Common Cremation Questions
When it comes time to start funeral planning, you may find that you have lingering questions about cremation. Yes, we all know that it provides a lower-cost alternative to traditional burial, and that the outcome—an urn of ashes—can be scattered or kept on the mantelpiece as a kind of memorial to the deceased.
But what about the details? When is cremation not recommended? How personalized is the process of transforming the body into ashes? And where can you go to find more information?
The following list of common questions should help provide a baseline of understanding the cremation process. For additional information, you should always contact a local funeral home or the Cremation Association of North American (CANA).
Is cremation ever forbidden? Cremation is accepted by most current religions, including the Catholic Church, which was the most recent to open its doors to the concept. Some Jewish and Muslim customs don’t allow for cremation, but this varies by region and the level of orthodoxy.
How much does cremation cost? Prices for cremation vary depending on location and the details of your memorial service, but generally run anywhere from $500 (for direct cremation) to $3,000. In most cases, you can expect cremation to be cheaper than burial.
Can I have a regular memorial service? Yes. The only difference in cremation is the actual treatment of the body. You can still hold a traditional funeral, order funeral flowers, hold a memorial service, and even commit the ashes to the ground in a formal burial. The main difference is that you probably won’t have a body viewing ahead of time.
Can I watch the cremation take place? This question comes up fairly often, and the answer may surprise you. If family members wish to watch the body being cremated, you should talk with the crematorium workers. Many of them have viewing areas to watch the cremation, while others have visual equipment set up so that you can watch from a special viewing room.
Do I still have to purchase a coffin or casket? The body is almost always placed in a container before it is cremated. Whether that container is a simple shroud or a more ornate wood casket is up to you—and your funeral planning budget.
How safe/controlled is cremation? Many people fear that the cremation process allows more room for error (i.e., you might get the wrong remains, remains might be mixed together, etc.). This simply isn’t true. Reputable crematoria operate under strict health codes and ethical regulations that require cleaning between each cremation as well as careful identification processes.
If I’m not sure cremation is right for me, can I visit a crematorium? Yes—and we encourage you to do so. As long as you call ahead and make your request known, you should be able to take a tour of the facilities and ask any lingering questions you may have. This is a good opportunity to put any of your fears or concerns to rest.