Everything You Need to Know About the Cremation Process
Are you interested in what the cremation process entails and want to know more? Keep reading and learn more about it here.
Whether you’ve recently lost a loved one or are planning for the future, it is important to understand the cremation process before deciding whether cremation or burial is right for you and your family.
In the United States, the popularity of cremation has increased nearly 1240% since 1965. It is considered the more sustainable and ethical alternative to earth burial.
Other families choose cremation because it is far more affordable than burial. Another benefit of cremation is that you can keep a part of your loved one nearby you and have a physical memory of their life.
There are many great reasons to use cremation services. Is cremation the right choice for your loved one? Here is everything you need to know about the roots of cremation and the modern cremation process.
History of Cremation
The origins of cremation date back to the early Stone Age, around 3000 B.C. Experts agree that the practice of cremation most likely began in Europe and spread quickly across the Near East to Russia.
The advent of the Bronze Age from 2500 to 1000 B.C. brought cremation to Britain, Spain, and Portugal. Hungary, Northern Italy, and Ireland soon developed cemeteries for the purpose of cremation.
Then, in the Mycenaean Age, around 1000 B.C., cremation became a central tradition in the Grecian burial process. By the time of Homer, in 800 B.C. cremation was the most common method of treating human remains.
Scholars deduce that the Roman Empire adopted the tradition of cremation not long after it became a Grecian trend, around 600 B.C. The practice remained rare in Christian and Jewish communities that preferred burial.
Then, by 400 A.D. burial had replaced cremation entirely due to the spread of Christianity across the Roman Empire by Constantine. Cremation was still used in the event of plague, for safety.
Modern cremation didn’t occur until the Cremation Society of England (now the Cremation Society of Great Britain) formed in 1874 by the surgeon of Queen Victoria, Sir Henry Thompson.
The United States opened its first crematorium soon after in 1876. Dr. Julius LeMoyne built it in Washington, Pennsylvania. A second crematorium opened in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1884.
Protestant clergy members were instrumental in spreading the practice of cremation service throughout the United States. Crematoriums began to pop up in cities from New York to California. By 1900 there were 20 in operation.
Dr. Hugo Erichsen founded the Cremation Association of America in 1913. In 1975 it became the Cremation Association of North America. At the time, the number of crematoriums across the U.S. and Canada had grown to 425.
Since then, the practice of cremation has continued to gain popularity. These days, most religions allow for cremation services. Catholics are allowed to cremate their loved ones, but they must entomb or bury the ashes after.
The only religions that do not allow cremation of their deceased include Jewish Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, and Islam.
How Common Is Cremation?
Back in the 1960s, less than four percent of Americans were choosing cremation as an alternative to burial. Since then, cremation has gained a lot of popularity.
These days, around half of Americans choose cremation. That number is projected to grow to 63 percent by 2025, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.
The association predicts the cremation rate will rise to 69 percent by 2030 and 78 percent by 2040.
There are many different reasons why people have become more inclined to choose cremation over the past 60 years. Cremation is both more economical and less complicated than burial.
Cremation also provides more flexibility when it comes to holding a funeral or memorial service. Whereas burial requires an almost immediate funeral after the death of a loved one.
When you choose to cremate, you can decide whether to have a funeral or memorial service either before or after the cremation. Another benefit of cremation is that it does not require the cost of embalming or a casket.
In addition, concern for the environment has increased since the 1960s. This is a huge factor in the rising popularity of cremation. There are also fewer religious prohibitions and a growing trend toward less traditional memorials.
Is Cremation More Environmentally Conscious Than Burial?
Many people believe cremation is a more sustainable environmental practice than burial. With the ever-increasing threat of climate change, it is unsurprising that cremation is the trend among conscientious communities.
Here are some of the arguments against burial as a sustainable approach.
When a body goes through the process of embalming, there are many chemicals involved. Embalming fluids contain formaldehyde, ethanol, and methanol.
The World Health Organization classifies formaldehyde as a class 1 carcinogenic compound. It has linked formaldehyde to both brain cancer and leukemia.
When a body gets buried, that embalming fluid goes into the ground and can leak out of the coffin as the body eventually deteriorates. The U.S. buries nearly 830,000 gallons of embalming fluid each year.
Formaldehyde detection has occurred in cemetery-adjacent streams as well as in the wastewater from funeral homes.
Cemeteries require large areas of land. Nearly every city and small town across the country has dedicated a portion of land to cemeteries. That land therefore cannot be used for farming, building, or any other purpose.
With a scarcity of buildable and farmable land in the country, this is a concern for many people.
The most common materials used to construct caskets are metal and hardwood. These materials have a very slow rate of decomposition. That means they sit inside the earth for a very long time.
Casket production also contributes significantly to deforestation. Each year, casket production results in the felling of 39,788 trees.
This is important because deforestation is a leading cause of habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity. Not to mention trees are essential in sustaining human life on earth.
In addition to deforestation, an exorbitant amount of steel and concrete get used in the production of caskets and tombs.
It is important to acknowledge that cremation is not an entirely environmentally friendly process. It requires a lot of fuel and produces large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
Environmentalists are making efforts to develop greener processes of cremation. Still, cremation is less detrimental to the environment than a burial.
