Cremation is the second most common form of disposition in the United States. The percentage of cremations to deaths in the United States and Canada has increased steadily during the last two decades. In other countries, such as England and Japan, cremation is the most common form of disposition.

Many states require a two-day waiting period between the time of death and cremation. The waiting period provides the time necessary for your funeral director to file for required permits and receive proper authorizations. Families frustrated by the delay should try to remember that a person’s identity or cause of death can be lost forever without great attention to these matters prior to cremation.

Some people are surprised to learn that cremation does not preclude a funeral with all the traditional aspects of the ceremony. Visitation or viewing with a funeral ceremony and church or memorial services are options to be considered. In some states, funeral homes are permitted to rent caskets for viewing and services.
Reasons for Cremation
Cremation is selected for many reasons ranging from religious beliefs or ethnic customs to cost. Most families electing cremation are believed to do so simply because of personal preference.

Cremation, or any other funeral service option, should not be selected in an attempt to hasten or circumvent the grieving process, which is a necessary part of re-adjusting to life after death has delivered a great sense of pain and loss.
The Cremation Process
Crematories generally require containment of the body in an appropriate casket or other acceptably rigid container. Your funeral director can explain the specific requirements of crematories in your area. The containerized body is not removed or disturbed after it arrives at the crematory, and is placed in a furnace or retort. The cremation process exposes the body to open flame, intense heat and evaporation, reducing it to bone fragments in two to three hours.

Cremated remains do not have the appearance or chemical properties of ashes; they are primarily bone fragments. Some crematories process cremated remains to reduce the overall volume while others do not. Depending on the size of the body, cremation results in three to nine pounds of remains.

Depending upon arrangements made by the family, cremated remains are placed in a temporary container for transport or in a more permanent container, such as an urn, and returned to the funeral director or a family member.
After Cremation
There are a variety of options for the final disposition of cremated remains. Urns or other containers may be placed in a niche at a columbarium, a structure or room designed to contain cremated remains. Families may elect to bury the urn in a family plot or cemetery or keep it in another place of personal significance, such as the home.

Subject to some restrictions, cremated remains can be scattered by air, over the ground or over water. Your funeral director can advise about allowable practices in your community. Some cemeteries provide areas for scattering and may provide a space where families can place a commemorative plaque or other memorial.

Scattering of cremated remains is often accompanied by some form of memorialization. Most people find consolation knowing there is a specific place to visit when they wish to remember and feel close to the person they have lost regardless of whether or not the deceased person’s remains are actually located at that place. Regardless of the disposition option selected for the cremated remains, families should choose one that best fits their emotional needs.

National Funeral Directors Association