK are estimated to be between 3-5 percent of UK deaths (18,000 to 30,000 people a year*).
Research conducted by Dignity  showed that 53 percent of consumers would consider a direct cremation for themselves, as it is a low cost and no fuss alternative to a traditional funeral. A direct cremation takes place without a funeral service and without the family present.
As interest in this type of service increases, Dignity is calling on the industry to ensure more is done to offer help and support to bereaved families when considering direct cremation and the impact on their own grieving process. A direct cremation may not offer family and friends closure in a way a traditional funeral service may.
The challenge of bereavement with no formal funeral
“We know from conversations we have had with our customers, who are considering direct cremation, that some do not fully understand the impact of their decision on the grieving process," explained Simon Cox, Head of Insight at Dignity. "The majority of people book a direct cremation because of one of three reasons. This could be distance (making it hard for the family to travel to a funeral), because the family did not want a religious service or that a more traditional funeral was too expensive."
"Whatever the reason it is still important that the process of grieving is considered. The funeral industry needs to support families choosing direct cremation and help them to consider the possible impact of a reduced funeral service and we're considering what more can do in terms of supporting the bereaved and gaining a better understanding of the bereavement process.”
Dignity launched its own direct cremation service, Simplicity Cremations, in December last year. In order to ensure customers are able to seek help when dealing with grief and have made the right funeral decision, at this time Simplicity Cremations is the only direct cremation provider, to offer a bereavement telephone and counselling service.
Huge increase in demand for direct cremations
Industry figures showed a ten-fold rise in demand for direct cremations – from 0.3 percent in 2015 to 3.5 percent in 2016. Pure Cremation, another company offering the service, experienced a 200 percent increase in demand in 2016 and forecasts similar growth in 2017.
Speaking about the increased demand for this type of cremation service, Catherine Powell of Pure Cremation explained: “For many it is their desire for a no-frills, no-fuss cremation at a time when the families are still coming to terms with their passing, followed by a celebration enjoyed by their nearest and dearest at a later date.
Attitudes to funerals are definitely changing with more people choosing not to go down the traditional route instead selecting the services that best reflect how they want to be remembered. Direct cremations are a new and relatively inexpensive option but no meaningful research has been done to explore the experiences of family members whose loved ones have been sent off in this way. Were they able to grieve completely? Did the absence of a family service cause upset later on? Is a cremation service or funeral a necessary part of saying goodbye?
The answers to these questions are for you and your family to weigh and consider. The important thing is that you are comfortable with the choices you make and that they have peace of mind at the end.
The Government’s independent Money Advice Service recognises the increasing significance of direct cremations as a cost-effective way of making funeral arrangements. More information on direct cremations, as well as signposts to direct cremation services can be found on the Money Advice Service website.