The loss of a loved one or pet is an experience that, even when shared with others, can be long and lonely. Eterneva knows that grief takes too many forms to count as people individually process their emotions and the impact of the loss on their daily lives. And while perspectives, expression, and belief systems have consistently evolved over the centuries, end of life services and traditions have been notably unchanging until recent generations.
Gathering together can be a source of comfort to those facing a loss. Funerals and related services are steeped in tradition, allowing people to celebrate the lives of loved ones. While the industry itself remains relatively unchanged, family and community approaches to these services have begun to shift.
One limiting factor is cost, where the national median expense for a funeral in the U.S. is $9,135. Prices can skyrocket further depending on add-ons to the service, upgrades to caskets, and length of viewings, to name a few. With just a few hours of time together in exchange for these costs, families have begun looking for alternatives.
Another more recent influence on gathering to grieve has been the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only has the pandemic caused a tragic surge in death rates, but it also forced families and friends apart at a time when comfort and connection were needed in spades. Social distancing, limits in travel, and generally more decentralized family units have all contributed to the need for new ways to grieve and remember those we have lost.
Alternative memorials offer unique approaches to treasure and celebrate the people who matter most. Ceremonies held in meaningful outdoor spaces such as beaches and parks can allow groups to gather more safely under the shadow of COVID-19. Planting trees or sponsoring memorial benches create more permanent areas that friends and family can visit in their own time to reflect on their loss.
Donations, sponsorships, and scholarships are also popular ways to help ensure the name of a loved one lives on. When it comes to tribute gifts, 43% are for memorials. On a virtual level, message boards and pages online forego more formal eulogies and invite people to share their stories and sentiments from anywhere while fostering a feeling of togetherness.
As these trends take hold, close family members also look for ways to share their grief and memories with each other. In some homes, small shrines or memorials create a space where people can visit, reflect, and process their feelings. In some, this can include keeping mementos or an urn nearby to create a sense of connection. Others are using more innovative approaches to create alternative memorials.
The feeling of loss stemming from separation with a family member or pet is often exacerbated by physical distance. Just as in past centuries, some choose to hold on to a lock of hair to keep that connection, but incorporating hair into jewelry in 18th century fashion is a bit too macabre for 21st century mourners.
A more innovative example can be seen with Austin-based Eterneva, which is rising in popularity through a blend of scientific and social factors. For one, cremation is becoming more common in the U.S. due to its lower costs, increased availability, and more environmentally sustainable approach when compared to funeral and burial services. From 1999 to 2019, the number of crematories in the U.S. doubled while the number of cremations increased from 25.39% to 54.6%. In many cases, families still seek comfort that scattering ashes or clinging to an urn can fall short on.
This is where science comes into play. Eterneva creates custom-designed diamonds from the hair or ashes of a customer’s loved one. Processed in the same way that naturally occurring diamonds come into being, Eterneva’s high-tech laboratories and specialists extract, purify, and pressurize carbon. Whereas natural diamonds are formed from a blend of organic matter within the earth, Eterneva customers can feel a deeper connection with their diamonds.
The outcome is an alternative memorial that transcends many of the limitations of more traditional methods. Diamonds can last for millions of years, and so memorial stones can be set and passed down through generations. In the form of commemorative jewelry, they can be worn as a subtle reminder or used as a conversation piece as individuals grieve.
One of the challenging aspects many families and friends face after a loss is the consolidation or distribution of belongings. Finding a special item that belonged to a loved one can be a comfort, but it can also be contentious to determine who keeps which items. In many cases, jewelry items are appealing because they can be worn in memory and foster a sense of closeness with the one who has passed on.
As an alternative memorial, Eterneva allows families to share in the memory of their loved one. The process only requires a small amount of ashes to create a diamond, and so families can choose to create more than one, each with its own shape, color, setting, and special meaning. Customers are also a part of the process, receiving updates as their diamond goes through iterative growth, assessment, and finishing.
Using methods for synthetic diamond creation first developed in the 1950s, Eterneva modernizes the experience with the latest in equipment and a boost in financial backing. The company recently closed a Series A, the funds from which will go toward efforts to increase customer engagement throughout their diamond journey. Interactive elements with labs will allow customers to initiate the machines responsible for placing the carbon under high pressure and high temperatures to bond the atoms as crystalline structures over the course of a few months.
Alternative memorials acknowledge the human experience as a whole: there is no singular way to grieve a loss and the need for connection, coping, and commemoration is destined to evolve along with us. Eterneva’s dedication to helping facilitate closure and comfort for others stems from its founder’s own heartbreaking experience with loss. And having produced over 1,500 diamonds since 2016, Eterneva is showing that so-called alternative memorials may be more mainstream for the end of life industry than previously realized.