Scattering a loved one's cremated remains (commonly referred to as ashes) is a beautiful way to say goodbye and, depending on where it occurs, to keep their memory alive. If you choose to scatter the remains of a loved one, it's important to know how to scatter ashes and understand some of the special ideas that may be of interest to you or your loved one.
1. Choose a Meaningful LocationWhere does your loved one want to have their remains scattered? This could be a place that was special to them, such as their favorite park, beach, or forest. It could also be a more symbolic location, such as a place of worship or a natural setting. An increasingly popular option are scattering gardens at cemeteries, because they are beautifully decorated areas with the express purpose of having ashes scattered within, offering a common and lovely place to return to for remembering and reflecting.
2. Check Local RegulationsBe aware that there are laws about scattering cremated remains. Choosing to do so on private property that isn't your own, for example, requires the permission of the landowner. Public lands like parks, lakes, and rivers often have even more limitations. You may need to seek a special permit beforehand.
3. Determine When You Will Scatter the AshesYou may decide to scatter the ashes immediately after the cremation, or it could be later. If you are scattering at a special location, you may want to wait until the weather is good so that anyone who wishes to attend the event can do so in comfort - especially if you're holding a ceremony.
4. Determine Who Will Attend the ScatteringIf you are inviting others to attend a scattering ashes ceremony, be sure to consider things like travel time and expenses. You may also wish to consider who you would want to be present when the ashes are scattered. The fewer people that need to attend, the fewer limitations there are on planning for when it will occur.
5. Chose a Way to Scatter the AshesThere are many ways to scatter ashes. You can scatter them by hand, use a scattering urn, or hire a professional scattering service. Will it be just one person or multiple people, taking turns or all at once?
Ultimately, the decision of how to scatter your loved one's ashes is up to you. You'll need to choose a method that feels right for you according to your own comfort level and those of anyone in attendance.
Additionally, be sure to choose a method of scattering where there's no danger of running afoul of federal, state, local, or local laws. As previously mentioned, scattering on public lands is usually only permitted in specific circumstances. Scattering ashes at sea, for example, must typically occur at least three miles from shore.
Special Ideas for Scattering AshesSome other special ideas for scattering ashes might include:
- Aerial Scattering: Hire a company that can scatter the ashes from an airplane, dispersing them over a wide area, such as a favorite landscape or body of water.
- Water Burial: If the deceased had a special connection to the sea, you should consider a water burial where the ashes are scattered into the ocean from a boat or along the shoreline.
- Memorial Reef: Incorporate the ashes into an artificial reef structure, which can serve as a habitat for marine life. This option is also especially meaningful for those with a deep connection to the ocean.
- Tree Planting: Use the ashes to nourish soil for planning a memorial tree. This living tribute can serve as a symbol of life, growth, and the continuation of the memory of the departed.
- Firework Memorial: Many companies incorporate a portion of ashes into fireworks, allowing for a spectacular and symbolic display in honor of the departed.
- Space Burial: For those with a fascination with space, there are companies that offer the service of launching a portion of the ashes into space, allowing them to orbit the Earth or travel into deep space.
- Artistic Memorialization: Mix a small portion of the ashes with paint or ink and create a piece of artwork or a painting. This can be a unique and creative way to memorialize your loved one's legacy.
- Memorial Jewelry: Consider using a portion of the ashes to create personalized memorial jewelry, such as pendants, rings, or bracelets, which can be worn and kept close as a symbol of remembrance.
6. Plan a Scattering CeremonyOnce you have considered all the factors that go into whether you'll be scattering the ashes of a loved one, you can start planning the scattering ceremony. This is a time to celebrate the life of your loved one and to say goodbye in a meaningful way.
Because everyone is different, this means that no two scattering ceremonies are alike. Some are very formal affairs, while others might be more casual. Here are some ideas for planning a scattering ashes ceremony.
- If you or your loved one was religious, reading passages from scripture or playing devotional music that was special to your loved one is an excellent choice. You can combine this with reading poems or playing music that resonated with your loved one, regardless of their spirituality.
- Sharing stories and memories of your loved one is almost always appropriate, depending on the nature of these stories. This may become less practical if you are inviting many people to the scattering ceremony, which is something to keep in mind.
- Create a lasting memorial in the form of planting a tree or flowers in their memory. Scattered ashes won't leave much of a trace behind, but you can create a fitting tribute to a loved one by marking the spot with a living reminder of their final resting place.
7. Scatter the AshesIf you're casting the ashes into the wind, gently open the urn or scattering tube and hold it at a slight angle, allowing them to disperse naturally. You may want to take turns or scatter the ashes together as a group. Be mindful and respectful during the process.
8. Always Align with the Wishes of the DeceasedChoosing to scatter the ashes of a loved one is a deeply personal choice and one that will be different for everyone. There are alternatives to scattering that you can choose as well, such as burying the ashes, preserving them in an urn and keeping them, or interring them in a columbarium in a cemetery. Yet despite how you choose to scatter the ashes, it is important to do so in a way that is respectful and meaningful to you and your loved ones.
During your planning process, be sure to keep in mind all the requirements that go into scattering ashes, especially your legal responsibilities. However, no matter what type of scattering ceremony you choose to do, take the time to plan a meaningful one. This makes it possible for you to create a lasting tribute to your loved one that will bring you peace and solace in the wake of their passing.
If you or a loved one are trying to understand how to scatter ashes or looking for special ideas, reach out to our cremation experts at one of our funeral home or cemetery locations near you. Also consider planning your funeral in advance to lock in today's prices and lift the burden from your loved ones.