Losing someone close to you can be incredibly difficult. If you're the one responsible for handling funeral arrangements, the experience can be overwhelming. If you've never had to arrange something like this before, deciding on the funeral can be challenging. You may know how a traditional burial works, but what about the cremation process in the UK? Humans have been practising cremation for around 2,000 years, but the process is still a mystery for most people. You never get to see what goes on behind the scenes, which can result in myths and unfounded worries. In this article, we'll explain how the human body cremation process works, which will help clear your doubts.
Advantages of the cremation process
More than 70% of families choose the cremation process in the UK for their loved ones. People select this type of funeral for many different reasons.
- Easy and affordable to organise: A cremation is easy to arrange. You can eliminate many costs associated with funerals, including embalming, cemetery fee, headstone cost, and other services.
- Eco-friendly option: The cremation process for humans is a more eco-friendly option. When a body is buried, embalming fluid can seep into the soil as the body and coffin decompose, as well as other toxins such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy drugs. Burial space is also becoming increasingly scarce and expensive in built-up areas.
- Fuss-free: With direct cremation, there is no ceremony or fuss.
- After the cremation process in the UK, you can dispose of the ashes in many ways: Some families choose to bury a loved one's ashes in a cemetery. Other options include taking them home, having them made into memorial jewellery, or scattered in a unique location.
- Allows you to plan a unique send-off: It's possible to separate the cremation and the farewell. A funeral with two halves gives you time to create an unforgettable send-off.
Before the cremation process begins
You can begin making funeral arrangements as soon as you feel ready to. Here are the steps you need to take:
Choose a cremation service provider and arrange the documents
You want to arrange the most fitting funeral for your loved one, so finding the right provider to look after you and your loved one really matters. The following documents are legally required for a cremation in the UK.
- Green certificate for burial or funeral cremation process: This is the key document and is given to the family when they register the death.
- Application for cremation: The family has to fill this out and give it to the crematorium. After the cremation process, the ashes can only be released to the person named on the form.
- Cremation forms 4 and 5: These are medical forms, the first of which is signed by the treating doctor. An independent, unrelated doctor signs the second form.
- If the coroner has been involved in the case they will provide a Cremation form 6 instead.
What happens at a cremation service
There are different types of funeral services, according to beliefs and personal preferences. However, a cremation service is usually planned along the following lines.
- The funeral provider takes the deceased, in a coffin to the crematorium either for the funeral ceremony or after a ceremony held elsewhere.
- The coffin is taken into the crematorium and received by the staff.
- When appropriate the coffin is taken into the crematory area and waits here until the cremation itself begins.
Witnessing the Start of the Cremation Process
Some faiths require the family to witness their loved-one's coffin entering the cremation chamber, some simply feel a strong desire to observe this final moment. This point of closure can give real comfort and peace of mind. Most crematoria will allow what is called "a witnessed charge" but it must be arranged in advance. Pure Cremation offers both in-person and remote witnessing of this process at their own Charlton Park Crematorium.
What happens during the cremation process
The cremation itself may happen hours after a ceremony. This is because each cremation is individual and allowed to happen at its own pace. The average time to complete a cremation is 90 minutes, but certain diseases or medications can alter this considerably.
Preparing the body for the cremation funeral process
The funeral director collects the body and keeps it in a cool, temperature-controlled room until the service can take place. The funeral director will prepare the body - which includes removing any devices that would prove hazardous during cremation, such as pacemakers. Items containing glass or batteries must be removed, for example watches and mobile phones, as these may explode. Jewellery can be left with the deceased but the melted remains will be separated from the ashes and cannot be returned.
The process of cremation
The cremation chamber heats up to around 870-980℃. When it has reached the optimum temperature, the coffin is placed inside, and the heat within the chamber will cause the cremation to begin. The process of cremation takes between 1 hour and 2.5 hours and when finished the chamber only contains the calcified remains of the bones and any metal material. The metals are separated from the remains and are sent for sensitive recycling with the resulting proceeds donated to charity. Many people are unaware that the brass-effect handles on a typical coffin are in fact plastic and evaporate during cremation.
