Moving Past Tradition

Why People Are Seeking Alternatives To Traditional Funerals

Two red roses placed on top of a black granite headstone

It is no secret that the cost for a traditional funeral is increasing annually and has been for quite some time with the average funeral costing anywhere between $7,000 – $12,000. These prices clearly are not always easily affordable for all families which can make holding a funeral infinitely more stressful, all while grieving.

When the pandemic hit in 2019 hit, this did not help improve the funeral industry, with more deaths but also more restrictions on gatherings it was becoming increasingly difficult to even plan a traditional funeral. While we have already seen people move past traditional funeral services with cremation, the interest in alternatives has truly peaked in the past several years. Moving forward we see more concern about overall cost, reducing the stress placed on family members, and a need for more environmentally friendly options. Listed below we have covered six, increasingly common, alternatives to traditional funeral services that help meet these new growing concerns.

Virtual Services

With the pandemic, travel, family, conflicts, or any other issues that may arise when planning a funeral, virtual services have become increasingly popular. Virtual funerals allow loved ones to pay respects and grieve regardless of location or illness, saves money on certain traditional funeral costs, and brings the service to the comfort of home. It is important when holding a virtual service to choose accessible video platforms such as Zoom or Google Hangouts. If you are feeling overwhelmed with the thought of planning the service, funeral homes and other various companies can send a professional to help plan and make sure the service runs as smoothly as possible.

Hosting a Home Funeral

Home funerals are a tradition in many cultures that dates back centuries. With a home funeral, families can prepare the service and body themselves or hire a funeral home to prepare for them. Home funerals create an intimate experience with death but in a more relaxed atmosphere. It is important to remember that while home funerals are legal everywhere you should check with your state’s laws regarding things like if you need a funeral director to file the death certificate, transport the body or any other aspect your state requires a funeral director to be a part of.

Hold An Annual Anniversary Memorial

Not all families are comfortable with funerals and grieving death openly but just because you have decided to skip the funeral does not mean that annual memorials cannot be held. This could range from annual memorial dinners to a formal service. Anniversary memorials are going to be specific to families, do whatever works best for you and your loved ones.

Creating A Shrine

Shrine can be an intense word; but, done right, it can be an excellent way to remember your loved ones. If you want to skip the complexity of a traditional funeral but still want to pay respects to the deceased, a shrine is a good way to still be able to say goodbye to loved ones. Unlike a home funeral when creating a shrine, the body typically is not at the home. Instead, the process of putting this together is more meaningful and a place for all your loved ones to gather, share members, add items and honor passed loved ones.

Planting A Tree

While there are many eco-friendly funeral alternatives one of the most common is hosting a tree-planting ceremony in place of a funeral. This can be done at home or in the park (with permission) and it is a wonderful way to memorialize loved ones. If the deceased has been cremated, family members are able to mix their ashes in to grow with the tree. Typically, when choosing this route, you plan a ceremony as you break ground, plant the tree of your choice, and have friends and family participate by contributing soil or saying a few kind words. Another popular part of the tree-planting ceremony is placing a tree plaque that honors the deceased as a permanent memorial that will stay with the tree.

Carved wooden heart placed on trunk of a tree

Other Eco-Friendly Funeral Alternatives

An eco-friendly burial is an environmentally-friendly alternative to the traditional funeral services with emphasis on earth preservation and carbon footprint reduction. There are plenty of aspects to consider when planning an eco-burial such as:

  • Biodegradable Urns which are created out of material such as recycled paper, wool fiber, compacted peat, and coconut shells that end up having a positive impact on the environment.
  • Eco-friendly Coffins which are coffins that do not impact tree life such as traditional wooden caskets do. The materials can be a variety of materials such as bamboo, banana leaf, willow pine or cardboard.
  • Alternative Transportation is typically meant for loved ones and mourners and suggests finding ways to minimize the cars in the funeral procession and for using more eco-friendly car options for transporting the body.
  • Woodland Burial Sites is an eco-friendlier option than being buried in a cemetery since that environment is 100% natural. Natural burial sites can include woodland areas, forests, meadows, and they rarely allow headstones or memorials.

