Cremation is the process by which a body is placed in a retort (oven) where the application of flame reduces the body to ash. The term for this ash is cremains. Cremation takes place at a Crematory, sometimes located within a cemetery or funeral home. Most families opt to let the funeral director transport the body to the crematory, where the cremation takes place without their presence.
Cremation and burial are simply two different forms of disposition of the body. The only difference is personal preference. When the final disposition is to be cremation, traditional services with viewing, calling hours and services can be held just as one would with burial.
As a rule, cremation is less expensive than burial in a local cemetery. When disposition of the body is by cremation the costs normally associated with a full burial will not be incurred. The larger hole for burial is replaced by a smaller hole for the urn. The Outer Burial Container (in which the casket is placed for burial) would be replaced by a less expensive urn. When death occurs in another part of the country, some families choose cremation, over the costs of shipping the body back to their home state. In addition, if a burial plot is not owned by the family, cremation would permit many options other than purchase of multiple graves at a cemetery.
When the body is cremated, most crematories require that a rigid container be used. Our funeral home offers a reusable rental casket that has a removable insert that contains the body. This insert (which is purchased new by every family) is then cremated with the body when calling hours and the services are completed. Families can also purchase their own casket, especially if a particular style or color is desired. The casket is then cremated with the body. Some families opt to have no viewing or services before cremation and may use an alternative container, made of reinforced cardboard.
There is generally a waiting period of one week to ten days before the cremains will returned to the funeral home. At that time the family can make arrangements with the funeral director for the final disposition of the cremains. Upon special request and at an additional cost, the cremains may be returned sooner for a more immediate disposition. Any special arrangements such as these would be worked out in advance with the crematory and the funeral home.
There are many options in regard to disposition of the cremains, not all of which are discussed here. If the cremains are to be kept at home, or are to be buried in a cemetery, they are usually first placed in an urn purchased by the family. The cremains can be interred in a new or existing plot or grave within a cemetery. Some cemeteries allow multiple burial of cremains in a grave which was originally intended for a single full casket burial. A special cremation plot, or niche in a mausoleum can also be purchased at a cemetery for interring the cremains.
Laws concerning cremation vary from state to state. In Connecticut there is a mandatory waiting period of 48 hours between the time of death and cremation. Also, a state medical examiner must view the body and sign a certificate, stating that it is all right to proceed with the cremation.