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The Cremation Process: A Helpful Guide

Cremation is the most popular method of disposition in the United States and is estimated to be the chosen method of disposition for over 70% of Americans by 2030. While this is a large number of Americans, many people aren’t familiar with the intricacies of the cremation process. Here’s a helpful guide on how cremation works and the truth about the cremation process.

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1. Transportation

First, the body is transported to the chosen funeral home or crematorium. The funeral home will usually remove the body from the home or hospital and transport it to their company, where the body is then stored to prevent deterioration. Bodies that are left at room temperature will start to decompose, so removal and refrigeration is an important part of the process. If you've recently suffered a loss or just aren't sure who you'd call in the event a loss is suffered, you'd want to contact 911 as well as the funeral home to start this process. .

2. Identification

Once the family is ready to start the cremation process, the body will be identified. Identification is important so that the family and the cremation company are certain that the body being cremated is that of their loved one. Many funeral homes and crematories have strict processes surrounding this and are required to get authorization before a cremation is done. The funeral home or crematory will issue an authorization form that needs to be signed by the family before a cremation can take place.

3. Preparation

After the body is identified, it’s time to start the preparation process. Preparation of the body includes removing any jewelry, silicone implants, or prosthetics; pace makers and other medical devices are also removed at this point. The body is then washed and dressed in the clothes chosen by the family. This wouldn’t be the case in a direct cremation, which is a cremation that takes place almost immediately after death. If it’s a direct cremation, the body is typically cremated in the clothes the deceased passed away in.

4. Cremation

After the body is prepared, the body is then placed in either a cremation container or a casket chosen by the family. The container is then placed inside the cremation chamber, also known as a retort, and heated to 1,400-2000° F for two to three hours, depending on the size of the individual. During this time, the body is reduced to bone. Once only bone remains, the operator will then sift through the cremains for any pieces of metal. Individuals who had joint replacements or who had medical procedures that required metal to be implanted, might have had metal fragments that remain after cremation if the furnace wasn’t hot enough to melt the metal pieces. A special magnet is used to sift through the cremains for any remaining pieces of metal that might be present.

Many funeral homes or crematories will allow the family to witness the cremation, but there is often not a lot of room for a larger gathering. (Check with the facility to find out if COVID-19 has reduced the number of people who can be in attendance.) In this case, it can be helpful to hold a viewing beforehand or to hold a separate memorial service for loved ones who want to pay their respect and be in community after the death of a loved one.

5. Cremains turned into ashes

Once the cremation is finished, the bones are then put inside a processor that grinds the bones down to what most people think of as the ashes. Ashes are really just bone fragments that have been ground down to a fine substance. An average adult will produce 3-9 pounds of cremains at the end of the process.

6. Return to the family

The ashes, also known as the cremains, are then placed inside a temporary container and returned to the family. If the family already has a chosen urn, the facility will place the ashes inside of a plastic bag which is then placed in the urn and returned to the family. You can also ask your funeral home for help depositing ashes into an urn even if it's a been a bit since the cremation occurred.

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We hope this guide has helped you gain some insight into an industry that is often shrouded in privacy and mystery. If you’re currently searching for a funeral home or crematory company to handle a cremation, you can search through and compare different funeral homes in our database. If you’ve already found a funeral home and are looking for the perfect urn or cremation jewelry for you and your family, you can always browse our marketplace.

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Last updated June 15, 2022
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