One of the most common sentiments we hear from families who have lost a loved one is: "I've never done this before. What happens next?". 

In addition to being emotionally overwhelming, the process of making arrangements for your loved one can be daunting and intimidating. Understanding the cremation process and knowing what to expect can assist in putting your mind at ease.

Below is a basic timeline of decisions that will need to be made and how the process works.


Identifying a Funeral or Cremation Provider

The first step in having your loved one placed at rest is identifying the funeral home or crematory you are most comfortable working with. This decision can be based on a number of factors, including location, reviews, process, relationships, comfort with the staff, website, cost, or a myriad of other factors.

Once you have made this decision, you will need to notify the hospice, hospital, police officer, or medical examiner of your decision. Although it's a good idea, often contacting the funeral home or crematory ahead of time is not necessary. No payment or agreement is required before the funeral home or crematory brings your loved one into their care.


Working with the Funeral Home or Crematory

Once you have selected a funeral home or crematory, you will be contacted by a funeral director or funeral arranger. They will likely be your primary point of contact to guide you through each step of the process. A time will be scheduled for either an in-person meeting or a phone conference to collect necessary information and make other important decisions.

These decisions are likely to include:

  • Deciding between cremation or burial
  • Selecting merchandise (casket, urn, flowers, memorial folders, etc.)
  • Planning services

Where After.com is a simple cremation provider, we will specifically focus on the cremation process. People who choose simple cremation often do so for both flexibility and cost. Choosing cremation allows a family to have the services on their timeline with the freedom to decide how and when they want the services to take place.


Selecting an Urn & Cremation Container

Even with a simple cremation, you will likely be asked to make at least two selections: the cremation container and the urn. So what's the difference?

The cremation container is the container that the individual is placed into before entering the crematory. Nearly every state has a minimum standard requirement for this container. It can range from a fiberboard (cardboard) container to a beautiful wooden casket. The minimum requirement may be higher for individuals over a certain weight in order to properly care for them. For example, a fiberboard container may only be suitable for individuals up to 200 lbs, thus requiring a wood-based container for larger individuals.

An urn is a container the cremated remains, or "ashes," are placed into after the cremation has taken place. The urn is much smaller than the cremation container. The urn selected is usually driven by the family's plans for the cremated remains. Different urns may be better suited for placement at home, scattering, burial in a cemetery, etc.


Documentation and Permits

The funeral home or crematory will work with the required government agencies and medical providers to collect the authorizations needed to proceed with the cremation. This generally takes a few days because multiple people must sign off before a permit can be issued.


Preparation for Cremation

Each crematory should have a very detailed process to ensure the cremation is handled in the most professional manner possible. In addition, an identification system should be used at each crematory to ensure complete accuracy throughout the process. 

Occasionally, it may be necessary to have certain medical devices, such as pacemakers, removed prior to the cremation. These devices can be dangerous under extreme heat. 

Your funeral director or funeral arranger may invite you to include personal items with your loved one for their cremation. However, there may be some limitations on what can and cannot be included. 


The Cremation Process

The practice of cremation has been around for centuries but has become the most popular form of disposition in just the last few years. By 2030 it is projected that over 80% of people will choose cremation.

Cremation is the process of introducing the body of a deceased individual to extreme heat to reduce the remains to an ash-like consistency. The crematory usually operates between 1400 and 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. The deceased, inside the cremation container, is placed into the chamber. After a couple of hours, only the calcified bone fragments and certain metals remain. These are swept out of the chamber into a sturdy metal container and safely set aside for cooling.

Using a strong magnet and other filtering processes, the metals are separated from the remaining bone fragments. The bone fragments are then entered into a processor, where they are reduced to a relatively fine ash-like consistency. The cremated remains are then placed into a thick plastic bag and placed into the urn of your choosing.

Though the cremation process is relatively simple, understanding the steps of the process can prepare you for the events ahead. 

At After.com, our primary responsibility is to put families at ease and be here as a guide during your time of loss. We are here to answer any questions you may have and provide you with the support you need. If you have questions about our direct cremation services or would like to request a quote on a prepaid cremation plan, contact us today.