Important Reminders

When planning the funeral service of a loved one, regardless of the route you take, it is important that it works for you and your family. When choosing alternatives, make sure they meet your concerns, needs, and loved ones wishes. Once you move past traditional funerals, the options are endless on creating a personalized memorial service to properly honor a passed loved one in a way that is special to them and the family. While most funeral alternatives’ costs will average significantly less than a traditional service, prices for all the listed alternatives will depend on size, location, and other various aspects.

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Research For Life - Understanding Whole Body Donor Consent

Hello, my name is Garland Shreves, CEO of Research For Life. I want to take a moment to discuss some very basic information with you regarding consent forms, in general, that you may encounter when considering to donate to a whole body donor organization.

First and foremost, you need to understand and read the consent form, also known as the authorization form or document of gift, so you know what you are consenting to.  Ask questions of the organization if you don’t understand something. 

 All states require, under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, that consent be granted by an authorized agent of the donor or self-authorization before death.

Each state defines who in the consenting class has the most authority to direct donation. Such as the medical power of attorney, spouse, children, grandchildren, siblings, etc. and differs slightly in each state. 

Consent may be given by means of a verbal recorded consent or by a written document of gift.

Research For Life uses a written consent form which can be found on our website.

Understand that the donor or authorizing agent is giving the body to an organization. Once given it belongs to the organization to use in accordance with the consent form.

In other words, the donor organization is free to use the donor provided it does so within the terms

of the consent, it may not use the donor in a manner not consented too.  

The consent may state how the body may be used.  Educational and/or research purposes or some other purpose may be stated or in the discretion of the donor organization.

Research For Life provides cadavers and/or anatomical specimens for education and research purposes and does not do ballistic testing.

The consent may state that the body will be used in whole or in parts. It may also state that the anatomical parts may be used domestically and or internationally.

And most consents will cover some basic things like consent to test the donor for diseases and order medical records to help best determine the medical suitability for the donation.

The consent may also touch on issues like for profit or nonprofit status and if the donor or anatomical specimens will be used by one or more or both types of entities.  Remember that regardless of an organizations tax status they all charge fees to end users who order anatomical specimens and offer those specimens to both for profit and nonprofit entities.

From the very start of the donation process costs to the donor organization begin. 24-hour answering service, transport team to respond 24/7, qualified trained staff paid a livable wage with benefits and retirement, electric, gas, phone, insurances, building payments, maintenance, medical director, and regulatory requirements, and cremation fees. And these are just some of the expenses that an organization may have to cover.

Another item you may see on most authorization forms is a release of liability, a hold harmless agreement, excluding misconduct of course.  

Research For Life states clearly it will not and donor or agent agrees that Research For Life will not be held responsible for acts of third parties in connection with the donation.

Another item that reduces a donor organizations liability is the Anatomical Gift Act prohibits criminal, civil or administrative actions provided there is no intentional misconduct on the part of the donor organization. In other words, if the donor organization acted in good faith it is immune and provided some protection from lawsuits.

Another important part on a consent form is the person signing the authorization attests (affirms) that they have the authority to direct the donation. The donor organization accepts the authorizing agent’s authority in good faith barring any information known to it at the time of donation that would contradict the authority of the person authorizing donation.    

Remember, should you decide to register, tell your family and friends about your decision.

Also, the donation authorization form is not valid until notarized or signed by two witnesses; one witness must be non-family or disinterested party. 

Consent forms contain other important information that you need to read and understand.

All documents of gift or authorizations can be cancelled prior to death.

I want to thank you for taking the time to watch this video and I hope it helped provide you with some basic information regarding whole body donation consent forms.  Thank you.