“Are These Really My Grandmother’s Ashes?”

It’s a common question, with an answer that’s difficult to prove.  When your loved one dies, if they’ve chosen to be cremated, how exactly can you be sure that the non-descript, devoid-of-identifiers grey dust in the container they give you is really the person you sent to them?  Let’s take a look at cremation, rules around it, and find an answer.  

What Happens During Cremation?

When an individual enters the crematory, they are given a barcode and other important information on the metal label (a round token that resembles a military tag) on their cremation container.  This metal disk also comes with a unique number and the code of the crematory they were sent to.  This tag stays with the body for the entire cremation process, and because it’s metal, it remains intact. 

Once the process is completed, the ashes are then swept into the container of choice after larger fragments are broken down into a fine powder, along with the tag they were given.  This means that, should someone be so inclined, they could reach into the container and find the metal tag, and determine the identity of the person to whom the ashes belonged (or rather, who that person was).   This could be done by looking up the number of the crematory the ashes came from (as listed on the tag), calling them, and finding out who the ashes in the urn belong to.  

Knowing this, it’s a big likelihood that the ashes you receive are in fact the right ones.  However, there is just one extra point here to consider.  

First– They’re ashes, and not the first to come out of the cremation machine.  If you’ve ever seen a fireplace or pit the morning after a fire, you’ll know how fine and tiny particles of ash can be.  You’ll also know how easily they can flurry–well–everywhere, and how “sweeping them up” isn’t as easy as it sounds.  While crematory employees will surely do their very best, the reality is that there’s no real way to get every single last little bit of ash off of the cremation slab and into a box.  

So if your grandmother wasn’t the first in, and isn’t the last out, there’s a big chance that although the majority of the ashes will be hers, there is also a tiny bit of other people’s ashes in there as well… and a tiny bit of hers will be swept in with someone else’s.  Not in an amount that may be considered significant– but it’s worth mentioning, and you will be getting this same disclaimer when it comes time to sign the forms for cremation.  

So take comfort in knowing that yes, there is a way to verify that the loved one you are mourning is in fact the loved one you are receiving back… and as always, make sure you choose a crematory that is reputable, well-reviewed, and willing to communicate with you.  You deserve to have transparency in this difficult time, and if they aren’t willing to do that… take your loved one elsewhere.  

Final arrangements and dealing with the passing of a loved one can be difficult, especially when it comes to financial and legal issues. Let one of our experienced agents help you, free of charge, to ensure you are taking the steps that are right for you and your family.  Get a free quote today.

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