Cremation: What Happens?
People sometimes have questions about cremation, either because they have heard things that worry them, or are curious, as it's not something that is spoken about much.
Below is a link to a short film of the cremation process.
If you are recently bereaved, or your grief is still raw, consider if this is the right time to watch it.
Before you watch, it’s worth knowing that this is a no-frills old US crematory, without commentary, so you still may have questions.
I'm always happy to answer questions. I’m ‘Death Positive’ – I believe people are empowered by knowing, and that death, dying and bereavement should be talked about, so people are equipped with information and choices.
As the area’s Coffin Club ‘Celebrant Plus’, I’m here to advise and signpost anyone in the local community about funerary issues; you don’t have to be arranging a funeral or have me leading a ceremony to chat to me.
Likewise, your funeral director and the staff at the crematorium are there to help.
Don't be afraid to ask them. There's nothing weird or morbid about wanting to know what happens, and it may allay any fears.
I was probably a bit scared of the idea of cremation and held some myths myself, until I witnessed it in full. I was honoured, when I first started, to be given permission to watch the full procedure for one lady (including taking regular peeps into the cremator to see what happened to her body, as you’ll see in the video).
The set up back of house varies considerably, from modern shiny spacious crematory rooms with large steel chargers, and a sequence of stations for processing the remains, to a more functional affair in a smaller space.
There is legislation that regulates administrative and practical procedures to ensure public health & safety and dignity in dealing with the deceased, cremation, and ashes return.
A little slip follows the deceased and is checked at each stage from the moment the coffin or person (or pet) arrives by hearse or private ambulance.
When the curtains close (if it's a funeral service, and you've requested that), nothing happens immediately. Forget what you've seen in films about seeing a coffin slide right through the doors into flames!
Often there's a cool room, anteroom or corridor to the crematory area. Staff move the coffin onto a trolley. That may be cremated straight away, or there may be a short wait till later that same day.
It depends on several factors including the number of cremator units, how busy that day is, coffin or shroud material, and some characteristics of the deceased that may affect unit efficiency, so the order of cremation may be optimised. Different body compositions, different diseases etc affect the time it takes, and the temperature of the unit.
Rear of house, there are trained staff who operate the crematory. For some faiths, a family member may be there to witness the charging procedure.
Only one person is cremated at a time in each cremator.
Cremation of an adult human takes about 85-90 minutes.
The remains are raked into a receptacle underneath before further processing.
Metal components that can be recycled are then removed in a machine that separates the remains. These usually go to raise funds for charity.
The remains then go into a cremulator which reduces them to ashes (or cremains).
For children, or body parts, there may be minimal or no ashes. Likewise for a small pet funeral.
Otherwise, the ashes then go into a container for collection by the funeral director or other person authorised to collect or scatter them.
Some people request that the crematorium scatter the ashes. The staff will record where and give you a map.
For people who wish to have them returned, they can then choose whether to transfer the ashes to a decorative urn, have an ashes interment ceremony, or scatter them at a place significant to the deceased, such as a beauty spot, or at sea.
Some retain a little to be made into jewellery or paperweights.
That’s just a very brief summary. If there’s anything else you’d like to know, or other topics you’d like covering (video tours of crematoria, or interviews with staff?), let me know.
The 5-minute cremation video.
The contact for bereavement services at Grimsby Crematorium. You'll also find the link for pet funerals at Treasured Memories. If it’s urgent, call. If it’s a general enquiry, send an email.
Bereavement services | NELC (nelincs.gov.uk)
Link to cremation FAQs:
Coffin Club and Celebrant Plus Directory
Local Ashes Jewellery
#funeral #cremation #ashes
Welcome to the blog - enjoy! Contact me if there's anything you'd like me to cover about celebrant-led ceremonies.