Like burial, cremation is only one element of the funeral process and should be approached that way. When made part of a meaningful funeral service, cremation can play a vital role in the healing journey. Some may feel that by cremating a body, they are somehow eliminating the pain associated with their loss. Cremation is not a way of eliminating your grief, but a process of preparing your loved one for his or her final resting place. Cremation is just one step in the commemorative process – an important step in preparing the remains for memorialization.
Families that choose cremation have many options and much flexibility when determining how to best memorialize the life of their loved one. Some families choose to have a viewing or funeral service before the cremation. Others choose a memorial service at the time of cremation or afterward with the urn present, or even a committal service at the final disposition of cremated remains. Often, funeral or memorial services can be held in a place of worship, a funeral home, a crematory chapel or even at a place of special significance to your loved one.
Take some time to consider how you’d like to memorialize your loved one. Will you have a service or gathering of family and friends prior to cremation? Will there be a public or private viewing? What kind of urn will you select? Will the cremated remains be interred? Like so many other events in your life, being an educated consumer is important.
Most religions accept cremation, with the exception of the Islamic, Orthodox Jewish, Eastern Orthodox and some fundamentalist Christian faiths. Though the Roman Catholic Church expresses a preference for burial, it now allows cremation for reasons compatible with church teachings. It does not sanction the scattering of remains, however, and prefers the presence of the body during the liturgy, prior to cremation.
The cost of cremation varies depending on the services and products selected by the family. Funeral homes should provide an itemized list that includes the costs of the services and products offered.
People selecting cremation for themselves or a loved one have the same options for services and merchandise as those who select casket burial. What many people do not realize is that cremation is a process and is not the final disposition of the human remains. A determination will need to be made as to the person’s final resting place. This important place will be used to memorialize the life lived and will serve as a place for family and friends to visit and honor the memory of their loved one.
Some of the most commonly chosen options for the final resting place for cremated remains include:
- Earth Burial – Some cemeteries have a designated area with burial spaces specifically designed for the placement of cremated remains. In addition, arrangements can sometimes be made to place an urn in the family lot where other persons in caskets may have their final resting place.
- Indoor/Outdoor Columbarium – A columbarium is similar to a mausoleum for caskets. The smaller spaces or niches are used to place the urn and may have a glass or a granite front. Some niches may have additional room for personal items to be placed with the urn. Like a mausoleum, a columbarium may be outdoors or within a climate-controlled building.
- Scattering – Some people choose to scatter all or a portion of their loved one’s cremated remains in a special location. It is important to check with your NFDA funeral director to ensure that this act is permitted in the location of your choosing. Caution should also be exercised when scattering as it is a final irrevocable act. Be certain that this is what you want to do before proceeding.
- Other Options – Determining the final resting place of your loved one is a personal decision. Some people chose to keep the urn at their home for a period of time. This is ultimately your decision but it is recommended that you give consideration as to your long-term plans for the urn or multiple urns you have in your home. A trusted advisor or family member should have clear instructions as to what should happen to the urn or urns after your death.
The crematory that is utilized will usually have a requirement that the deceased be placed in a rigid container for the cremation process. Either a cremation casket or container will fulfill this requirement.
Cremation caskets and containers are both typically made of wood, fiberboard or a composite of materials. A cremation casket has a finished interior and closely resembles a casket used for earth burial. A cremation container is designed to fulfill the crematories’ minimum requirements and typically does not have an interior lining or has a minimally finished interior.
A person who chooses to have viewing, visitation and/or funeral services in their church or funeral home prior to cremation will typically select a cremation casket. Some funeral directors also have a ceremonial or rental cremation caskets available as an option.
Your NFDA funeral director can assist you in making a selection of a cremation casket or container that is appropriate for the arrangements you have chosen.
There are many urn options available in a broad price spectrum. Metal, glass, wood, granite, marble and other materials are commonly utilized in urn construction. There are also specialty urns available that reflect a personal statement on a person's life, hobbies, etc.
Should you select earth burial for a final resting place for your loved one, the cemetery may require an outer burial container to surround the urn or container in the ground. This would be a smaller version of those utilized for caskets.
Your NFDA funeral director will inform you if this cemetery requirement exists and describe your options.
Alternatives to Cremation
Alkaline hydrolysis is a recently developed water-based dissolution process for human remains that uses alkaline chemicals, heat, and sometimes agitation and/or pressure to accelerate natural decomposition. Bone residue which remains is similar to the volume customarily obtained after cremation; it is pulverized, then made available to the family to retain in an urn or for disposition by interment, scattering or other means.
Similar to cremation and casket burial, persons choosing the alkaline hydrolysis process have the same options for funeral services, viewing and merchandise. Similarly, one must also determine the final resting place for their loved ones remains after the process is complete.