How does a cremation work?

One of the most important decisions concerning the funeral is the choice between a funeral and cremation. A difficult choice, which you naturally want to think about. And that while your head is probably not at all. However, it is also necessary to arrange the practical side of the death of your child and preferably as well as possible. You obviously do not want to regret your choices later on.

The difference between burial and cremation

Sometimes the choice between burial and cremation is culture or religious, but often there is just a personal preference. In Roman times, both burial and cremated. Adults were usually cremated; children were buried. The exact reason for this is not clear, but the difference in social position seems logical. The deceased was given burial gifts for life in the hereafter. In the Netherlands it has only been permitted since 1955 to choose cremation in addition to burial. In the meantime both modes of funeral are at the same level nationally - this can still differ greatly from one region to another.
If you are not religious or culture bound to a certain way of funeral and you also have no personal preference (yet), where do you choose? What exactly are the advantages and disadvantages of these two options?

To bury


  • It is a beautiful ritual and people often find it a nice idea that there is a clear place where you can visit the deceased.
  • You can place a memorial stone (there is a lot possible in this area).
  • You can choose a family grave (this can reinforce the feeling that you will be united at some point).
  • You can have your child reburied * (for example to a private grave or other cemetery in case of a possible relocation).


  • Costs of a private grave can rise ** but with the choice of a general grave the costs can be reduced.
  • Every year costs are charged by the cemetery for the maintenance of the grave.
  • The grave will have to be cared for and maintained. For some people this can also be an advantage, so you have the idea to be able to do something for your deceased child.

* When reburied from a general grave, you also need permission from the relatives (parents) of the children buried in the same grave. Permission is not always given for this.
** Different from cemetery



  • You can keep your child's ashes in your immediate vicinity.
  • There are many possibilities for commemoration in which you can keep ashes (jewelry, tattoo, urn, painting).
  • You have no costs for a (private) grave and / or its maintenance.
  • Cremation is usually slightly cheaper than burial (no costs of grave and memorial stone).
  • You can scatter the ashes, which can be a beautiful symbolism.


  • The choice is very definitive, you may still decide to bury the ashes in the end. Some people find the final character very pleasant (cleaner).
  • Some people do not think the idea of โ€‹โ€‹burning is a pleasant idea.

After how many days does your child have to be cremated?

Your child must be cremated at the latest on the fifth day after the date of death. For example, if your child has died on Wednesday, he must be cremated at the latest on Monday.
With a permit from the mayor it is possible to get a postponement. This may be necessary, for example, when there are relatives from abroad or when there are holidays between the day of death and cremation.

As destination

There are various options in the Netherlands. After the cremation, the ashes of your deceased child are put in an axle box and stored for a month. That is a legal obligation. After this period you have to decide what you want to do with the ash.
You can take the ashes home and keep them in an ornamental ring, you can keep a part in a special memorial or reliquary, but you can also place the ashes in an ornamental wall in an urn wall or columbarium on a crematorium site or cemetery.

Scatter ashes

You can also choose to scatter the ashes. This can be done in various ways: from an airplane and from a ship at sea. You can choose to be present at the scatter yourself. Of course, the ash can also be scattered over land or water. In the latter cases you need permission from the landowner or water board manager. Crematoria also have special places where ash scattering takes place.
Crematoria have a general recess where the shaft can be stored, until you have made a decision.

What is allowed and what is not at a cremation?

Special crates must usually be used for cremation. These are completely made of wood or chipboard. For example, some other boxes may have a lacquer layer. It sometimes burns before the box is completely put in the oven. Crates can also have plastic or iron fittings. They must be removed in advance.

The history of cremation

Cremation is also called cremation. Cremation is done in a crematorium where the body is burned in a box. The combustion takes place in an oven.
Cremation has been forbidden for a long time in the Netherlands. In 1991, cremation was equated with funeral in the Funeral Services Act. The first cremation in the Netherlands, however, took place on 1 April 1914 in the Crematorium Velsen in Driehuis in the province of North Holland. That cremation was illegal. The funeral law of 1869, which was then in force, did not mention word burning (there was nothing mentioned about criminal sanctions either, of which the proponents made grateful use). Cremation was only legally permitted in 1955.

To organize

Around 1850, proponents of cremation began to organize themselves in Western Europe. They got support from the medical world (hygiene and lack of space). Cremation was already possible in France, Italy and Germany. The Dutch writer Eduard Douwes Dekker (Multatuli) was cremated in Gotha (Germany). As far as we know, he is the first Dutchman to be cremated.
Cremation is as old as humanity. In the Bronze Age there were already urns in dolmens. In the last century and the first half of this century there was much opposition to cremation from religious convictions. By burying the dead instead of burning, the body remained intact and nothing stood in the way of resurrection and eternal life. Buried was the common form; cremation was only allowed in epidemics, battles and as heretic burnt.

Cremation in other countries

In some countries, the combustion also takes place elsewhere. For example, in India, a mortal remains are often burnt on piles of wood on the banks of a river (preferably the Ganges). The ash is scattered in the river after the combustion.
On the Hindu island of Bali in Indonesia cremation is done on cemeteries and beaches. It is almost never done immediately after death because of the high costs involved. Often the body is first buried and after a while excavated again to be burned. This cumbersome practice, however, is meeting with increasing resistance.
Greece is the last European country that did not allow cremation. Since March 2006 it is allowed.

What exactly happens during cremation?

The cremation usually takes place directly after the funeral service in the auditorium. Provided the ovens are of course not in use. In some crematoria it is possible that the family goes into the oven. This may seem like a scary idea, but many survivors experience this as positive afterwards.
A box fits exactly in an oven. It is pushed or rolled into it. There are two types of ovens. At the 'cold start oven' the temperature of the oven is lowered before the box is retracted. The standard temperature of an oven is around 1000 degrees Celsius. In a 'hot start oven' the temperature at the start of the combustion process is high, namely about 700 to 800 degrees. In the right game of fire and oxygen, the coffin is burnt with the deceased. The ovens are now computer-controlled, so that the whole process is carried out properly. Each oven has a control hatch or sight glass. A cremation lasts about an hour to an hour and a half.

Identification procedure

An identification procedure takes place prior to cremation. We work with a form with a registration number. That number must match the number on the box. If this is not the case, then the relatives must confirm that the deceased is in the coffin. The crematorium must be sure that they cremate the right person. Then they put a fireproof stone with a unique code near the box. This stone does not burn and remains along with the ash. This way the axis can always be identified.
During the combustion, all ash ends up on the oven floor. The ash is then collected together with the refractory stone in an ash pan where it can cool down. That takes a few hours. When the ash has cooled down, the ash is finely ground so that it can be scattered. The grinding is done with a cremulator. Before that happens, all metal parts are first removed manually and with a magnet. For example, nails, staples and medical steel. Burnt jewelery of precious metal is collected nationally and the proceeds go to charities.
The ash must remain in the crematorium for a month. That is legally determined.


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