It’s never easy to talk about death. And while you may not understand all of the ins and outs of a standard burial, it’s something that one can easily visualize.
That’s not so much the case for cremation. Even though the practice has been around for thousands of years, it’s still a mystery to many people.
But, hopefully, by understanding how the process works, people can feel they are more informed decisions when it comes to these types of issues.
If you’re interested in learning more, continue reading and we’ll walk you through the cremation process from start to finish.
Table of Contents
What Cremation Does
Cremation distills the body to its most basic elements. It does this by exposing the body to open flames, severe heat, and evaporation.
This is all done in a special furnace known as a cremation retort or chamber. Many crematoriums require something to contain the body in, like a rigid cardboard box or a casket designed for cremation.
Commonly referred to as “ashes”, the remains from cremation actually mostly consist of pieces of bone. It’s important to understand that the ashes aren’t just from the body but they also contain remains from the container as well as some by-products from the incineration.
Depending on the specific cremation process and the size of the body, you can expect to have around three to nine pounds of remains by the end of it.
The Five Steps of Cremation
Cremation can be boiled down to five main steps.
The first step is to identify the deceased and then get proper authorization to cremate.
The second step is to prepare the body and place it in its designated container. While preparing the body, all of the jewelry is recovered and any internal medical devices are removed.
Third, the container and the body are moved to the cremation chamber or retort. During the cremation process, temperatures can reach as high as 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.
The incineration can take up to two hours.
When the cremation is complete, whatever metal is left is removed and the remains are then ground up. The metal is extracted by using a strong magnet.
The remains that are left are then either moved to an urn that was picked out by the family or to a temporary container. The ashes are then given to the family’s representative.
Urns can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. If you’re looking to get an urn for your loved one, you would first want to check how much does an urn cost.
How the Body is Identified
Reputable crematories operate under strict procedures to make sure that the bodies are properly taken care of. The very first step is to confirm that they have permission to cremate the body.
Although the regulations for identification vary by state, you generally have to fill out paperwork first. This paperwork will say that you’re authorizing the facility to cremate the body.
The form will also ask you for information such as who is going to pick up the remains and what kind of container do you want to be used.
How the Body Is Prepared
Usually, the body will be bathed, cleaned, and then dressed prior to identification. If there is no public viewing and if it isn’t requested, the body won’t be embalmed.
Also, any pieces of jewelry that the family will want to keep are removed from the body. Prosthetics and medical devices that contain batteries or are mechanical will also be removed.
This is to stop the possibility of a reaction during the cremation process. However, pieces such as joints, screws, and pins will stay in the body.
Medical devices that have been removed may be recycled. The medical devices will never be reused as-is, though. They are usually melted down, taken apart, or disposed of in some other way.
The Cremation Chamber
Sometimes referred to as a retort, the cremation chamber is a powerful, industrial furnace. It’s big enough to hold one body.
The chamber is lined with bricks that are fire resistant and can withstand up to 2,000-degree temperatures.
Contemporary cremation chambers need to follow strict air quality and environmental standards.
The furnaces can be fueled by either diesel, propane, or natural gas.
Also, furnaces today are computerized and automated in order to achieve optimal results.
What Happens to the Metal?
Once the cremation is complete, all of the remains are then cooled. The operator will inspect the remains for pieces of metal that were left behind. They will remove the metal with a strong magnet or they might even do it by hand.
After the metal is removed, it will most likely be sent to a recycling plant.
What Kind of Container do the Remains Go In?
After the remains are ground, they are put into a plastic bag. That bag is then either put into a temporary container or an urn that the family has provided. Either way, this container is returned to the family of the deceased.
The Importance of Understanding How the Cremation Process Works
Both a traditional burial and the cremation process involved breaking down the body of the deceased. With a burial, that breaking down comes from decomposition. With cremation, it’s heat.
Choosing which process is right for you or a loved one will depend on several factors. Before making a decision, most people must consider the costs, family traditions, and their religious beliefs.
In the end, it’s ultimately your decision for what happens to your body after you pass. And by being informed, you will be able to make a more confident decision and not leave your loved ones trying to figure it out for you.
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