Yes, it is generally possible to be cremated with personal items. However, there are some guidelines and restrictions to be aware of:
- Items must be able to fit inside the cremation chamber and be made of materials that will burn.
- Items containing hazardous materials like batteries are not allowed.
- The crematory may have weight limits on personal items.
- Pieces like jewelry may need to be removed if they contain gems/stones that could damage the cremation equipment.
- Some crematories have policies against cremating certain items for legal or religious reasons.
- Family should check with the crematory first about any item they want cremated.
With proper communication and planning, cremating someone with personal mementos or small tokens can provide comforting closure.
What Items Can You Cremate With?
Cremation allows more flexibility with personal items compared to burial, but there are still limitations. Here are some guidelines on what can and cannot be cremated:
- Clothing – The deceased individual may be cremated in clothing as long as it is non-hazardous. Natural fabrics are recommended.
- Jewelry – Small jewelry items are often allowed, but may need removable first if they contain gemstones or other non-flammable materials. Jewelry should be minimal.
- Photos – Small printed photos, like wallet sized pictures, can be cremated. Thermal paper prints may not burn fully.
- Letters – Paper items like handwritten notes or letters can be cremated as well.
- Stuffed animals – Small stuffed toys without wire or batteries can be placed with the deceased.
- Pacemakers – These must be removed before cremation due to potential explosion risk.
- Prosthetics – Artificial joints/limbs have to be removed as they may damage equipment.
- Silicone implants – Breast or other silicone implants must be taken out prior to cremation.
- Hazardous materials – Anything with toxic chemicals, flammable liquids, explosives, batteries, etc. cannot be cremated.
- Glass/ceramics – Items like urns or glass jewelry do not burn and can damage the cremation chamber.
In addition to material concerns, some crematories have policies about personal belongings for legal or practical reasons:
- To prevent safety hazards, many limit the total volume or weight of items cremated.
- No food or organic materials (other than the deceased’s body) are allowed due to sanitation issues.
- Policies may prohibit religious artifacts like rosaries or crosses if they represent another faith.
- Some prohibit cremating valuables to prevent disputes over inherited items.
- Anything illegal like weapons, drugs, or banned substances will be confiscated.
- The crematory usually reserves right to reject any item without cause.
It’s important to ask the crematorium about their specific rules before deciding what to cremate with a loved one.
How Are Personal Items Cremated?
If personal mementos are allowed, how does the cremation process work with those items?
The items are placed in the cremation chamber, also called a retort, with the deceased individual’s body:
- Smaller objects can be placed on top of the body.
- Clothing and jewelry are put on the deceased.
- Photos and paper items may be placed under the body.
- The items are loaded into the chamber with care and respect.
During cremation at high heat, the body and other organic materials are reduced to bone fragments. The cremated remains, including ashes from the personal items, are then processed:
- Bone fragments are processed into ashes.
- Metal pieces like jewelry hardware are separated.
- Non-combustible materials are removed.
- Everything is then finely pulverized and placed into an urn.
The result is a co-mingled mixture of the body ashes and symbolically, the ashes of the personal objects. Any metals or non-burnable items are disposed of by the crematory.
Why Cremate Loved Ones with Personal Possessions?
Despite the limitations, many families choose to have tokens cremated with their loved ones. Some key reasons include:
- Symbolism – Cremation can represent shared memories turning to ashes together.
- Closeness – Keeping belongings with the deceased offers a sense of staying close.
- Sacrifice – Destroying valuable or meaningful items can represent sacrifice.
- Religion – Some faiths encourage cremation with religious artifacts.
- Farewell – Placing photos or letters can provide a final farewell.
Including personal possessions ties memories to the cremation ashes. Many find comfort knowing symbolic items made the journey alongside their loved one.
Examples of Belongings People Cremate
What kinds of personal effects do people actually choose to cremate? Here are some examples:
- A military uniform
- A favorite article of clothing
- Clothes with special meaning like a christening gown
- Clothing representing heritage like a kilt or sari
- A wedding ring
- Their everyday watch
- A piece gifted to celebrate an occasion
- A cross, Star of David, or religious pendant
- Wallet sized family photos
- A snapshot from a memorable life event
- Picture strip from photo booth at important place
- Photo of deceased loved one to join them
- A love letter from spouse
- Child’s crayon drawing
- Poem or note written by the deceased
- Song lyrics with personal meaning
- Coins or small bills for symbolic “toll” to afterlife
- Rosary beads or small sacred texts
- Toys or stuffed animals if pediatric death
- Small mementos like matchbooks from important place
Steps for Cremation with Personal Possessions
If you wish to have items cremated with a loved one, here are important steps to take:
- Check with the crematorium about any restrictions or prohibitions on items.
- Only select items made of materials able to burn completely to ashes.
- Remove anything potentially hazardous like batteries or implants before cremation.
- Limit the volume and weight of objects for practical and safety reasons.
- Inform the funeral director exactly which items are to be cremated with the deceased.
- Place small mementos with care on or under the deceased’s body.
- Understand that metals or gemstones will not burn and must be removed.
- Expect co-mingling versus individual separation of ashes from objects.
With proper communication and adherence to the crematory guidelines, tastefully including some personal belongings can be arranged.
Is Cremation with Possessions Right for You?
Deciding whether to cremate sentimental possessions with a loved one is a very personal decision. Consider the following:
- Do the items hold symbolic meaning you want to unite through fire?
- Are the objects small and made of combustible non-hazardous materials?
- Can you part with valuables if metals/gems must be removed?
- Do your cultural or religious beliefs encourage this practice?
- Is this permitted by your local cremation provider?
- Will co-mingling the ashes provide you comfort?
Take time to reflect on your priorities and grief process when making this decision. For many, cremating special possessions can offer appropriate closure. But the choice depends entirely on your personal circumstances and wishes.
Cremating personal possessions with a loved one is possible but also comes with limitations. Small symbolic items made from burnable materials are often permitted, but hazardous objects and valuables needing retrieval are not. Policies vary between crematories, so checking with them on allowed items is essential. For many mourners, having a few special objects turn to ashes together with the deceased offers appropriate finality. With planning and understanding restrictions, families can make thoughtful decisions about including personal mementos in the cremation process.