How Does the Modern Cremation Process Work?
If you are facing the choice of whether to bury or cremate a loved one, it’s important that you understand what these processes entail. Here is what you can expect from the process of cremation.
Crematoriums operate under very strict policies and procedures. One of the first steps in the cremation process is to identify the person about to be cremated. This ensures your loved one’s remains receive the utmost care.
The regulations for cremation vary among different states. But, most often it begins with having a family member authorize the cremation.
You will fill out a form that confirms your loved one’s identity and indicates who will pick up the cremated ashes as well as what type of container to store them in.
Once the identity of the person is confirmed and the cremation authorized, they receive a metal identification tag that remains with them throughout the cremation process.
After the cremation is complete, the tag gets placed with the cremains so you can be certain they belong to your loved one.
The next step following identification is the preparation of the body. The cremation technician bathes, cleans, and dresses the body before presenting it for identification, but there is more to the process of preparation.
The technician then removes any jewelry or personal items the relatives of the deceased would like to keep.
They also examine the body for medical devices and prosthetics that would interfere with the cremation process. These items get removed, disassembled, and responsibly disposed of.
Smaller metal items like medical pins and screws won’t be a problem for the crematory and can remain in place.
Then the technician places the body inside a special cremation casket or a simple cardboard box, depending on the wishes of the deceased and their relatives.
The only regulations on what type of container can be used in cremation are that it be strong enough to hold the body during transport and that it be combustible.
Next, the body of the deceased gets transported to the cremation chamber, also known as the crematory or retort. The retort is an industrial furnace lined with fire-resistant bricks that can withstand very high temperatures.
These modern cremation furnaces are constructed and operate according to strict environmental guidelines. They are powered by natural gas, propane, or diesel fuel and uphold air quality standards.
The process that occurs inside the cremation chamber involves using a high level of heat to transform the body into ashes. Typically, cremation temperatures range between 1400 and 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.
The body gets subjected to this heat for, on average, two hours. The heat vaporizes the body as well as the bones. Afterward, any leftover bone fragments get ground down and pulverized.
Once the incineration process is complete, the technician allows the remains to cool. Then they inspect them for any left behind metals. They remove the metal remnants with a strong magnet and recycle them.
Any leftover bone fragments get ground down into cremains, or cremated ashes. The ashes go into a plastic bag which gets stored inside the cremation container or urn of the family’s choosing.
Then the crematorium returns the cremains to the family in the container of the family’s choosing.
Can Family Members View the Cremation of a Loved One?
It is not at all uncommon for family members to attend the cremation of a loved one. Cremations occur in crematoriums and crematoriums often have one or more cremation chambers inside their facility.
Within these cremation chambers, there is usually a room that is separate from the furnace where family members can sit and observe the cremation through a viewing window.
What Is the Cost of Cremation Services?
The average cost of a cremation is between $1000 and $3000. There are many options for affordable cremation. The cost will depend upon where you live and the type of cremation service you use.
The decision to have a viewing, use a casket, or hold a funeral service will increase the cost.
Be aware that some funeral homes hire an outside crematory for the cremation service. When this happens it can raise the average cost of cremation to between $2000 and $4000.
It is a good idea to ask your funeral director whether cremation is included in the cost of the funeral.
What Is the Cost of Burial?
The average cost of burial ranges between $10,000 and $15,000. The cost will depend on your specific wishes or the wishes of your loved one when it comes to the details of their funeral and burial.
The cost of a burial can include the funeral preparations, service, as well as fees for the funeral director and any celebrant or clergy involved. The cost can also include a viewing prior to the funeral service and the casket.
The cost of the burial also includes the burial plot, the cost of transporting the deceased, the headstone, and any legal documents required.
Does Cremation Require an Urn?
Cremation does not require an urn, but it does require some sort of container for the cremains. When it comes to selecting an urn, the choice is very personal. It can take time to select the right one.
In the meantime, you can use any kind of container you want to store your loved ones’ ashes. The crematorium will accept any container that holds the cremains. Some of the best options are plastic and cardboard.
Is a Funeral Director Required for Cremation?
The majority of states allow for private citizens to handle the matters surrounding cremation. This can include paperwork, permits, death certifications, and disposition.
Other states require that this be done by a licensed funeral director. Take the time to look up the regulations in your state.
If you are planning to transport your loved one to the crematorium on your own, it is a good idea to check ahead of time to make sure the crematorium will accept the body directly from you or if you will need someone licensed.
Whether or not it is required by law, some crematoriums will only accept bodies delivered by a licensed funeral director.
What Can You Do With the Cremation Ashes After Cremation?
What you do with the cremated ashes of your loved one is entirely up to you. Some people like to scatter the ashes in a place that had deep meaning to their loved ones. Others like to store the ashes in a beautiful urn.
It is also possible to divide the ashes among several treasured relatives. The modern trend is to have the cremains infused with ink and tattooed on the body of loved ones as a permanent memorial.
Is Cremation Right For You?
Now that you know a bit more about the cremation process, you will be in a better position to decide what is best for you and your loved one. Many people choose cremation because it is cost-effective and environmental.
For all your cremation needs, contact Lone Star Cremation.