Visit someone's home nowadays and you may notice their dead loved one—on a shelf, on the floor, or wherever. "They are in my house," says Ellen Herman, an LA ad saleswoman, of her deceased parents. "Actually, in my bedroom! In boxes, under a bunch of other shit." That's because more Americans are being cremated, a shift that reflects changes in our economic and emotional lives and possibly the environment, Popular Mechanics reports. Back in 1980 only 5% of Americans were cremated; now it's 50%, partly because the Great Recession drove people away from expensive burials. The crematorium at Rosehill Cemetery in Linden, NJ, for example, is burning 25 bodies daily to keep up with demand and pauses only on Sunday. "We just need a day off," says the cemetery's president.
In Rosehill's crematorium, each body is burned in a brick-lined chamber that's heated to 1,200 degrees; a second chamber then burns off the gas and particulates before it all goes into the atmosphere. Problems do arise in the cremation business, like loved ones slipping in personal items that explode, such as cell phones or even a coconut, the Bolton News reports. Cremation's popularity has also aroused concerns about emissions and sparked interest in a water-based post-mortem process. Mourners are encountering new emotions, from relief at avoiding a funeral to pain or comfort in taking the ashes home. Many leave the urns on cemetery grounds, but others love having them. "There is no pressure or guilt of having to visit them in a cemetery," says a woman who took her parents' remains home. "And they will stay with me until the end of my time." (Read more cremation stories.)