What is a direct cremation?

What is a direct cremation and what does it mean for funerals?

One of the impacts of COVID has been an increased enquiry about direct cremations. So what is a direct cremation and what does it mean for a funeral?

In some respects a direct cremation is a kind of funeral without a funeral.  The funeral company arranges for the cremation, but you do not ask them to organise any kind of service. Nearly all funeral directors or companies offer a direct cremation, although they might call it a slightly different name. It might be called a ‘no service cremation’ or ‘no ceremony’ or something similar.

In most cases, the company will arrange for the transfer of the person who has passed away to the crematorium (including the paperwork and official notifications) and then arrange for you to receive the ashes. They will either deliver the ashes to you, or you will go to their office or premises to collect the ashes.

Direct cremations during COVID

Direct cremations have become far more common during COVID while funerals have been restricted. I have had many phone calls from people who have made tentative ‘bookings’ to help them organise a memorial service later in the year when there are more venues available and more people can attend. This might be on a particular date such as an anniversary or birthday or perhaps at a time when they think family members will be able to travel.

What happens to the ashes?

There is no real difference between what happens to the ashes after a direct cremation or after a funeral. The ashes are either returned to you or, if you have requested, they are interred at the cemetery (in Adelaide, Centennial Park and Enfield cemeteries both have a crematorium and gardens where ashes can be interred). The ashes are usually returned to you in a straightforward urn, but many people order a more personalised urn, especially if they are going to keep the ashes at home.  If you are going to scatter the ashes, there are scattering urns which will help you to avoid the problems of a sudden gust of wind.

“Many people still organise a gathering or ceremony after a direct cremation.”

A ceremony after a direct cremation

Many people still organise a gathering or ceremony after a direct cremation. This is often called a memorial service. I talk about the differences between a funeral and a memorial here, but for many people there is no real difference and the line between them is becoming more blurred. You might want to hold a service that follows a traditional funeral format, you might want to organise a party at your home, or you might have a simple scattering or interment with only a few close family members. If you are wanting to hold some kind of service, but aren’t sure exactly what, I help to organise many memorial services, and I’m always happy to talk with you on the phone. I have also written about the three key qualities of a funeral celebrant.

This post is part of a series of blog posts about your choices surrounding burial and cremation. You can read about natural burials in South Australia here.