Cremation is the process of reducing the body to ashes and bone
fragments through the use of intense heat. The process usually
takes from two to four hours. The cremated remains are then
pulverized to break up larger bone fragments to a granular
Cremation offers an affordable alternative to traditional body
burial. While direct cremation can significantly reduce funeral
home costs, you can reap additional financial benefits from the
cemetery and headstone dealer. If you choose not to bury the
cremated remains - and many people do not - you can eliminate many
items that make the traditional funeral so expensive.
But price is not the only advantage in choosing direct
cremation. Many people prefer cremation because
the cremains (i.e. ashes) are portable. This allows families to
take remains with them when they move. Many people also feel that
choosing cremation over body burial is friendlier to the
environment because no land is disturbed.
Another advantage to cremation is it's simpler and more
expedient. The entire affair usually takes place in just
two or three days; furthermore, cremation requires less time
commitment from the family. This can be especially important if
surviving family members are ill, disabled, or live far away.
Cremation also offers a wide range of disposition options. While
most families decide to keep remains at home, other options exist.
How Does Cremation Process Work?
Cremation is completed at a crematorium. Relatives contact the
funeral home or mortuary to make arrangements for the services.
The funeral homes or mortuaries do not have crematory facilities
on site and subcontract the work out to a reputable third-party
vendor. Relatives may also contact a cremation society. Cremation
societies maintain their own cremation facility on the premises.
Some states mandate a waiting period of at least 24 to 48 hours
before the actual cremation takes place. After the waiting period
passes, the body is taken to the crematorium and placed in a
coffin or container with any pacemakers, prosthetics, or
mechanical or radioactive devices removed so as not to damage the
The coffin or container is placed into the cremation chamber.
Intense heat at 1500 to 2100 degrees Fahrenheit vaporizes the body
until it is reduced to ashes. The process usually takes between
one to four hours, depending on the size of the body. Bones that
have not burned are crushed into ashes. The ashes are cooled from
one to two hours before they are given in a sealed container to a
relative. The remains generally weigh between three to nine
pounds, depending on the size of the deceased.
What Happens to
The ashes, or remains, may be buried in a cemetery or special
location (with the appropriate permissions), placed in the
columbarium or vault, handled commercially for an additional fee,
or scattered in a location of the deceased's or relative's
choosing. The remains have been ground into coarse sand-like
particles that are environmentally safe for scattering.
Are Funeral or
Memorial Services Possible With Cremation?
Family members may hold a funeral or memorial service before or
after the cremation. If a viewing is desired before cremation,
family members can rent caskets from the funeral home for this
purpose. On the other hand, a memorial service may be held after a
cremation, with or without the remains. The remains stored in an
urn are placed in a designated viewing area for the service.
What Costs Are Associated With Cremation?
Using an undertaker to secure permits, death certificates, or
other services, can run upwards of over $1000. Families who own
the bodies and make their own arrangements incur costs that run
between $100 and $300. The urns which are used to store the
remains may require additional costs, as will any burial plots or
storage in the columbarium.
How Do Religions View Cremation?
Cremation has been accepted by most Western societies as an alternative to traditional burials. In places such as England and Japan, where land is scarce, cremation rates of 90% are not uncommon. The Catholic religion condones cremation as long as it
does not go against Church teachings. There are some religions that forbid the use of cremation and see it as undignified. These religions include some fundamentalist Christian sects, Islam, and
the Greek and Orthodox Jewish religions.