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Your guide to cremation: Part 2

Your guide to the cremation process Part 2

Deciding on cremation can be difficult and leave you with many questions.  Even if you have already made the decision, you may have uncertainty about the details.

To help, we have compiled some of the most common questions asked about cremation. At eziFunerals we provide a great deal of information that can help you decide if cremation is right for you and your family.

What is cremation?

Cremation is the process of reducing the body to ashes and bone fragments through the use of intense heat. The process usually takes from two to four hours. The cremated remains are then pulverised to break up larger bone fragments to a granular texture.

“Cremains” is another word for “cremated remains” or “ashes.”

Direct cremation is immediate cremation with no service of any kind. The cost is usually much lower than other services because there is no embalming, no visitation, no use of funeral facilities or staff. Learn more about direct cremation.

A crematory is a facility that performs cremations of human or animal remains. The cremation process uses a combination of high-temperature burning, vaporisation, and oxidation, which reduces the body to its basic components.

No. You can still have a funeral or memorial service if a person has been cremated. The cremated remains may be placed in an urn and can be present at the service or not, depending on the wishes of the deceased or the family. Cremation actually offers more flexibility than burial when planning a funeral or memorial service because there is no time frame that requires burial within a few days of death.

You can have the funeral service at either time you choose.

Yes. As with a traditional burial, you can still choose to have a final viewing prior to cremation; but in this case, you may need to have the body embalmed and either purchase or rent a casket for the viewing. If cremation is performed prior to the funeral or memorial service, you can choose to have the urn with the deceased’s ashes present at the service, or not.

Yes. In such cases, the urn is often displayed in a central place of honour. The family may also want to personalise the service by including memorabilia and photographs in the display alongside the urn.

The main difference is in the in the disposition of the body – cremation or burial. The latter often includes embalming. For the funeral ceremony itself, you can have a traditional funeral, just as if the body is present. As with a traditional burial, you can still choose to have a final viewing prior to cremation; in this case, you may need to have the body embalmed and either purchase or rent a casket for the viewing. If cremation is performed prior to the funeral or memorial service, you can choose to have the urn with the deceased’s ashes present at the service, or not. You can also still have a graveside service if the urn is interred in a burial plot or columbarium.

Memorialisation options include:

  • Place the ashes in an urn
  • Scatter the ashes
  • Bury the urn
  • Place the urn in a cremation niche, or columbarium
  • Keep a portion of the ashes in cremation (keepsake) jewellery

Other unusual and creative options include making a synthetic diamond from the ashes, storing the ashes in a specially designed stuffed teddy bear, mixing them into tattoo ink, and including ashes in a fireworks display.

Yes. Also known as “alternative containers,” these coffins are made of combustible materials such as pressed wood, fibreboard, cardboard, or wood. They are usually simple and lack ornamentation. The container with the body inside is placed in the cremation chamber. The container is also burned during the cremation process.

A columbarium is a building or structure with niches (small spaces) for placing cremated remains stored in urns or other approved containers. It may be located outdoors, or it may be part of a mausoleum.

A niche is a space in a columbarium, mausoleum, or niche wall to hold an urn.

No. However, if there is a delay between time of death and time of cremation, the body will need to be preserved in some way until cremation can take place. In some situations, embalming may be necessary if the family wishes to have a viewing prior to cremation, or if the body is being transported a long distance.

The body does not have to be embalmed for cremation unless the circumstances require it. Prior to cremation, any implants that use batteries (such as pacemakers) must be removed from the body. If left in the body, batteries may explode during cremation and cause damage to the cremation chamber or injury to the crematory operator. The body is usually placed in a container made of combustible materials (fiberboard, pressed wood, etc.) before it goes into the cremation chamber. In some states a container is not required.

Yes. Many crematories have special, small-sized retorts (cremation chambers) that are especially designed for foetal remains or the bodies of infants.

Temperatures inside the cremation chamber are maintained between between 800 and 1000 degree Celsius.

On average, it takes anywhere from one to three hours to completely cremate the human body, depending on such factors as the weight or size of the body, the percentage of body fat to lean muscle mass, the efficiency and performance of the cremation equipment, the temperature inside the cremation chamber, and the type of container or casket holding the body.

Human cremations must always be performed individually. The law requires that only one human body can be placed in the cremation chamber at one time.

The body is first placed in a combustible casket or container prior to going into the cremation chamber. The cremation chamber is preheated to a set temperature between 800 and 1000 degree Celsius. This temperature will be maintained throughout the cremation process.

After the cremation chamber has been fully heated, the container with the body inside is quickly transferred into the heated chamber through a mechanised door. Inside the cremation chamber, the body is constantly exposed to extremely high temperatures from open flames generated by a furnace. It usually takes somewhere between one and three hours to cremate a body completely.

During the cremation process, the container holding the body burns first. Then the heat from the flames dries the body, burns the skin and hair, contracts and chars the muscles, and vaporises the soft tissues.

The heat then calcifies the bones into mineral fragments, which are collected in a tray or pan and allowed to cool down. Once cooled, the fragments are processed or ground to a consistent granular form, commonly called “cremated remains” or “ashes,” and are then returned to the family in either a temporary container or an urn.

