Cremation reduces the body to bone fragments and ashes through a process that using open flames, intense heat, and evaporation. After the initial burning in the cremation chamber or retort, what remains is pulverized and the cremains that result are presented to the family for burial, storage, or dispersal.
If you and other family members are planning to have a dearly departed loved one cremated, it is best to understand some details of the cremation process and how cremation works so you can make informed decisions along the way.
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How Is A Body Prepared For Cremation?
Knowing that the remains of our loved ones are handled with care at the funeral home or crematorium helps ease the anxiety of family and friends.
Before cremation, the human remains are usually bathed and dressed. In most cases, this happens before identification. If the family wants to view the deceased’s body, they will see it the way it came into the crematory.
Embalming may be required if you plan to hold a viewing or funeral service. Embalming will keep the body lifelike and delay the decomposition for the final goodbyes, religious ceremonies, eulogies, and other traditions that must be respected.
The funeral or crematorium staff removes the jewelry and other items the family wishes to keep. Medical devices such as cardiac pacemakers, prosthetics, or other items that may explode during the cremation process are removed. Artificial joints and orthopedic screws or pins are not removed.
If you are considering cremation, one decision you will need to make before your loved one is cremated is whether or not you wish to have a private viewing. If yes, what does a crematory private viewing look like? Funeral Fundamentals’ expert Jeff Lemley answers this question in the video below.
Do You Have Clothes On When You Are Cremated?
Cremation can be done with or without any clothes on. If you hold a funeral service before cremation, the body of the deceased will be cremated wearing the clothes used during the viewing.
When the cremation is done immediately after death, such as for those who opt for direct cremation, the remains will be cremated with whatever they had on them when they passed away.
The general practice of whether the deceased will be clothed or unclothed during cremation is up to family members. Some funeral homes and crematoriums can provide simple cremation clothing for a fee. You must remember to remove accessories and other items from the body that might not be combustible or have the risk of exploding. Ask the service provider about state laws you must follow when preparing for cremation.
Unnatural materials and other items that might release toxic fumes when incinerated are often removed for green cremations. For more eco-conscious types of cremation, the body is usually wrapped in natural fabrics such as cotton, wool, or special shrouds.
How Is The Body Positioned For Cremation?
After completing the necessary paperwork, such as a death certificate and cremation authorization, the remains are placed in a completely combustible cremation container that is sturdy enough to hold the body.
Through a mechanized door, the body enters the preheated cremation chamber or the retort lined with bricks. The deceased is placed feet-first in the industrial furnace used for cremation. A mechanism that automatically places the body into the chamber is used in modern cremation facilities, while it can be done manually in older crematoriums.
What Type Of Container Is Used For Cremation?
A cremation container is a special type of casket for cremation crafted from sturdy cardboard, wood, or other combustible materials. Funeral providers are required by federal law to offer cremation container options that are not expensive.
Some choose rattan or wicker, hardwood, or teak. However, no law that requires a casket, much less a costly one. The creator needs to put the body in a container, so inexpensive cardboard or plywood models do the job.
What Are The Steps In The Cremation Process?
Below is an outline of the process of cremation:
1. Identification and Transportation
When someone dies at home from natural causes and is surrounded by family members, the common practice is for the funeral director or the staff of the crematory to pick up the body of the deceased.
However, things could be different when someone dies alone, the body’s discovered in another location or outside their home, or when someone dies at home, but foul play is suspected. In such cases, a medical examiner must identify the body, determine the cause of death, and bring the body to a storage facility. Authorities also contact and notify the next of kin of the deceased.
2. Human Remains Are Placed In The Cremation Chamber
After the paperwork and preparation of the body for cremation, your deceased loved one will be placed in the retort. The door of the pre-heated retort will be opened, and the container will be slid inside with the help of mechanical rollers or a conveyor loader.
3. Cremation Starts
The door of the retort will be shut closed, and the staff will closely monitor the cremation process until completed.
The temperature of the chamber is set at 1,600–1,800° Fahrenheit (871–982° Celsius) to facilitate the disintegration of the corpse. Some chambers operate up to 2000° F.
4. Cremains Removed From the Chamber
Once the cremation is complete, the cremated remains or cremains are left to cool. What is left are bone fragments. Metal pieces spotted in the cremains after incineration, such as joint replacements, are removed with a magnet and recycled.
5. Cremated Remains Turned To Ashes
Once cooled down, the cremains will be taken into a processor called a cremulator. The cremulator will pulverize the bone fragments into ashes.
6. Ashes Returned To The Family
The ashes are then respectfully placed in a temporary container such as a sturdy plastic bag, a cremation urn, or other specified containers and returned to the family.
Crematories have many procedures in place to ensure that cremains are properly identified so that you will always receive your loved one.
Cremation memorial services can be done following a cremation or at a later date. Many families are also scattering ashes in places special to their family member who has passed on.
What Is The Temperature Of The Cremation Chamber?
The temperature of the cremation chamber may vary depending on the equipment used. It usually ranges between 1,400 and 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. However, some can reach temperatures of 2,000 degrees.
What Is The Cost Of Cremation?
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the median cost of a funeral with viewing and cremation in the United States is $6,970.
The same survey reveals the median costs for the following:
- Urn: $295
- Alternative cremation container: $150
- Cremation casket: $1,310
- Rental casket: $995
Direct cremation arranged at the crematory start around $600 in some places. Funeral homes that offer direct cremation might offer a package that starts around $3,000 but includes some services that might be add-ons if you deal directly with the crematory.
How Long Does It Take To Cremate A Body?
The cremation takes between two hours and four hours, depending on the size of the body and the equipment used. (Ninety minutes is the average for an adult body.) Take note that the length of the cremation process may vary depending on certain state laws cremation service providers must follow or customs that family members must adhere to.
The cremator monitors the interior so that the operator knows when the process is complete. He can also look through a spyhole to verify that stage of the cremation.
What Is The Average Weight Of Human Body Remains?
The amount of cremains and ashes following a cremation depends on several factors such as age, gender, and height. Generally, there will be more ashes when an individual has higher bone density. On average, the ashes of a cremated adult will weigh between 4 and 8.5 pounds. Cremated remains of the children post-processing will weigh around 2.5%of their body weight.
Is Cremation Environmentally Responsible?
Most crematories in the U.S. are powered by natural gas. LPG (propane/butane) or fuel oil. A typical cremation use 28 U.S. gallons or 110 Ll) of fuel and releases about 240 kg (540 lb) of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The funeral industry is exploring technologies to reduce its carbon footprint. Cremation without embalming uses no toxic chemicals and does not require burial space.
What Are The Odds Of An Urn Exploding From The Heat During Cremation?
An urn where the ashes are placed before returning them to the family will not explode since the cremains are first cooled down before the bone fragments are pulverized. The average human body will also not explode during cremation. The intense heat will reduce body tissues into ash, and human bones will be fragmented. The liquid in the body will turn into vapor.
The cremains have no odor and no DNA although some DNA might be identifiable from teeth or bones before pulverizing. As the ashes are alkaline, some public places prohibit the spreading of ashes as this can change the local soil.