Making end-of-life decisions can be difficult enough, but when that decision involves a process you may not fully understand, like cremation, it can become even more stressful. Despite the fact that this practice has been around for thousands of years, for most people, it’s still a bit of a mystery. The good news is, understanding how cremation works can help ease some of the anxiety you may be feeling and help make the entire process a much more peaceful and comforting experience.
How Cremation Works – Step-By-Step
The purpose of cremation is to reduce the physical body down to its basic elements. This is accomplished through the use of flames, intense heat and evaporation. Cremation is carried out in a specially designed furnace, also known as a cremation chamber. Most crematories require that the body be cremated while inside a container, such as a cremation-friendly casket or a rigid cardboard box.
Once the body has gone through the cremation chamber, what’s left are cremated remains – also commonly referred to as ashes. The cremation process generally produces anywhere from three to ten pounds of cremains.
To go into greater detail, the complete process of cremation from start to finish typically consists of the following five steps:
Step 1 – The body of the deceased is properly identified and authorization to carry out the cremation is successfully obtained.
Step 2 – The body is then prepared for cremation and placed into the appropriate container, as chosen by the family and/or designated by the crematory.
Step 3 – The container containing the body is transported to the crematory and put into the cremation chamber.
Step 4 – Following cremation, any remaining metal from the container (if applicable) is removed and the remains are then ground.
Step 5 – The ashes (or cremains) are then placed into either a temporary container or the urn provided by the family of the deceased and are either retrieved or sent to the designated surviving loved ones.
What Should You Do with Cremated Remains?
One question many grieving loved ones forget to consider when making the decision to cremate is what to do with the ashes once they’ve been picked up or delivered. There are a surprising number of options, several of which we covered in another blog post. For instance, you could keep your loved one’s cremains in a decorative urn, or you could bury them in a traditional cemetery plot.
Scattering the ashes is another option. If you’d like to be creative, there are a number of other ways you can honor someone you’ve lost, like cremation jewelry or a piece of art that is infused with a small amount of the decedent’s ashes.
However you choose to honor and memorialize your loved one, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Death is an unfortunate but necessary part of life. By taking the time to understand the options, you’ll be much better equipped to make end-of-life decisions that you can be at peace about.