Witnessing a Loved One’s Cremation

Orchard at sunset - what do I do at a celebration of life

Funerals are for the living, yes, but what about cremations? Many people wouldn’t consider attending the cremation of their loved one, but being present and even participating can bring comfort and help a family begin to heal.

What is a Witness Cremation?

At French Funerals, the immediate family is allowed to be there for the beginning of the cremation process. If the family chooses, up to ten people (outside times of pandemic) can gather for half an hour to view their loved one beforehand. The deceased is brought out in the cremation container or casket that was selected by the family, and those present can place notes or flowers with their loved one and say their final goodbyes.

The family may then escort their loved one to a private crematory. Members of the family may act as pallbearers to assist their loved one into the machine, as well as begin the cremation process with the help of a crematory operator. If families prefer to view the cremation only, they can be present to witness only. As the entire cremation process can take from 3-4 hours, many families choose not to stay after the cremation has been initiated. However, at French they are welcome to remain until the cremated remains are returned to them.

Why would I want to view the cremation?

Participating in the final disposition of someone you love can be profoundly healing. In some religions, such as Hinduism, being present at the cremation is an important funeral ritual. But many families have found the experience to be beneficial. Being there for a loved one’s final moments can help bring acceptance and closure, as well as comfort.

Engaging in a small ceremony, lifting a loved one into the retort (or cremation chamber), or starting the machine are all actions that help families feel close to their loved one, and give them a final gift as they let them go. Remaining with the body of a loved one can help those grieving express their love and care, and reassure them to see that the body is handled with respect, compassion and in accordance to their religious customs.

Viewing the cremation of a loved one is ultimately a decision only the family can, and should, make. However, we encourage those who may feel skeptical or fearful of such an experience to consider it. The families we serve who have chosen to be present as their loved one transitions have often expressed feelings of peace afterward, and rarely regret having made that decision.

Loss is an experience few have navigated. We exist to guide and educate our community, so they’re equipped to make choices that are best for them and their loved ones. If you’d like to learn more about cremation and services that accompany cremation, we’re always available.

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