When we lose beloved members of our family, not only do we find ourselves facing the shock and sadness of coping with their passing, but there are also so many arrangements that must be made. What to do with the remains is only one of those many decisions, and it can be a challenge when you have so little information.
To help you decide the best approach for you and your family, we’ve compiled this resource to inform you of all the different aspects of cremation. Everything from how cremation works to selecting a funeral urn for ashes is important to know to make a confident decision.
How does cremation work?
Although we might not want to think too hard about the actual process of cremation, it can be helpful to know just how it is done. By eliminating the mystery behind it, it can be easier to come to terms with the process.
First, after someone has passed, the crematorium must have a signature from next-of-kin to approve the cremation process. When this is signed and the process for a death certificate has begun, a crematorium usually must wait 24-48 hours after death (depending on what state you live in) before a body may be cremated.
The body is placed into a combustible container, which is inserted into the crematorium, where intense, high heat reduces the body to bone fragments. It typically takes only a few hours, then the bone fragments are ground into “ashes” which are carefully collected and inserted into a temporary urn or cremation container until the formal funeral urn is chosen for the ashes.
What are the ashes?
Because of rigid laws governing cremation practices, procedures are set in place to ensure that there are no mixes or mix ups. You do not receive parts of the ashes of other people along with your family members. The ashes are composed of bone, as the rest of the body and the temporary container holding the body are incinerated entirely. All the ashes are collected and given to the family members upon completion.
What do we do with the funeral ashes?
What makes ashes a great choice for some families is that it still allows there to be a formal ceremony. Some families elect to have a formal funeral at a cemetery, and place the remains in a moratorium at the end of the ceremony. Other families prefer to have a ceremony and finish with spreading the ashes in a special location. Many families chose to have a funeral ceremony, then have the ashes placed in a carefully selected engraved urn which is then placed in the family home. The choices are broad and can be altered to suit each family and their individual needs.
What do I need to consider when selecting an urn?
There are a handful of logistical considerations for picking an urn, as well as some personal ones. Some of these include:
Size: Urns come in different sizes based on the size of the individual being cremated. For example, the most common adult size holds the ashes of an adult 200-220 pounds, which is about 15 cups. There are larger sizes available for larger individuals, and smaller sizes for smaller individuals.
Shape: There is the traditional urn shape offered, as well as a number of less traditional shapes, like teardrops or tealights or egg-shapes. The shape you desire might depend on the home setting and decor style you have, or it might depend on where you intend to place the urn.
Color: Some urns are available in a range of colors, from blues, to purples, reds, oranges, greens, or neutral colors, like whites, browns, and blacks. There are also various textures available in many of those colors. Many families choose an urn that was the favorite color of their loved one, or that matches their spirit.
Material: Urns come in a range of durable materials, from metal urns, to brass urns, to wood or marble or stone. Again, this often depends on what material preference you might have, and if you don’t then it depends on which style of urn you like.
Engraving: Engraved urns are sometimes an important consideration for families who want to have a special message, name, or date displayed to personalize the urn. Not every urn can be engraved, so if this is important, then only certain urns should be looked at.
There are some simple tips and tricks to follow that can help with the process of picking the right, urn, so be sure to use the resources available.
Is cremation harmful to the environment?
This is an important consideration for a lot of families who want to ensure that the method they choose won’t be harmful to the environment. When compared to traditional burials, cremation is far less harmful, and the more environmentally-friendly option. The size of the caskets, the materials in the casket, the chemicals in the embalming, and the burial into the earth are all damaging parts of traditional burials. While the process for cremation is not carbon neutral, it is a far better choice for the environment. If you want to bury the ashes or send them out into sea, there are also incredible options for biodegradable cremation urns that are also eco-friendly.
Where should we put the ashes?
When families decide to scatter the ashes of their loved one, there are essentially four options: to keep them in an urn at the home, to release them in the sea, scatter them on ground, release them in the sky from a plane, or bury them in the ground.
There are always important considerations to be aware of when it comes to making a decision as to where to scatter the ashes. If you have chosen to release the ashes, here are some helpful questions to help you decide where that might be:
What location carries special memories for your loved one?
Is there somewhere that your family took special vacations?
What was the favorite spot of your loved one?
Did they have any final requests for where they would like to be scattered?
Can I ship or travel with the ashes?
There are federal and some state regulations regarding the transportation of cremation ashes and the urns themselves. TSA allows ashes to be transported both in carry-on as well as check-in luggage, but it is important to follow their given requirements. Cremated remains can also be sent through the United States Postal Service, although special packaging and shipping is required.
Making Final Decisions
Picking a final resting location and making the final decisions for your loved one can never be easy. With so many questions to ask and decisions to make, it can be overwhelming. Use family support to make decisions, and reach out to the funeral home and urn provider to help get the additional support you need and all questions answered.
There are many different ways to scatter ashes in the United States, and most states have favorable laws. Working with a funeral home or crematory may make the planning process less stressful and help you understand what is permitted and what is not permitted.
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