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Why Choose Cremation: A Comprehensive Guide

Losing a loved one is a challenging experience, and navigating the various end-of-life options can feel overwhelming.

Everything You Need to Know About Full Service and Direct Cremation

Losing a loved one is a challenging experience, and navigating the various end-of-life options can feel overwhelming. One choice that is increasingly popular is cremation. In this guide, we will explore the reasons why many individuals and families are choosing cremation and provide a comprehensive overview of the cremation process. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of cremation and the available options for honoring and memorializing a loved one who has chosen cremation.

What is Cremation?

Cremation is a method of disposition that transforms a deceased individual's body into ashes through intense heat. 

Unlike traditional burial, where the body is buried intact in the ground, cremation uses a specialized furnace known as a cremator or a cremation chamber. The body is placed inside the cremation chamber, where it is exposed to temperatures reaching up to around 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat reduces the body to ashes, also referred to as cremated remains.

How Does Cremation Work?

The cremation process follows a series of steps to ensure respectful and efficient handling of the deceased. Understanding the process of cremation can help you make an informed choice if you’re considering cremation for yourself or a loved one. In this section, we will explore how cremation works step by step:

1. Authorization and Documentation

Before the cremation process can begin, appropriate legal and administrative procedures must be followed. This typically involves obtaining the necessary permits, completing required paperwork, and ensuring that the deceased's identity is correctly documented. Funeral homes or cremation service providers can help guide you through this process. Once you sign off on everything, they often file and manage the necessary documentation on your behalf.

2. Preparation and Identification

Once all the paperwork is in order, the body is prepared for cremation. Any clothing or jewelry that the deceased was wearing is removed, and a positive identification tag is placed with the body to ensure proper identification throughout the process.

3. Casket or Container Selection

In most cases, a casket or container is used during the cremation process. This container is usually made of wood or cardboard, and it provides a dignified enclosure for the body during cremation. The selection of the casket or container depends on your personal preference and budget.

4. Cremation Chamber

The casket or container, along with the body, is placed inside a cremation oven. This chamber withstands and contains the high temperatures of the cremation. It is typically lined with refractory bricks or heavy-duty insulation materials to ensure the efficient and safe cremation of the body.

5. Incineration Process

Once inside the cremation chamber, the body and the casket or container are exposed to high temperatures, typically reaching around 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. These extreme temperatures initiate the incineration process, which reduces the body to ashes.

6. Cooling and Collection of Remains

After the incineration process concludes, the cremated remains cool down. At this stage, any remaining metal objects, such as surgical implants or jewelry, are removed from the remains through a magnet or specialized equipment. The cooled cremated remains are then collected and placed in a temporary container or an urn chosen by the family.

7. Processing the Ashes

To ensure consistency and uniformity, the collected cremated remains may go through a processing step. This involves the pulverization of the ashes into a finer, sand-like texture. This process helps create a more homogeneous mixture, allowing for easier handling and scattering, if desired.

8. Identification and Final Disposition

Throughout the cremation process, strict protocols ensure the proper identification and tracking of the remains. A unique identifier, such as a numbered metal disc, accompanies the body at all times to ensure accuracy. After the cremation process is complete, the cremated remains are returned to the family or handled according to the prearranged plans, such as scattering or interment.

It's important to note that the specific details of the cremation process may vary depending on local laws, cultural and religious customs, and individual preferences. Funeral homes and cremation service providers can help you understand specific regulations for your area.

How Much Does Cremation Cost?

When considering cremation as an end-of-life option, it is natural to have questions about the associated costs. The cost of cremation can vary depending on various factors, including location, service options, and other memorialization choices. In this section, we will explore the different types of cremation and provide a general idea of the relevant costs.

Regular Cremation

Regular cremation, sometimes referred to as traditional cremation, typically includes a funeral service or viewing prior to the cremation process. This option allows family and friends to gather, pay their final respects, and celebrate the life of their loved one before the cremation takes place. The cost of traditional cremation can vary widely, ranging from around $2,000 to $9,000 or more, depending on the specific funeral home or cremation service provider.

Factors that can influence the cost of regular cremation include the location and facilities used for the funeral service, the type of casket or container selected, embalming or preparation fees (if applicable), and any other services or merchandise chosen, such as memorial cards or urns.

Direct Cremation

Direct cremation is a simpler and more affordable option. With direct cremation, the body is cremated shortly after death, without a formal viewing or ceremony. This option skips the traditional funeral service and allows families to hold a memorial service or celebration of life at a later time if desired. Direct cremation is generally a more cost-effective choice, with prices ranging from around $600 to $4,000, depending on the location and service provider.

It's important to note that direct cremation costs may vary based on factors such as transportation, the type of container used for cremation, and any extra services or memorialization options selected.

Understanding Additional Costs

In addition to the cremation itself, there are other potential costs to consider when making final arrangements. These costs may include:

1. Death Certificates and Permits

Depending on your location, obtaining copies of the death certificate and necessary permits may incur extra fees. These documents are essential for legal purposes and to complete various administrative tasks.

2. Transportation

If the deceased needs to be transported from the place of death to the crematorium or funeral home, transportation costs may apply. The distance and method of transportation can impact the total cost.

3. Memorialization Options

While cremation itself provides a range of memorialization options, there may be additional costs associated with certain choices. For example, purchasing an urn, hosting a scattering ceremony, or selecting other personalized memorial options can incur extra expenses.

4. Additional Services

Depending on your preferences and the specific arrangements you wish to make, there may be extra services offered by funeral homes or cremation service providers that come with associated costs. These could include assistance with obituaries, funeral programs, or the coordination of memorial events.

