cremation urn

What Happens to the Body During Cremation?

Considering Cremation?

If you’re considering cremation, either for yourself or for a loved one, it’s natural to have questions regarding the process. You want to make sure you have all the information possible before you make a decision and that’s completely understandable. Cremation is a process that most of us are not familiar with, but becoming informed on what will happen can help ease the anxiety that surrounds the process.

Whether you’re unsure if cremation is right for you, or you’ve made the decision and want to know what happens next, we’re here to help ease your mind and provide you with the best insight possible. Cremation is a deeply personal choice and if you are considering it The Gardens is here for any pre-planning needs or questions you may have.

Read more: What to Include in Your Retirement Plan 

General Information

Before proceeding to the step-by-step information regarding the physical process of cremation, it’s important to have some general information on what will happen. The physical cremation process takes a few hours, and will take place at a designated crematory. These facilities are regulated and licensed, as per law.

The laws regarding the cremation process are strict and each licensed facility is upheld to high standards. Crematories need to have a permit for each individual they are going to cremate, and an “authorizing agent,” usually the next of kin, must also sign a form authorizing the cremation.

If you’re considering cremation as an option for yourself, make sure you have designated who this person will be. If you’re considering cremation for a loved one, be informed regarding the legal process. For example, if a parent passes away and multiple children are living, generally all children must agree to the cremation. Laws may vary by state, and even county, so it’s best to become as informed as possible on the legal aspects of the cremation process in advance and to make any necessary preparations or legal designations.

Additionally, there are laws that govern when the deceased may be cremated. Many states require that at least 24 hours pass after the death before a body can be cremated, and some require that 48 hours pass. These time requirements can be altered only by a coroner of the Department of Public Health.

Some individuals worry that if they choose cremation instead of a traditional burial that their loved ones will not be able to have a proper service, however, cremation can be arranged to happen after a viewing or wake, still giving family and friends the opportunity to say goodbye.

The Cremation Process: Step by Step

Once the legal formalities have been arranged and a service, if wished, has taken place, the physical process of cremation begins. Since crematories are governed and regulated, you can be sure that only one cremation takes place at a time. Many people worry about this, but it is something that is mandated by federal law. Cremation chambers are furnaces that have been designed for the sole purpose of cremation and are inspected to ensure proper function and reliability.

Step One: Ensuring the Correct Identity

The first thing that will take place upon arrival at a crematory is that the deceased will be properly identified, and it is checked that the required authorization and permits have been obtained. This is for the protection of the deceased and their loved ones.

Step Two: Preparing the Body for Cremation

If an individual has any medical devices implanted in their bodies that are mechanical or contain batteries, such as pace makers or insulin pumps, they will be removed prior to the start of the cremation process. These devices are later melted down for complete disposal in a separate process.

A body can be cremated in either a wooden casket or another rigid, combustible container such as one made from cardboard or plywood. Prior to beginning the cremation process, the deceased will be bathed, cleaned, and dressed. They will then be placed in the chosen cremation vessel.

Step Three: Cremation

The actual cremation takes place inside a special cremation chamber, where the deceased body is exposed to hot, open flames for several hours. It is through this process of exposure to heat and flame that the body is reduced to what are known as the “basic elements.” There’s a common misconception that ash is what is produced, but the ash received after the cremation process actually consists of bone fragment that has been carefully broken down into a fine powder.

Modern cremation chambers are strictly regulated, are lined with brick that can withstand heat of up to 1000 degrees, and are computerized. There are legal requirements for how a cremation chamber can be operated, and they must rely on natural gas, propane, or diesel fuel.

Step Four: Transferring of the Ashes

Commonly referred to as the ashes of the deceased, following the cremation process the remains are placed carefully into either a temporary container provided by the crematory, or into an urn that the family has purchased.

Other Considerations and Common Questions

Questions surrounding the process of cremation often go beyond the physical process itself. There are other considerations that should be addressed, and many common questions that people still have.

After the cremation process has been completed the urn is then returned to the family or designated loved one. It often makes people feel more comfortable to put in writing what they wish to happen to their ashes once they are returned to their loved ones. Some may request a burial next to a loved one, to be spread in a designated area, or to remain with a family member. This is also a deeply personal decision that should be given thought before the process.

The Cost of Cremation

The cost of cremation varies widely, based on location and the funeral package chosen. The cost can range anywhere from $450-$4,000, with the average falling somewhere between $700-$900.

Spreading of the Ashes

Some people may wish to have their ashes scattered in a special place. Perhaps overlooking a town or city that had special meaning, or somewhere the individual found peaceful and comforting. Laws regarding the spreading of ashes vary by state and local government.

Ashes can be spread at sea anywhere, as long as it takes place three nautical miles off the coast. It can be done by boat or by airplane. Additionally, most national parks allow loved ones to scatter their ashes in designated places, with permission and a required permit. You can scatter ashes on your own private property if you wish, such as on a family farm or in a garden. If there is another area you have in mind, you will need to check with the local town, county, or state for guidance on the policies and procedures.

Family Presence

Family members and loved ones are often welcome at crematories for the process of a loved one’s cremation, to witness the process. They are also often welcome to begin the cremation process by pushing a button or computer key. This is a ritual in certain religions and crematories are accustomed to being asked the question. If you would like to be present for the cremation of a loved one, or if you would like your loved ones there for you, ask the crematory about their policy. It is often comforting to know that family will be present.

The decision to be cremated or to have a loved one cremated is an intimate one and is never something to be taken lightly. Ask all the questions you need to beforehand in order to make yourself comfortable with the process. If you have more questions on the process, or don’t know where to begin, contact us today.