When someone dies, it's necessary to decide what the final disposition of the body of the deceased will be. As more people begin to consider being cremated, you may be wondering how morticians prepare a body for cremation. This process can differ in a number of meaningful ways from what we're typically more familiar with, which is a traditional burial within a gravesite. Read on to learn how a body is prepared for cremation and what the rest of the process entails.
How Do Morticians Prepare a Body for Cremation?
When cremation is chosen for the final disposition of the deceased, the body goes through a specific preparation process. Typically, a mortician would follow these steps to prepare a body for cremation:
1. The body is completely sanitized and then wrapped in a shroud of some sort, often made from white cotton.
2. The wrapped body is placed within a combustible casket or container that is specifically designed for cremation. These containers can be made from pressed wood, cardboard, or anything else that will combust within the cremation chamber.
3. The casket or container is placed within the cremation chamber.
4. Depending on the crematorium and/or the wishes of the loved ones of the deceased, there may be a small ceremony at this time, with some crematoriums providing methods for viewing this part of the process from a safe distance.
5. The cremation chamber uses heat and flame to break down the remains over the course of several hours.
6. Once the chamber has cooled, the remains, commonly referred to as ashes, are gathered and placed into a receptacle, often a special urn the family has selected, possibly with an engraving on it.
Preparing a Memorial Service Before a Body is Cremated
Whether you choose a traditional burial or a cremation, the goal is the same: to lay a loved one to rest. The biggest difference between the two is that, instead of the cremation process outlined above, a traditional burial involves placing the body of the deceased into a casket and then lowering it into a grave. Most of the time, a traditional burial involves the embalming of a body, placing that body in a casket, potentially having a viewing of the body, and ultimately transporting that body to a cemetery for interment. Cremation can avoid the embalming process, and can also make it significantly easier to transport the deceased.
However, another key aspect of preparing a body for cremation is deciding ahead of time what type of memorial service should be held.
For example, if a loved one is to be cremated but you still wish to have a viewing, you absolutely can. You just have to prepare the body prior to the cremation. You need to know in advance what type of memorial services you want to be held.
In this scenario, perhaps one way that the body is prepared before cremation is to be embalmed and placed within a casket, so that a traditional viewing can still be held. Only after the viewing is complete can the mortician prepare the body for cremation.
Additionally, a memorial service can still occur after the cremation. You can have a service at a funeral home or a gravesite, regardless of whether the deceased will be cremated or buried. If the loved one's cremated remains are not being buried, there can still be a service at the site of a cremation niche or columbarium, or at a cemetery's scattering garden.
All this to say there are two ways to consider how a body is prepared for cremation:
The physical act of preparing the body, in terms of sanitizing it, wrapping it in a shroud, and placing it within a container
The process of preparing for the memorial service, be embalming and viewing beforehand, and/or memorial service after
Why People Choose Cremation as an Option
Cremation has always been a viable option as a funerary practice, even if it might not have always been as popular as a traditional burial. Cremation has become more widespread as of late because of several important reasons as an alternative to traditional burial, most notably because the cost of a cremation is usually less expensive than that of a traditional burial. This is often an important part of the decision-making process, especially for families who may not have the resources to afford a casket burial.
Other reasons why people may choose cremation as an option include environmentally conscious ones. Unless being buried, cremated remains take up much less space than an intact body, and even if you do choose to bury the cremated remains of a deceased loved one, the impact on the environment tends to be less than with a full casket burial. The smoke released from cremation is relatively low in pollutants, which makes it an attractive choice for anyone who might have been environmentally conscious in life and doesn't want to contribute to the problem in death. This is a potential reason to avoid embalming while preparing the body for cremation.
Think About Cremation
The steps that go into preparing the body of a loved one for cremation are, it turns out, not that different from those needed to prepare for a traditional burial. The key is to decide ahead of time what type of memorial service or services you wish to have, and plan for them accordingly.
For more information on how the cremation process works and whether it's an appropriate choice for your own needs, we recommend speaking with an experienced funeral director. For a list of funeral homes near you, complete with staff who can assist in any part of the planning process, consult this useful local funeral home and cemetery tool.
While you're here, it may be useful to consider an advance burial plan. Planning a loved one's or even your own funeral in advance has several benefits, including:
Paying or locking in today's prices, instead of years or decades of inflation
Relieving your loved ones of the stress of having to make decisions on what you might have wanted
Ensuring your story is told your way, with your choices