The Cremation Process: How it Works

Cremation is the process where a body is reduced to bone and ash fragments though heat. This process takes place in a crematory. The crematory can be affiliated with a funeral home or an independent facility.

Cremation is quickly becoming a popular choice. It has surpassed traditional burial as the most common method of body disposition in the United States.  A new report shows over 60% of Americans now plan on being cremated. Cost is believed to be a huge factor is this change. The cost of a traditional funeral with a burial starts at thousands of dollars while cremation is much more affordable.

Cremation of the Human Body

process of cremation

There are several preparations that take place before a body is cremated. Some people choose to have a body embalmed for a viewing first, but this is not a necessary step. Once the body is in the facility, any prosthesis, pacemakers, or silicone implants are removed, and the body is placed in a container, or cremation casket, to be cremated 

The Process of Cremation

The cremation chamber, also known as a retort, is an industrial furnace large enough to hold one body. It is lined with bricks and heated to between 1100 - 2000 degrees. The body is placed on a device that can be rolled into the chamber. Modern cremation furnaces must follow strict environmental and air quality standards. They are fueled by natural gas, propane, or diesel.

Cremation typically take 2-3 hours to complete. During this process, the liquid in the body turns to vapor and the remaining tissue and bones burn. When the cremation is finished, the chamber is cooled, and the remains are removed.

After cremation, the bones may retain the shape of a skeleton. They are reduced in size in a machine called a cremulator. This reduces them to ash and small bone fragments. A magnet is used to remove any metal such as dental fillings and surgical plates from the bones before being put into the cremulator. Adult cremated remains produce, on average, 3 to 9 pounds of ash. When this process is finished, the remains are placed in an urn or temporary container and returned to the family.

What to do With the Ashes When Cremation is Finished

After the cremation is finished, the ashes – also known as cremated remains – are placed in a plastic or cotton bag. The bag is then placed in an urn or a temporary container and returned to the family. Some people choose to keep ashes at home in a special urn while others choose to have them buried or scattered in a special location. Cremated remains can also be divided to be used for different memorials.

Memorials that incorporate ashes are a rapidly growing industry. From a sentimental keepsake to an exciting send off, the possibilities for remembering your loved on are endless. Ashes can be made into a special object, grown into a tree, or be spread by boat or plane. Ashes can even be made into fireworks or sent into space.

Making the Decision to Cremate

Making the decision to cremate is very personal and not for everyone. It is helpful if we know the wishes of the deceased before they pass, but oftentimes these decisions are left up to those of us who remain here. Some religions forbid cremation. Other people have a strong aversion to cremation and prefer that they or their loved ones be buried intact in a traditional burial. In these cases, cremation is not a good choice.

There are multiple reasons why people do chose to utilize cremation. The cost of cremation is often a deciding factor. The cost for a traditional burial can be upwards of ten thousand dollars while cremation is much more affordable. The average cost of a cremation in the US is $1100 while the cost of a traditional funeral with burial is $11,000.

Another reason people choose cremation is that it is considered by many to be a more environmentally friendly choice. A cremation burial takes up considerably less space than a full body burial. Ashes can be spread in a multiple of ways. This way of returning a body to the earth can be meaningful to those who feel a responsibility for taking the best possible care of our earth. In addition, caskets used in traditional burial use a lot of wood and metal resources.

Planning Ahead

As you can see there are many choices that accompany death. Even though it is difficult to acknowledge that we won’t be here forever, it is important to let our loved one’s know how we want them to remember us. By making these decisions ahead of time, you can save a lot of emotional distress on the part of your family. Planning for and letting your family know ahead of time if you wish to be cremated makes their decision process much easier, especially at a time of grief. You can choose to do this in a written will or by simply talking to your family. This allows your family to remember you without added stress - it can be a last gift to them.