Understanding the Cremation Process - Phaneuf
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Understanding the Cremation Process

When it comes to dealing with loss, the fear of the unknown can complicate things tremendously. There are certainly some mysteries surrounding death that we may never fully understand, but some facets of dying can be demystified so as to lessen any anxiety around them. One common example is that of the cremation process—something that many people don’t fully understand and are perhaps afraid of.

Choosing between cremation and burial can be difficult, but you can make a more educated decision by gaining an understanding of the cremation process. The process is outlined below, but you can also review the 10-Step Peace of Mind Cremation Process that we follow for every cremation we conduct.


A number of different processes need to be handled before an actual cremation can take place. First, any ceremonies, viewings or other rites must be performed in full. Equally important is that the necessary forms and authorizations are completed to ensure the funeral director has what they need, legally, to perform the cremation. Typically, this will be in the form of documentation provided by the funeral home, which is then signed by the family.

Next, items not intended for cremation (such as jewelry, for example) is removed from the body and set aside. While some family members may request embalming of the body prior to cremation, this is not a necessary step in the process and is typically reserved for situations where a public viewing is to take place.

The body is loaded into a “cremation casket,” which is usually constructed of either wood or a combination of plywood/cardboard for proper burning capabilities.


The process begins with the container being placed in the end of the cremation chamber, officially called the “retort,” which is lined with fire-resistant bricks. Once the body has entered the chamber, it is closed either mechanically or by hand. The machine is started and enters a warm-up cycle, which leads to the main ignitor lighting and beginning the process of cremation. The body is incinerated and reduced to bone fragments over the course of approximately 1-2 hours, with temperatures often reaching 2,000 degrees fahrenheit.


Processing is the final step of cremation, which begins after a 30-minute cool-down period after incineration is complete. The cremated remains are removed from the chamber and placed on a work table, where the crematory operator will work to remove metal debris such as surgical pins, screws, nails etc. The bone fragments are then placed in a processing container featuring motorized blades that pulverize them into a fine powder, commonly referred to either as ashes or cremains. Finally, the ashes are placed inside of a container and returned to the family. The family may choose either a nondescript cremation container or a decorative urn or keepsake.

The cremation process is completely straightforward and nothing to fear. By understanding cremation entirely, you can feel more comfortable about choosing between cremation and burial for a loved one who has passed away.

Preplanning your final arrangements ensures that your family understands your final wishes and alleviates a great deal of stress.

  • Amanda Drew Reply January 11, 2018 at 9:11 pm

    Wow, that’s crazy that cremation takes only one to two hours and gets as hot as 2,000 degrees. My dad has recently passed away from some heart problems, and he wanted his ashes to be spread out everywhere he lived. Thanks for letting me know what happens when people are cremated. We’ll have to find a funeral home that offers cremation services.

  • Patricia Wilson Reply March 14, 2018 at 12:42 am

    I never knew that the ashes that were given to family members after a cremation are actually the pulverized form of bone fragments. My husband and I are already planning ahead because we don’t want our children burdened with tough decisions in case something untoward happens to us. I prefer getting cremated because it saves my loved ones the trouble of visiting the cemetery because they can have a piece of me with them all the time. Thanks for this very interesting read!

  • Lillian Schaeffer Reply March 28, 2018 at 3:55 pm

    This is some great information, and I appreciate your point that viewings need to be held before the actual cremation. My brother passed away, and he told me that he wanted to be cremated before his passing. We’ll have to organize a viewing soon so we can get that done first.

  • Lucy Tuazon Reply October 1, 2018 at 10:46 pm

    I appreciate you helping me learn more about cremation process. My mom has always told me or remind me rather, that if the time comes that she’ll be gone here on earth she wanted to be cremated and wants me to spread half of her ashes next to the grave of her beloved dog and half is on the sea. I understand now that this process is not as brutal as I always imagine. Thanks!

  • Malia Davis Reply October 22, 2018 at 7:47 pm

    It’s good to know that items such as jewelry that are not going to be cremated are set to the side first. That makes me feel better about cremation because I want to make sure that my grandmother’s wedding ring gets removed first if we decide to go with it as our option. I’ll have to talk with a cremation service and see how they could help us out since we need to have a more economical funeral for my grandmother, per her request.

  • Taylor Bishop Reply January 10, 2019 at 1:47 pm

    I wanted to thank you for explaining the cremation process. It’s good to know that the retort is usually lined with fire-resistant bricks. I’m kind of interested to learn how these bricks are made or tested to prove they can handle the cremation process.

  • Dan millar Reply September 27, 2019 at 8:02 am

    You shared the cremation details in very well manner. With your explanation it be very easy to understand this process .

  • David Norriss Reply October 7, 2019 at 10:28 am

    I never knew how the cremation process works and that it takes about 1-2 hours to reduce the body to bone fragments while in 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. I am glad to know that the cremation process is quick and peaceful. People that wish to not bury loved ones have this other equally as satisfying process. Thank you for explaining this process in detail in order to help people be at ease with the idea.

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