It’s no surprise that globally cremations are on the increase. But there’s also a growing trend for direct cremation, termed a no service and no attendance (NSNA) funeral.

It’s happening in Australia too. While the number of people being cremated has increased steadily to sit at 66 percent of the population, the growing demand for no-frills, no service, no attendance, direct cremations is what some see as a worrying trend.

Peter Hall, Prepaid Specialist at Bethel Funerals in Melbourne, says there’s an increasing group of his prepaid clients opting for direct cremations.

With 14 years industry experience Peter, has noticed that once it was pretty rare that people did that, “only if they had no money would they do a direct cremation”, but now between 20 to 30 percent of his clients are selecting this option.

Some say it’s easier for the kids. “They don’t want the kids to have to fork out for funerals or make big decisions.” For others, instead of paying for a “fancy funeral”, they would rather spend the money on something else.

Prices for no frills funerals can vary. A report by the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal found that typically an NSNA cremation is about $3750 (but can range from less than $2000 to around $7000), whereas a standard cremation with ceremony package, is typically around $6100.

Julie Spriggs, Prepaid Specialist for Kings Funerals in Geelong, has also noticed the trend with about 20 percent taking the NSNA option. “People think, I don’t need a funeral. I’ll be dead. It doesn’t matter.”

While it might be cheaper, the worry of this trend is that research claims it impacts negatively on a mourner’s grieving process. Leading American psychologist, Dr Alan Wolfelt, teaches that funerals and other ceremonies at a time of death help us process our most profound thoughts and feelings…the ritual of a ceremony provides a needed structure of what to say and do. Funerals also help us acknowledge the reality of death.

Peter agrees that it’s a shame when mourners opt for the no service option as “often you hear later that people didn’t get to say goodbye”.

Julie in support provides an anecdote of a story overheard in a waiting room, where a woman had opted to not hold a funeral for a loved one, explaining she thought it would be easier. But in hindsight, and six weeks later with numerous people coming to the door with condolences she realised it was the wrong thing to do and regretted the decision, explains Julie.

Does this mean the death care industry has a challenge on its hands? Chris Harrington, CEO of the Australasian Cemeteries and Crematoria Association, believes so.

It saddens him to see people prepared to have a cremation and no ceremony because they think that might lessen their grief or that might not want to incur the expense. “People just aren’t thinking about what it means in the longer term and so we, as an industry, have a challenge….we need to try to convince consumers that having a farewell is really important,” he says.