10 things you need to know about direct cremation
Simplicity is a state some people seek all their lives. Perhaps that is why the choice of simple cremation, often referred to as a direct cremation, has become the preferred choice for many people.
Direct cremation refers to cremation of remains after a person has died, except it eliminates the complexity of additional funeral services such as visitation, viewing, wake, and other end-of-life ceremonies or rites.
After death, a person's remains are sent directly to a cremation facility, and their ashes are picked up or sent to the families. (In the case of the direct cremation service we provide at Eirene, our funeral director hand-delivers ashes to the family.)
However, there is more to this process that makes it a unique and preferred funeral service. Below are 10 things you need to know about direct cremation.
1) Direct cremation does not require embalming
Embalming is a process that helps preserve human remains for a short time. This is done by using a chemical that stalls decomposition. In a funeral setting, this is used to prepare the deceased to be suitable for funeral viewings or ceremonies.
In Ontario, embalming is not required for any final arrangement. However, depending on the length of time between the date of death and the cremation, funeral professionals may advise it. Direct cremation eliminates these concerns as the body is typically cremated within days of death. For that short duration, embalming can be replaced by refrigeration.
2) Memorial services can still be held
Direct cremation forgoes funeral services before cremation. However, this does not mean that services cannot be held afterward. After the ashes have been returned to the family, they can hold any funerary or burial services and ceremonies they choose. Direct cremation offers flexibility as there is no time constraint or need to use additional preservation options.
3) Direct cremation does not limit cremation options
When it comes to cremation, there are generally two types to choose from – flame cremation and aquamation.
Flame cremation exposes the body to extremely high temperatures in a cremation chamber. Organic material in the body is consumed by extreme heat in the chamber, except for bone and any non-combustible materials. The remaining bone fragments are mechanically processed into a fine powder and placed in an urn. (For more info, see this cremation Q&A page.)
Aquamation uses the chemical process of alkaline hydrolysis to cremate remains. The body is treated with a combination of water, alkali (potassium hydroxide), heat, and pressure, which produces a reaction that speeds up the body's decomposition. When finished, it leaves behind bone fragments and a sterile liquid. The latter is disposed of via municipal wastewater. (Learn more on our aquamation Q&A page)
Either of these processes is possible with direct cremation. The additional advantage is it also eliminates the burning of embalming chemicals, making it a more sustainable option.
4) An expensive casket is unnecessary
Direct cremation eliminates the need to purchase or rent an ornate or expensive casket or coffin as there is no viewing beforehand. Depending on the type of cremation, a casket may not be required at all.
With flame cremation, crematoriums place the remains in a casket or rigid container. With direct cremation, these can be simple containers made from cheap materials such as plywood. Aquamation does have the same casket requirements. Casket materials, as well as most cloth materials, will not break down in the aquamation process. However, some protein-based materials (e.g., wool) can degrade during the process. Therefore, coverings such as a wool shroud can remain on the body if family members wish.
5) Direct cremation can save money
Compared to burial, cremation is a more affordable end-of-life option. Burials and internment typically range from $4,000 to $12,000, whereas cremation typically ranges from $2,000 to $10,000. The price for aquamation typically ranges from $2000 to $3000. Flame cremation can range from $800 to over $3000.
The higher cremation fees are typically due to funeral home packages, including ceremonies, visitation, casket purchase or rental, and more. This is what can make direct cremation more affordable as many of these services are eliminated.
Eirene's all-inclusive direct cremation fees are $2500 to $3000. See more cost information here.
6) Direct cremation is more sustainable
In general, cremation is viewed as a more sustainable option for the environment. Some people might call it "eco-friendly" compared to burials. This is because direct cremation uses fewer resources and is typically less labour intensive. However, aquamation is viewed as even more sustainable than flame cremation because it does not emit harmful greenhouse gases and uses less energy.
A direct cremation can further reduce environmental impact. For example, forgoing embalming eliminates the use and burning of harmful chemicals used in the process. Moreover, families can choose to memorialize the deceased in a more sustainable way. For example, burying the ashes in a biodegradable urn with seeds or saplings is an excellent way to give back to the environment and still memorialize a loved one in a beautiful way.
7) Direct cremation can make family-led death care easier
When choosing direct cremation, the only thing that families must worry about is completing the paperwork necessary for cremation. In Ontario, this includes registering the death and obtaining a burial permit. This paperwork is not excessively complicated, but funeral providers can help if necessary. Eirene includes this service in its direct cremation packages.
Once this is completed, the funeral home or crematorium can handle the remainder of the cremation process. Depending on where the death occurred, transportation arrangements may also be required. This can be done by family or through funeral providers and transfer services. Families can then choose to hold any additional services at their discretion. These, too, can be planned entirely by the family (more info on this here).
Direct cremation offers flexibility in many ways. Families choose whichever type of cremation they would like. They can handle the planning and paperwork on their own. They can choose to hold or forgo services. And, they can choose when these services are held, and more. Direct cremation can also be prearranged to relieve some of the burdens of planning and paying for a funeral.
9) Families can witness the cremation
Many cremation providers allow for family and friends to witness the cremation. Some crematoriums have designated areas where family members can gather to witness the process and hold a small ceremony or celebration of life beforehand. Then, they can watch as a casket is placed in the cremation chamber and witness the start of the cremation process. In some cases, families can initiate the cremation process. This is an option provided by Eirene.
10) Simple and easy to plan
Funerals, whether they include cremation or burials, can be enormously stressful on a family, especially if a death is unexpected. That is a key reason why direct cremation has become a popular option. Minimal planning means simplicity and minimal stress. Once the government paperwork is complete, and transportation is arranged to transfer remains to a crematorium, the cremation process can be initiated. Since there is minimal work required, these tasks can be handled independently or with the help of funeral providers. With Eirene, you can handle the planning in about 15 minutes over the phone or via a Zoom call. If a preplanned funeral has been arranged, all this can be initiated with a single phone call. This simplicity can eliminate a lot of the stress during a difficult time.