Cremation is an affordable alternative to traditional burial. According to the Cremation Association of America, cremation rates in the U.S. have nearly doubled since 1999, and those numbers are predicted to rise. If you’ve made the decision for cremation, whether for yourself in the future or for a loved one now, you may not be sure about what to do with the ashes. You have a number of options, from burial to scattering, with other unique ideas that you might not have considered.
Burial or Placement in a Columbarium
Two of the most common answers for what to do with ashes is to place them in an urn, and then bury the urn in a cemetery or place it in a columbarium or mausoleum. A columbarium is a building with small niches, openings designed to hold urns. In some religions, including the Catholic Church, these are the only acceptable options.
If you plan to have the urn buried, the cemetery may require you to use an urn vault or an urn burial container. These items will help protect the urn and the ashes, also known as cremains, that are placed inside. Biodegradable urns that break down naturally in the soil are also available, but they are not permitted in all cemeteries.
Keeping the Cremains at Home
Many people choose the keep the ashes in an urn at home. The urn can be placed on a mantel, bookshelf, or other place of honor, and it is often part of a display of mementos related to the deceased. Many people find that creating such a display allows them to find comfort and peace, especially with the loved one’s ashes nearby.
Scattering the Ashes
For some people, scattering is the simple answer of what to do with ashes after cremation. The idea of spreading the cremains in an area loved by the deceased can be a beautiful one, with the idea that the individual will remain there forever. It’s important to note that there are laws regarding where human ashes can be scattered, and you may need to get permission or even a permit before releasing them. If you want to scatter the ashes of a loved one, make sure that you find out what your local and state laws are. It is legal to scatter ashes in national parks in the United States, but you need to get permission from the ranger.
The most important thing when scattering ashes is to be considerate of others and stay away from roads, trails, and areas where people gather. It’s also a good idea to use a scattering urn that allows for the ashes to be released easily.
Some cemeteries have scattering gardens where ashes can be spread. These gardens often include benches and memorial plaques commemorating those whose cremains where scattered there.
One alternative to scattering the ashes is to give them a burial at sea. This is a particularly good solution for what to do with the cremains of individuals who loved the water. The best method is to put the ashes into a biodegradable urn that is made to dissolve when exposed to water, such as a salt urn. There are specific laws and regulations governing the scattering of ashes in the ocean and inland waterways, so do your research first.
Keepsake Urns and Sharing Urns
Another option for what to do with ashes is to share them among family members. Keepsake and sharing urns are small containers made to hold only a portion of the cremains. Sharing is a great option for families who are spread out, so that each person can have their own special memorial.
Like keepsake urns, cremation jewelry is made to hold only a portion of the cremains – in this case, only a pinch or two. The even bigger difference is that the cremains are placed inside a pendant, ring, or other piece of jewelry that can be worn at all times. Many people find this to be a great solution for what to do with cremated ashes because they can keep the memento of the deceased with them always.
One special form of cremation jewelry allows you to incorporate the ashes directly into the piece itself. Dichroic glass memory pendant jewelry and memory glass memorial pendants are two good examples in which the cremains are fused between the layers of glass in a pendant.
Additional options for what to do with ashes include incorporating a portion of the cremains into bullets and fireworks, sending them into space, or even adding them to a cement mixture that’s used to create underwater reefs. There are always new ideas for what to do with ashes after cremation, so if you are curious about a particular method, a quick Internet search should help you find out if there is a company that can help.