Before attending a cremation, particularly if the deceased was close to you, it can be helpful to understand the process and what happens during a cremation ceremony. This article will attempt to shed light on both of these processes.
What Happens Before Cremation Begins?
First, the body is prepared. Embalming is only required if the body is to be viewed prior to cremation.
The funeral director will remove any keepsakes like jewelry which would be destroyed in the cremation process. They’ll also remove devices like pacemakers that could explode or give off toxic chemicals under the intense heat.
Then they’ll dress the body in the clothes provided by loved ones. Any garments are fine as long as they’re made of natural fibers that are safe to burn.
Generally, the body is placed in a coffin. This isn’t required for cremation, but it provides a tasteful way to transport the body to the cremation ceremony.
Once the body is ready it’s delivered to the chapel on the day of cremation for the funeral service. The mourners may have whatever type of service they like. At its completion, the body is brought to the committal room where it’s checked for correct identification, at which point the cremation can begin.
What Happens During Cremation?
Both the coffin (or a similar container) and the body are loaded into the cremation chamber. The coffin will burn along with the body. This is accomplished by bringing the chamber to between 1,500°F and 1,800°F. In this temperature range, the entire contents of the chamber will be fully cremated in roughly two hours.
During the cremation, most funeral homes will allow a small number of close family members to sit in and watch the process if they desire. Some people get a sense of closure from being there as the body is consumed.
What Happens After Cremation?
When the cremation is complete, all that will remain are bone fragments and any metal fixtures that were attached to the coffin. Once the chamber has cooled, this material is raked out of the chamber into a container below.
A magnet is then used to separate out any metal until only the bone fragments remain. These are fed into a cremulator, which pulverizes the weakened fragments into a fine powder. This material is the “ashes” that are provided to the family at the completion of the cremation. It’s interesting to note that all soft tissues are completely vaporized by the cremation process, as is the coffin wood. Hard bone is all that survives.
These cremains are generally delivered in a thick, closed plastic bag inside a durable cardboard box. Later the ashes can be transferred from the bag to a decorative urn for display, scattered at a location special to the deceased, or sealed into cremation jewelry or a number of other types of fine art pieces created for housing ashes.
If you opt not to take the ashes, which is perfectly reasonable and common, the funeral home will usually scatter them over a garden of remembrance.
The cremation process is a clean, hygienic, and respectful way to send off a loved one. The ceremony surrounding the process is just as meaningful as a burial service. Now that you understand what goes into cremation, you’ll be able to put away concerns and focus on your grieving and healing process.