The best way to obtain accurate pricing information is to contact local funeral homes or cremation service providers. They can provide you with a detailed breakdown of costs based on your specific needs and location.

Can You Still Have a Funeral and Burial When You Choose Cremation?

One common misconception about cremation is that it eliminates the possibility of having a funeral service or burial. However, this couldn't be further from the truth. 

You can still arrange a funeral service when you choose cremation. The main difference lies in the timing. In traditional funerals, the service usually takes place before anything else. With cremation, the order can be reversed. Families may choose to hold a funeral service either before or after the cremation process. This flexibility allows loved ones to gather and pay their respects in a manner and timeframe that aligns with their preferences and cultural traditions.

Cremation can also be followed by a burial of the cremated remains. One option is to bury the cremated remains within a burial plot in a cemetery. This provides a designated space for loved ones to visit and pay tribute. Some cemeteries have dedicated areas for burying ashes. Or, if you’d prefer the ashes to stay above ground but still want a sacred place of memorial, many cemeteries contain urn gardens or columbariums. 

Cremated remains can also be buried in a family plot or alongside the buried remains of a loved one. This option allows for the continuation of a family tradition while still choosing cremation as the method of disposition.

Other Memorial Service Options

When you choose cremation, there are many memorial service options that allow you to celebrate the life of the deceased. These alternative options provide unique opportunities to honor their memory in a personalized and heartfelt manner. Here are a few popular choices:

Scattering Ceremony

Many people choose to scatter the ashes of their loved ones in a meaningful location. This could be a favorite outdoor spot, the ocean, or even a special garden. Scattering ceremonies offer a symbolic way to release the remains and allow them to become part of the natural environment.

Celebration of Life 

A celebration of life event is a joyful gathering where family and friends come together to commemorate the life of the deceased. These events focus on celebrating the person's achievements, sharing stories, and fostering a sense of unity and connection among attendees.

Memorial Service

Similar to a traditional funeral service, a memorial service can be held to honor the memory of the departed. This service can take place in a variety of settings, such as a religious institution, community center, or even the comfort of one's home. During the memorial service, tributes and readings can be incorporated to personalize the experience.

Other Memorialization Options

When choosing cremation, there are many memorialization options available to honor and remember your loved one. These options provide an opportunity for personalization and enable you to create a lasting tribute that reflects their unique personality and preferences. Let's explore some of the different memorialization options you can consider:

Urns

One of the most common memorialization options for cremated remains is using an urn. Urns come in a wide range of styles, designs, and materials, allowing you to choose one that resonates with your loved one's personality. From traditional urns made of wood or metal to decorative urns crafted from ceramic, glass, or even biodegradable materials, there is a wide selection to choose from. Some people prefer to keep the urns at home while others may choose to display them in a columbarium or niche.

Jewelry

Cremation jewelry provides a unique and discreet way to keep a small portion of the cremated remains close to you at all times. These pieces of jewelry hold a tiny amount of ashes within a pendant, bracelet, ring, or other wearable item. Cremation jewelry allows you to carry a symbolic part of your loved one wherever you go.

Memorial Tree

Another newer trend in memorialization options is to have the ashes incorporated into a memorial tree. With this option, the cremated remains nourish and support the growth of a living tree. This environmentally friendly approach allows for a new life to emerge from the remains, symbolizing the cycle of life and serving as a living tribute to your loved one.

Diamonds

Creating a cremation diamond involves extracting carbon from cremated remains and replicating the natural process that occurs deep within the earth to form a diamond. This unique memorialization option allows you to preserve a part of your loved one forever in the form of a beautiful gemstone. Cremation diamonds can be passed down through generations, becoming cherished heirlooms that hold both sentimental and historical value.

Parting Stones

Parting Stones are small, decorative stones that are made from cremated remains. You can display these stones in your home or place them in a garden as a tangible reminder of your loved one. Parting stones provide a way to connect with nature and can be personalized with engravings, adding an extra layer of sentimentality.

Artificial Reef

For those with a connection to the ocean, creating a memorial reef can be a meaningful way to honor your loved one. Artificial reefs are made of cremated remains mixed with concrete. Together, they form the reef structure. These reefs serve as habitats for marine life and provide a lasting tribute beneath the waves.

These are just a few examples of the various memorialization options available when choosing cremation. Each option offers a unique way to remember and honor your loved one's life. It's important to take the time to consider your loved one's wishes, values, and preferences, as well as your own, when selecting the memorialization option that feels most meaningful to you.

How to Start the Cremation Process

Initiating the cremation process involves a few straightforward tasks. First, it's essential to select a cremation provider. You can research online for providers in your area, read reviews, and compare pricing. Once you have selected a provider, you will need to sign a contract or agreement, outlining the details of the arrangement, pricing, and other essential information.

The cremation provider will typically offer various service packages, depending on your needs and preferences. These packages often range from the most basic direct cremation to more elaborate options that include memorial services, customized urns, cremation jewelry, and more.

Finally, the process includes the transfer of the deceased's body to the crematory, where the cremation process occurs. After the cremation is complete, the cremated remains can be kept in an urn, scattered, or taken to another location for permanent memorialization. Your cremation provider should guide you through every step of the process so you know what to expect.

Choosing cremation as a method of disposition offers numerous benefits, from cost savings to increased flexibility in memorialization options. With various service packages and personalization options, cremation can provide a meaningful and personalized tribute to your loved one, reflecting their unique personality and legacy.

If you’re interested in starting the cremation process, reach out to one of our Afterall partners today. Or, if you’d rather research further before you begin, take a look at our article Cremation Meets Cemetery: 3 Ways to Give Ashes a Final Home.