When choosing cremation, it is important not only to capture the memories and celebrate the spirit of your loved one, but also to provide healing through gathering together, paying tribute and celebrating a life well lived.
Keep in mind that cremation does not limit your ability to spend time with the body of your loved one or hold a meaningful ceremony. You may have a visitation period and a funeral service prior to the cremation. Or your family may spend time privately with the body before cremation, followed by a public ceremony a day or two later with the urn present. You may want to consider keeping your loved one's body present for the funeral ceremony as it often encourages more expressions of grief and authentic mourning.
What Happens During Cremation
Cremation is another form of disposition or handling a body after death. However, many people don't know what happens during cremation.
Cremation takes place in a carefully maintained facility known as a crematory or crematorium. The funeral home may or may not have its own crematory on site, but your funeral director can take care of all arrangements either way.
Within the crematory is a special cremation chamber. The body is placed in a cremation container or casket and positioned inside the cremation chamber. Once the container or casket is in the cremation chamber, the door is tightly sealed. The operator then turns on gas jets, which create intense heat that reduces the body to bone fragments. This process takes approximately 2-3 hours.
After the cremation, the remains are collected and processed to the consistency of sand or a finer ash. The white or grayish remains, often called cremated remains at this stage, are then sealed in a transparent plastic bag along with an identification tag. The bag weighs about 5 lbs. and will often be returned to the family in a selected urn, which can then be buried, placed in a niche inside a columbarium, taken home or transported for scattering. Additionally, the cremated remains can be separated and placed into multiple urns, keepsakes or even jewelry specifically designed as a final resting place.
Cremation is a respectful, dignified process chosen by many families. However, some faiths discourage or prohibit cremation. If you plan to hold a religious funeral ceremony or have the remains buried in a church cemetery, check in advance to make sure there are no issues.
Service and Ceremony
This journey marks a new beginning; now is the most important time to come together and recount the fond memories that tell the story of your loved one. A variety of choices are available to create a loving memorial, bringing together family and friends for a final goodbye. Meaningful ceremonies with personalized memorials can be as unique as the loved one being remembered
When choosing cremation, the ceremony is a way to inform the community of a loved one's passing, tell their story and celebrate their life. A ceremony is most meaningful when it reflects your loved one's relationships, interests, and the moments you shared. Memorializing your loved one when choosing cremation may include one or any combination of the following options.
Friends and family gather for a tribute prior to cremation, often with the decedent present, which draws support and allows family and friends to say goodbye.
This gathering of friends and family following cremation often features the memorial urn as the ceremony's centerpiece and allows family and friends to recall memories and support one another.
A small gathering and informal family farewell takes place in a private setting and offers the chance to say goodbye, allowing family and friends to recall memories and support one another.
A direct cremation is when there is no funeral service or memorial service, but instead simply final disposition of the body by the funeral home or memorial society.
A word from Dr. Alan Wolfelt
If you are considering direct cremation, I plead with you to reconsider. Honoring the life and death of the person who died with some sort of ceremony - no matter how brief, how small or how informal - will help your family acknowledge the reality of the death and begin to heal. When no ceremony is held, it is as if the life and death of the person who died had no significance to anyone. Also keep in mind that you may still hold a committal service at the gravesite or crematory should you choose direct cremation.
Think carefully about the many options available to you and your family. Slow down and plan. It is through planning that a meaningful funeral experience is created. And do remember that funeral directors, clergy, celebrants and close friends who have done these things before can all be valuable resources to you. You are not alone!