A direct cremation is when a person’s body is cremated without ceremony and without family and friends present.
The person who has died is collected and either taken directly to a crematorium (particularly if the person has been cared for at home after they have died) or taken to the funeral director’s premises and then transported to a crematorium at some point in the coming days.
This is also referred to as an unattended cremation. Some use the terms ‘direct’ and ‘unattended’ interchangeably. For others, there is a distinct difference; with a direct cremation being when a person is cremated without any kind of ceremony or memorial and an unattended cremation being when a person is cremated without a ceremony but family and friends choose to hold a memorial or a reflective ceremony at a later date.
Either way, for the cremation, no family or friends are permitted to attend.
Many funeral directors describe a direct or unattended cremation as a ‘low cost’ or ‘no frills option’ and this is reflected in their pricing. It may be referred to as ‘the cheapest of all funerals’ or words to that effect. However, their low price is also reflective of the level of service included, with most simply providing collection of the person who has died and transportation to the crematorium, or arranging for a cremation service to come and collect them for cremation further afield.
Some allow people to visit the person who has died prior to the cremation, whereas many do not. Usually, no personal care takes place: the person is not washed or dressed in their own clothes and the cremation takes place at crematorium and on a date and time chosen by the funeral director. Family and friends may be informed of when and where the cremation will take place or this information may not be offered to them. Following the cremation, families may be required to collect the person’s ashes themselves.
My approach to direct cremation (or direct or unattended burial) is different. I do not view it as simply a cheap or low cost option, chosen predominantly for that purpose.
I see it as just another option available to individuals and families, particularly those wish to separate the ceremony from the cremation or burial or have no ceremony at all.
And there are many reasons why a person may opt for direct cremation or burial. It may be about reducing costs or perhaps they just do not feel a funeral ceremony is important or required.
Whatever the reason, I feel that this does not negate the want or need to care for the person who has died and those closest to them and I provide the exact same level of care and support as I would normally.
I will still offer gentle after death care and enable family and friends to be involved in this care, if they so wish. The person will still be washed and dressed in accordance with their wishes and I will support families to visit and spend as much time as they wish with their person prior to the cremation or burial.
In some cases, if an individual has chosen a direct cremation or burial, it can be even more important for loved ones to spend precious time with them prior to the day, so that they may grieve and process some of the loss which they may otherwise have done during an actual ceremony.
I will still help family and friends to maintain connection with the person who has died by taking a lock of hair or a set of fingerprints and create fingerprint moulds for them as I always do, if family feel this is helpful.
And in the case of cremation, I will always return the ashes in person and, following the cremation or burial, families will still receive dedicated after care as they navigate their grief.
Due to this uncompromised level of care, the cost of a direct cremation or burial with Hand in Hand may be higher than other funeral directors but this approach is the one most in keeping with our aim and ethos.
Should a person or their family feel that after death care and visits are not necessary, I will of course accommodate this and the price will be reduced accordingly. However, certainly for the Standardised Price List, this is the level of service provided for an unattended funeral and I prefer to list this price for the purpose of transparency.