A family spreads the cremated ashes of a loved one at a Better Place Forests Memorial Tree

How Does Cremation Work: Everything You Need to Know

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If you have been meaning to explore a non-traditional end-of-life plan for yourself or your loved one, you might have come across cremation and wondered — “How does cremation work?” Data shows that people are not only exploring non-traditional funeral practices but are leaning even more towards them. In fact, cremation rates in the US are expected to rise from 60.5% in 2023 to 81.4% by 2045. 

The cremation process harnesses the elemental force of heat to return our bodies to their most fundamental constituents—a journey that bridges the tangible with the intangible. Furthermore, these precious remains, held in special cremation urns, may find their resting place in the sanctity of a standard cemetery plot, or they may journey toward new horizons, perhaps becoming the heartwood of a memorial tree in a serene forest.

In this article, we will be traversing the intricate workings of cremation and gaining an understanding of this sacred process.

Different Types of Cremation

While the cremation process itself is consistent, the rituals, ceremonies, and choices surrounding cremation can vary widely, ranging from traditional and solemn observances to modern and eco-conscious practices.

Let’s explore the different types of cremation: 

  1. Traditional Cremation: This option includes services, viewings, and body preparation, with the body present for farewells — allowing friends and family to pay their respects before the cremation takes place.
  2. Memorial Cremation: In this case, the body is cremated within a week or two, followed by a separate memorial service. Unlike traditional cremations, there are no in-person services with the body present. 
  3. Direct Cremation: Direct cremation is a straightforward and cost-effective option. It focuses solely on the essential cremation process without additional services or ceremonies, providing a simplified approach.
  4. Cremation In the Name of Science: While less common, bodies are donated to science, involving cremation as part of the process, often at no cost. It offers a unique opportunity to leave a lasting legacy.

After "how does cremation work" people ask what to do with the cremated ashes of a loved one. One option is spreading ashes in a Better Place Forests Forest Memorial.

How much does cremation cost?

When considering funeral expenses, exploring the range of costs associated with each type is crucial. Traditional funerals, which typically encompass viewings, memorial services, and body preparation, can range from $5,000 to $15,000 or more, depending on the location and specific services chosen. 

In contrast, Direct Cremations, which involve the cremation process without additional services, often range from $1,000 to $3,500, offering a more affordable alternative.

A recent study reveals that the average price of a full-service cremation in the United States is approximately $6,219. The average cost of a direct cremation is notably lower, with an average price of $2,184. These figures underscore the significant cost differences between various funeral options.

The History of Cremation

The history of cremation dates back thousands of years and spans across various cultures and civilizations. While the practice of cremating the deceased is often associated with ancient societies like the Greeks and Romans, evidence suggests that cremation was prevalent even earlier, dating back to around 3000 BCE in parts of Europe and Asia. 

In ancient Greece, cremation was considered a purifying and liberating process, freeing the soul from the body. However, as Christianity spread across Europe, cremation faced opposition and declined in favor of traditional burial practices. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that cremation experienced a resurgence in popularity, driven by hygiene concerns and a desire for more efficient land use. 

Today, cremation is a widely accepted and practiced method for handling the deceased, reflecting a complex historical journey influenced by cultural, religious, and practical considerations.

How Does The Cremation Process Work: A Comprehensive Guide

The cremation process is a meticulously orchestrated sequence of steps, each designed to ensure a respectful and efficient transition from physical presence to cherished memories. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the intricate journey of cremation, which encompasses a series of detailed steps:

Identification and Authorization

The process begins with rigorous preparations, including proper identification of the deceased to avoid errors. Legal paperwork, such as permits and authorizations, is meticulously completed to comply with local regulations.

Cremation Casket Selection and Preparation

Families are presented with the option to choose an appropriate cremation container, which can be crafted from materials like hardwood or other combustible materials. Any metal objects, such as dental work or implants, are removed from the deceased’s body to ensure safe cremation.

Transfer to the Cremation Chamber

The cremation container, along with the deceased, is reverently positioned inside the cremation chamber, often referred to as the retort. Modern cremation chambers have advanced temperature and timing controls, ensuring precise and efficient cremation processes. The chamber is preheated to prepare for the cremation process.

Heating and Cremation

At the heart of cremation lies the application of intense heat. The cremation chamber is heated to exceptionally high temperatures, typically ranging from 1,800 to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (982 to 1,093 degrees Celsius).

