Death care or funeral can be both emotionally and financially taxing as most of us urge to provide the elderly with the good death that they desire. However, not everyone is fortunate enough to get a “good death”. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 7 out of 10 Americans wish to die at home.
A poor system
According to the National Funeral Directors Association of US, a funeral with burial and viewing cost $7360 averagely. While the cost increased to approximately $8700 for burial with a cement vault, which is required by most cemeteries.
Funeral homes are publicly known as multibillion-dollar businesses where a majority of it is privately owned. The largest public death care company in the US with more than 1900 locations in North America and a total of $3.19 billion of revenue is the Service Corporation International company. This is followed by StoneMor Partners that made a fraction of that which is $316 million.
The Federal Reserve had studied that only 61% of American adults could afford an unplanned expense of $400, while the other 39% of them could not afford it unless they sell their belongings or other necessities. It is undeniable that an unexpected $8000 funeral bill would be financially devastating for most people. It is indeed a common scenario that most Americans are in a hard place to afford a funeral.
A tradition that kept going for 100 years
In the old days, it was the family who cleaned and prepared the dead body at home. They will place the body in the finest room in the house and people would come and pay their last respects. As of before 1861, burying the passed away was a family affair. Before the Civil War and the introduction of the modern American funeral industry, this simple and easy belief goes on for generations.
It is a huge turning point for the Great American Funeral after World War II where people tend to show off their wealthiness due to the economic boom in the 1950s. Without exception, an extravagant and exaggerate funeral is one of the show-offs.
Our beliefs and traditions are mandated by industry nowadays, rather than the values or spirituality. In a nutshell, death in America has become a commodity. Due to our fear of ageing and dying, we tend to avoid talking about our funeral, so we conserve the same customs, which are customs designed specifically for profit.
What lies ahead in the funeral industry?
There is a saying of going towards natural or green burials where dead bodies are returned to the mother Earth with no chemicals used. Dead bodies are left to decompose naturally with minimal damage to the surrounding environment.
Natural burials return much of the end-of-life care to the families. Compare to traditional burials, it is much simpler, cheaper, as well as way less chemical and resource-heavy.
Ultimately, inexpensive and economical options for natural burials may overtake traditional burials that are costly over the next 2 to 5 decades as money is the main deciding factor for most of the families.
Thanks to the work of advocates like those in The Order of the Good Death. People are getting more active to take part in these conversations and revising their options not only as consumers but also future corpses.
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Prepared by: Pui Leng