Some non-organic fragments, such as dental work, dental gold, surgical screws, prostheses, implants, etc. will also remain. Metal fragments such as hinges, screws, etc. from the container may also be mixed in with the cremated remains. These metal fragments are removed from the cremated remains using a magnet, and are disposed of in accordance with local laws.

Unless the body has been embalmed, refrigeration serves as a temporary means of preventing it from decomposing until cremation can take place.

The cremated remains that you receive are not really ashes in the common sense of the word and do not look like ashes. They have been processed into granular particles with a consistency similar to sand.

Cremated remains that have been processed have the appearance and consistency of coarse sand, and are a whitish colour.

The cremated remains resemble brittle bones but are actually mineral fragments. They are processed or ground to a uniform granular consistency (“ashes”) in a device known as a “cremulator.” The processed remains are then placed in a temporary or permanent urn and returned to the family.

Depending on the cemetery’s policies, you may be able to have your cremated remains put into an urn and buried in the same grave space on top of your spouse’s casket. As an alternative, if there is space next to your spouse, you may be able to bury the urn in the available space.

Most airlines will allow you to transport cremated remains, either as air cargo, or as carry-on or checked luggage (traveling with you). You should check with the airline to determine their exact policies on either shipping or handling as luggage, and make sure the contents are identified as cremated remains.

Yes. But because each country has its own rules and regulations, transporting cremated remains can be complicated both from a logistical and a legal standpoint. Contact the embassy for each country you will be transporting the cremated remains to or from. Their embassy is your best source to find out what specific rules, legal requirements, and any other authorisations may be required. When shipping cremated remains internationally, it is advisable that you work with a funeral home, cremation provider, or a company that specialises in the shipment of human remains.

  • More families are choosing direct cremation, where there is no funeral service involved. In some situations, the crematory ships the ashes straight back to the family unless arrangements are made to pick them up.
  • In case of a death away from home, the next of kin might decide to have their loved one’s body cremated and the ashes shipped, due to the higher expense of having to embalm and transport a body back home.
  • A family may elect to distribute the cremated remains of a loved one between other family members at other locations in Australia or another country.
  • A person may want to send the cremated remains to an artisan or craftsperson who will incorporate the ashes into jewellery or other works of art.

Any reputable and responsible cremation facility will have a set of operating procedures and policies in place (also known as “chain of custody”). These processes are designed to reduce or eliminate human error while providing the client with the highest level of service. If you have any concerns or questions about this issue, ask your funeral home or cremation provider to explain their chain of custody process to you.

According to the World Health Organization, there are no health advantages to cremation over burial, although in some areas of the world cremation may be preferred due to religious or cultural reasons. In the case of a medical epidemic, it is better for the community to leave handling of the bodies to trained medical staff who understand infection control and can make sure that proper practices are in place during transport and disposition of the body.

Yes. The cremation process destroys any bacteria or microscopic organisms that were present in the body.

No. Cremated remains are essentially sterile, having been purified during the cremation process.

On average, the cremated remains, or ashes, of an adult weigh between 1.8 kg and 2.7 kg.

Yes. After the cremation is completed and the cremation chamber has cooled down, all the cremated remains are gathered from the chamber and processed into a uniform granular consistency. The crematory or funeral home then returns the ashes to the family or designated representative in either a temporary container or permanent urn.

Yes. You are not required to bury cremated remains or inter them in a columbarium. If you choose to take the ashes home, you will receive the ashes in either a temporary container or a permanent urn, depending on your instructions.

Yes. Every state has different laws regarding the cremation of human bodies.

Depending on the situation and the laws of your state, it may be possible to exhume a body under certain circumstances and have it cremated. Cremation is recommended if the purpose for exhuming the body is to transport the remains. Due to the natural processes of decay, transporting an exhumed body is more expensive and challenging than transporting the cremated remains of the body once exhumed.

No. Cremation is an irreversible process. It reduces the body down to its basic elements, destroying all organic matter so all that remains is inorganic mineral elements and bone fragments. The heat in a cremation chamber may range from between 800 and 1000 degree Celsius. Any DNA is thus destroyed by the cremation process.

With burial, you can exhume a body and still extract identifying information, even though natural decay processes are present. With cremation, you cannot extract any identifying information from the cremated remains of a person, nor can you distinguish between the cremated remains of one person from another.

We hope that our Cremation Guide has helped answer some of your most important cremation questions. If you have cremation questions regarding a particular provider you are considering, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask. You should never be made to feel uncomfortable about wanting to know more about the process

Affordable Funeral and Cremation Service Providers


About eziFunerals

eziFunerals supports individuals and families coping with end of life decisions, death and funerals. We are an independent, Australian-owned and operated company. We are not part of any other funeral company.

Our member Funeral Directors operate in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Australia wide. They are chosen for their knowledge, quality, service, personalisation and experience. They go above and beyond, and will take the time to support the family.

For more information or to make contact with a trusted Independent funeral director, call eziFunerals on 1300 236 402 or visit www.ezifunerals.com.au.