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Stories and information in our region on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cremations Preferred Over Burials For Form Of Final Disposition

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Funeral directors are reporting an increase in cremations during the pandemic, but the latest data released by the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) shows cremations have been more popular than burials for years.

Ann Bednarsky, owner of the Bednarsky Funeral Home in Binghamton, noticed the trend. She believed it is, at least in part, because the U.S. is a death-denying society. She said people planning their final disposition tell her just to cremate them so their family doesn’t get upset.

“You think that if you’re cremated they’re not going to notice?” Bednarsky said.

A person’s cremains usually end up weighing around seven pounds, but the weight of grief is immeasurable. Unchecked grief can lead to other emotions like guilt, and eventually depression.

“I encourage people to come in and see the person,” Bednarsky said.

She believes seeing a persons body can bring families closure. “There’s a reason that we face the dead person and see their dead body, and then we can accept that they’re dead,” Bednarsky explained. “They’re not on vacation.”

Bednarsky remembers what her mother looked like in the nursing home bed where she died. At the viewing, she was dressed in an outfit she liked with her hair done and that gave Bednarsky comfort.

Even if a person will be cremated, families can still have open casket funerals services and calling hours but those cost money. Cremations are also more popular than burials because they can be cheaper if the family forgoes embalming and preparation.

In the U.S., cremation has outpaced burials since 2015, and the gap continues to widen. The NFDA predicts in 2025 cremations will account for 63.3 percent of final dispositions, and 58 percent percent in New York.

Due to COVID-19, funeral services can only be sparsely attended. They’re being live streamed in some instances, but many are putting off funeral services. This is how it has been for months now since the pandemic began.

Bednarsky expects, at this point, people will end up doing a year anniversary ceremony.