What To Expect When Viewing A Cremation

In United States, the choice to have remains cremated is steadily increasing. In 2014, 46.7% of deceased Americans were cremated, and that percentage is expected to continue rising. With cremation becoming more common, you may be curious about what happens during cremation. While cremation services are not ritualistic in the United States, some family members opt to watch the cremation of their loved one in order to help gain closure after their death. If you plan to watch a loved one be cremated, there are several things that you should be prepared for. 

Cremation Tends To Be Less Ritualistic Than Burial

While burial is thought of as laying a loved one to their final resting place, it is better to think of cremation as a way of preparing the body, similar to embalming or dressing a body for an open casket funeral. In the United States, it is common to have a funeral or memorial service either before or after the cremation of the remains and cremation is less ritualistic.

Because of this, the actual act of cremation may seem mechanical and difficult to watch for many people. It is best to know exactly why you want to watch the cremation process and look to other ritual forms for comfort and closure. With that in mind, most crematoriums will accommodate a few viewers during a cremation.

Viewers Usually Watch From A Window In A Separate Room 

It is unlikely that you will be in the same room as the cremating chamber during the cremation for health and safety reasons. Instead, you will be asked to watch from behind a window in a special viewing room. In that room, you may carry flowers or say a brief memorial before the cremation takes place.

You May Not Be Able To See The Body Prior To Cremation 

In some states, once the body is delivered to the crematorium, the container that holds the remains cannot be opened. This means that you will not be able to see your loved one before the cremation process begins. If you want to see the body to say goodbye, it is best to do this at a funeral home during a wake or a viewing.

You May Experience Unexpected Sights, Smells, and Sounds 

The cremating chamber works at very high temperatures. Depending on where you are, you may experience loud noises and unpleasant smells. On rare occasions, you may see the body shift as it is cremated. The entire process generally takes from 2-3 hours. However, you can excuse yourself at any time if it becomes difficult for you to watch.

If Your Religion Requires, You May Be Able to Start The Cremation

Some religions require a family member to begin cremation. Some crematoriums will allow a family member to press a button that will start the cremation process. However, not all crematoriums are set up to function this way, and it is important that you discuss possible solutions with your funeral director.

The Number Of Viewers Will Be Restricted

Viewing rooms in a crematorium tend to be small. For this reason, viewers will be limited to close friends and family. For larger gatherings, you may consider a separate memorial before or after the cremation. 

While cremation is a respectful way to handle the remains of a loved one, the actual process of cremation in the United States is not set up in a ritualistic manner. For this reason, you should truly consider whether you want to watch the cremation process and ask plenty of questions to prepare yourself for what you will experience. Your funeral director can give you alternatives and prepare you for the process if you choose to view it.