How Does the Cremation Process Work?

It can be difficult to decide what memorialization method is the right for your loved one to honor their life and memory in the most meaningful way. If you are considering cremation for your loved one, you may have questions about how the process works, and what it entails. We will explore the subject of the process of cremation in more depth here in this article to help you determine if cremation is the right method of memorialization for you and your loved one. 

What is Cremation? 

Cremation is the transformation of a body’s remains into ashes as opposed to memorializing the deceased in a more traditional way such as a burial. In the most common type of cremation, a body is incinerated at very high temperatures. The result is finely ground ashes sealed in a safe and sanitary container that is turned over to the beneficiaries.

The vessel in which a body is cremated is called the Cremation Chamber, the facility where the cremation takes place is the Crematorium and may include other rooms such as a chapel or viewing room.

The Cremation Process

The procedures vary by state and practitioner but follow these common steps. 


The deceased’s body will be identified, usually by a member of the family. At that time, a metal ID tag is placed with the body and will stay with the remains throughout the cremation.


Official authorization is required before cremation begin.A beneficiary will fill out papers granting permission for the cremation to proceed. Regulations for this process vary from state as does the person who will be entitled to authorize the cremation. At this time a container is selected for the ashes. The authorization also specifies who will be responsible for picking up the ashes.


Professionals will clean and dress the body, but not use embalming chemicals unless requested to do so. Jewelry is usually removed and given to beneficiaries although other arrangements can be made. As medical devices or prosthetics may be unsafe in the cremation chamber, those are removed as well. 


Cremation takes place in a specially designed, fully automated chamber lined with fire-proof bricks. Sometimes called a retort, temperatures inside the chamber can reach up to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Cremation chambers are fueled by propane, natural gas, or diesel fuel and are subject to the state’s environmental and air quality standards. The process usually takes roughly 2-3 hours.


The ashes contain mostly pieces of bone. After the remains cool, they are inspected. Any metal fragments, often pins or screws resulting from surgery, are removed. Further grinding reduces the remains to the final ashes. There are usually between three and nine pounds of ashes resulting from cremation. The ashes will be placed in a sealed, air-tight container. This can then be placed in any type of urn or box that the beneficiaries wish. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Cremation

Is the body wearing clothes during cremation?

There is an option to dress the loved one when a viewing is planned. Any clothing must be completely combustible.

Can multiple bodies be cremated at the same time?

No. It is not legal in the US. Each body is cremated separately.

Is the coffin burned?

Yes. There are special caskets for the cremation process. Other combustible non-toxic containers may be used instead.

Are there other methods of cremation?

Yes. In Liquid Cremation, decomposition is rapidly achieved using water, alkali chemicals, heat, and pressure. Green Cremation is similar to Liquid Cremation, the remains are further processed so the only byproduct is a sterile solution that can be recycled through wastewater treatment. Not all states allow Liquid or Green Cremation.

What are some choices for relocating the remains?

As opposed to the traditional method of burial, choosing cremation offers a wide variety of ways you can continue to honor your loved one through scattering the ashes amongst different sentimental locations or sharing between family members. Remains can be scattered in nature, built into a sculpture, planted with a tree, set in a locket, or converted to a gemstone heirloom. Remains can also be buried. Note that there may be local regulations pertaining to burial.

What To Consider When Deciding About Cremation

  • Start by considering the directives or wishes of the deceased. 
  • You may take religious beliefs, customs or traditions into consideration as some religions oppose cremation while others more strongly encourage the practice. 
  • Factor the cost into your decision as cremation can be considerably less costly than a traditional burial.
  • Determine the schedule. As the traditional method of burial is more time-sensitive while cremation is not, choosing cremation may offer families more flexibility in planning memorial services.
  • Your state’s laws may impact your decision — Liquid or Green Cremation are only allowed in some states.
  • Plan for memorializing: beneficiaries can choose from among urns and containers for the ashes, opt for dispersing them in a meaningful place, or transforming them into something durable like a park bench.

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