Almost everyone is cremated in a coffin in the UK. It protects the body, makes it easy to handle and provides additional fuel for efficient cremation. If a coffin isn't being used then a shroud with a flat board is needed to ensure safe and dignified placement of the body in the cremation chamber. Many crematoriums require a coffin, but some accept a shroud, with the body placed on a flat board. If a coffin is required, it doesn't have to be an expensive one. This choice is up to the family and your funeral provider will guide you. Here at Pure Cremation, we use natural solid pine coffins as standard. Solid pine coffins are a good fuel source for the cremation process and so use less gas. Other "green" materials such as willow, sea grass, and cardboard use the most gas. Cardboard is actually the worst material to use because when it burns it creates a thick layer of sooty ash. This ash actively prevents heat penetrations and prolongs the cremation process. MDF coffins burn well but unpleasant chemicals are used to produce the MDF itself.
Verifying the identity of the ashes
Each cremation is individual and every crematorium has strict protocols to ensure that your family receives the correct ashes after the cremation. Most use an identity card system that tracks each stage of the process from acceptance of the coffin to the labelling of the ashes container. Pure Cremation goes even further than this, using QR code technology and an identity disc:
- QR barcoded wristbands
- GPS tracked vans
- Digital logging of each stage of care
- Coffin plates or labels with 3 points of ID
- Ceramic verification discs with a unique cremation number
- Careful removal of the remains before the next cremation can begin
- Identification of each set of remains after the cremation and during final processing
- Labels with the deceased's name and QR code for each ashes container
After the cremation process
Cremated remains can usually be collected from the crematorium within 2 working days. It is possible to collect on the same day by prior arrangement if there is an urgent need - for example travel overseas for a memorial service or scattering. The ashes will usually be placed in a simple cardboard or plastic container but you can provide your own casket or urn. Pure Cremation uses a biodegradable container made from cellulose and finished with an attractive photo wrapper.
Return of the ashes
It is common for the funeral director to collect ashes on behalf of the family. Alternatively they can be scattered at the crematorium Garden of Remembrance - you can arrange to witness this if you wish. Here at Pure Cremation, most family's opt to have the ashes returned by hand, and we aim to deliver the cremation ashes of your loved one within 21 days of the cremation.
Things to do with ashes
There are lots of ways you can choose to remember a loved one when they have passed away. If you've chosen cremation, there are many things you can do with the cremation ashes. Here are just a few examples:
- Scatter the ashes somewhere meaningful
- Have the ashes turned into jewellery
- Set the dust into fireworks
- Scatter the ashes at sea
- Have a memorial cuddly toy made
Cremation process cost
The average cremation process cost is around £3,600. This is considerably less than a burial, which typically costs approximately £4,600. A direct cremation, where there is no service, costs around £1,200. The cost of dying has been steadily increasing for many years now. But you can save money in the long run with a prepaid funeral plan. A cremation can be one of the many services covered with a prepaid funeral plan.
Cremation process FAQs
How long is the cremation process
The process for cremation usually lasts between one hour and 2.5 hours.
Do bodies sit up when being cremated?
No, bodies do not sit up when being cremated. This is just a myth.
When a body is cremated what happens to the coffin?
The coffin is cremated along with the body and anything the person is wearing.
Are cremations done individually?
Cremations are usually individual because there is room in the cremation chamber to accept only one adult coffin at a time. The only exception would be the cremation of a mother and still born baby or still born twins.
Who gets the ashes after cremation?
A funeral director will often collect the ashes on behalf of the family but can only release them to the person nominated by the person who applied for the cremation. If you want to collect the ashes yourself, remember to take along an official form of identification such as a passport.
How to arrange a cremation without a funeral service
If you don't want a traditional funeral, direct cremation is an alternative choice worth considering. All the traditional formalities are dispensed with and you're left with a free option to create the right farewell for your loved one. The main difference is that your farewell happens separately from the cremation. If you're ready to make the arrangements for a loved one's funeral, contact Pure Cremation's team for help.