These extreme temperatures cause the body’s soft tissue to vaporize, transforming it into gases and leaving behind only bone fragments. Depending on various factors, cremation typically takes one to three hours.

Cooling and Fragment Extraction:

After cremation, the chamber is allowed to cool down gradually. Once the chamber reaches a safe temperature, the remaining bone fragments are respectfully extracted. Any metal objects, such as dental fillings, implants, or artificial joints, are meticulously removed from the remains and handled separately.

Processing and Reduction to Ashes

The collected bone fragments undergo further processing to reduce them to a fine powder-like consistency, commonly known as cremated remains or ashes. Care is taken to ensure the ashes are homogenized, providing families with a uniform and respectful representation of their loved ones.

Collection and Urn Selection

The transformed cremated remains are carefully collected and placed in a designated urn or container. Families have the freedom to choose an urn that aligns with their preferences, ranging from simple and understated designs to more elaborate options.

Labeling and Finalization

The urn containing the cremated remains is labeled with the deceased’s name and other identifying information. Families may decide on the disposition method for the ashes, which can include forest memorials, scattering, or placement in a niche within a columbarium or memorial wall. For personalized forest memorials, Better Place Forests craft meaningful services, interring ashes at the base of a dedicated tree to rejoin the natural cycle.

What happens to the remains after cremation?

After the cremation process concludes and the remains of the deceased are respectfully transferred to an urn, families often embark on a journey to memorialize their loved one’s life. This post-cremation phase is a deeply personal and meaningful part of the grieving process, where families find ways to cherish and commemorate their dear departed. 

Here’s a glimpse into what happens to the remains after cremation:

  1. Forest Memorials: In a forest memorial, the cremated remains are placed beneath a thoughtfully chosen tree, fostering the growth and renewal of a natural forest environment. This serene and eco-conscious choice provides families with a lasting connection to nature, where the memory of their cherished one thrives alongside the flourishing forest. 

    A forest memorial table is set up with the cremated ashes of a loved one, in a Better Place Forests Memorial Forest.

  1. Memorial Services: Families may choose to hold memorial services or gatherings to honor and celebrate the life of the deceased. These services provide a platform for sharing memories, stories, and tributes, allowing friends and family to come together in remembrance.

  2. Cremation Jewelry: Some families opt to incorporate a portion of the cremated remains into memorial jewelry. These unique pieces, such as pendants or bracelets, offer a tangible connection to the departed and can be worn daily.

  3. Artistic Creations: Cremated remains can be infused into artwork, creating personalized and lasting tributes. Artists can transform ashes into paintings, glass sculptures, or other creative expressions, providing a one-of-a-kind way to remember the departed.

  4. Keepsakes and Mementos: Families may keep a small portion of the cremated remains in keepsake urns or containers. These can be displayed in homes or passed down through generations, ensuring the memory endures.

  5. Scattering or Burial: Some families decide to scatter the ashes in a meaningful location, such as a favorite natural setting or a place of significance to the deceased. Others may choose traditional burial or placement in a columbarium, allowing for a permanent memorial.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you now feel like you have an answer to the question “how does cremation work?” In a world where tradition meets innovation, cremation stands as a versatile and eco-conscious option, accommodating a range of preferences and values. It allows us to create meaningful departures that align with the essence of our existence. 

Whether you’re seeking a more meaningful end-of-life plan or wish to explore the concept of choosing a memorial tree, we invite you to connect with one of our advisors. Feel free to schedule a complimentary online consultation to learn more.


What is removed from a body before cremation?

Before cremation, metal objects like dental fillings, implants, and artificial joints are carefully extracted from the body. This step is essential to ensure the safety and integrity of the cremation process. For a comprehensive explanation, we recommend checking the full article.

Do they remove teeth before cremation?

Yes, dental work that contains metal is typically removed before cremation. Metal in teeth can withstand the high cremation temperatures and may need to be separated from the remains. The full article provides more insights into this process.

How long does it take to cremate a body?

The cremation process duration varies, usually from one to three hours. Factors like the size of the cremation chamber and the body’s composition influence the time required. For a detailed breakdown and understanding, we recommend reading the full article.

How does cremation work?

Short summary: Cremation is the process of taking a body and reducing it to its elements, typically via heat. “Cremains” or ashes are the byproduct of cremation.

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