It’s not unusual to have questions about cremation. People deal with death and the grief of losing a loved one in different ways, and having accurate information about the cremation process and what it entails can bring some relief and understanding.

Are cremated ashes really of the person?

Yes. During the cremation process, all organic matter such as skin, muscle tissue, and organs is completely consumed and vaporised by the intense heat. The deceased clothes and coffin –usually heavy-duty corrugated cardboard or wood if they choose to be cremated in a coffin– all completely burn up, leaving no trace or residue.

Only bone fragments, and occasionally tooth fragments, remain after several hours at 1400-1800 degrees Fahrenheit. These fragments are mechanically processed into a fine, grey-white powder known as cremated ashes or cremains.

When you pick up someone’s ashes or cremains from a crematorium, you are in effect collecting the ashes and crushed bone fragments that did not burn up.

While the ashes have a very different appearance to the person’s body, it is still considered to be the remains of the person who has passed away.

Are multiple bodies cremated together?

No. The Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities (FBCA) set out The Code of Cremation Practice that ensures that cremations are conducted with dignity and respect. This prohibits crematoriums from cremating the remains of more than one body at a time. Additionally, cremators are manufactured at a size where only one coffin will fit through the door at a time.

The only exception to this rule applies when mothers are cremated with very small children, or very young sets of deceased twins are cremated together. This has to be specifically requested by the next of kin.

Do they give you all the ashes after cremation?

Yes. After cremation, the crematorium staff are responsible for gathering up and collecting all the ashes and bone fragments left behind in the cremator. After the ashes and bone fragments have been processed into cremains, they will all be placed into a temporary urn, or permanent one if it has been provided by the family, and kept until it is picked up by the family or the funeral director.