With more people than ever choosing cremation, knowing what to do with a loved one’s ashes is an important decision.
More than three times as many Brits would choose cremation over burial, according to the BBC, and now there is more choice than ever for what to do with the cremation ashes.
Whether you’re deciding what to do with a loved one’s ashes, or thinking about where you’d like your ashes to be scattered, it’s important to know what options are available to you.
While some people like to keep ashes close by at home, others prefer a ceremony where the ashes are scattered in an area of natural beauty or a location with special meaning.
What to do with cremation ashes
Keep them in an urn at home
Many people like to keep their loved one’s ashes in a decorative urn or box in their own home. It can be a very comforting thought knowing that a loved one is still at home with you.
Urns can be bought in a huge variety of different shapes, sizes and designs, from small mantelpiece urns to large garden sculptures. You can also buy double urns which store the ashes of two people – a popular choice for married couples.
Many people like the idea of their ashes being scattered in a place of personal significance, such as a favourite beach or beauty spot. Some football grounds allow fans’ ashes to be scattered on the pitch, so that a part of them will always be with their favourite team.
UK laws on scattering ashes are fairly relaxed. You are allowed to scatter on private land, as long as you seek permission from the owner. You can also scatter in the sea or rivers. However, it is best to check with the Environment Agency that your chosen spot is not near any water extraction points.
Mountainsides and other places of natural beauty are popular places to scatter cremation ashes, but be careful not to scatter on mountaintops in large quantities. Although they are not toxic, cremation ashes can stifle delicate plant ecosystems that live at high altitudes.
When deciding on a location, remember to be considerate of others who may be there too. You may want to choose a time that is likely to be quiet to give you some privacy. You may also want to think about whether it will be easy to return to the area to remember them.
Taking cremation ashes abroad
If there is a special place abroad that you’d like to scatter a loved one’s ashes, there are a few things you should check before travelling.
First you need to find out the rules on entering that specific country with cremation ashes. You will also need to check your chosen airline’s rules on ashes. Some airlines require ashes to be checked-in with hold luggage, others will let you carry them in your hand luggage. You should also check if they have any specifications about what type of container they should be carried in.
When leaving the UK with ashes you are also required to take with you the death certificate and the certificate of cremation.
Burial of cremation ashes
Some people choose to bury their loved ones ashes after the cremation. This may be the right choice for you if you have a plot in a church or cemetery where you’d like to put your loved one to rest with other family members.
Burial plots for urns are less costly than full burial plots, but the cost will vary from cemetery to cemetery. Certain plots within a cemetery may also be more expensive, based on their location.
Plant a tree urn
Tree urns or ‘living urns’ are filled with cremated ashes and a seedling. The seedling will then grow and be nourished by the ashes. These urns can be planted straight into the ground in your own garden or another special spot of your choice. Visiting, sitting beneath the tree, and watching it grow can be a really special way of remembering a loved one.
A funeral director will be able to help you find a suitable tree urn. Alternatively, many different options are available online.
Turn ashes into jewellery
Many people are choosing memorial jewellery as way to keep a loved one close. Specialist jewellers can take a small amount of ashes and incorporate them into glass beads, pendants and rings. Some designs have a small locket where ashes can be stored.
Because turning cremation ashes into jewellery only uses a small amount, you can still scatter the remaining ashes in a meaningful plan or bury them in a family plot.
About the author
With a Masters from the University of Bristol, Jessica Hanson has worked in the funeral sector for several years, following the latest industry trends and writing about end of life planning. Jessica has previously written as a blogger for the Huffington Post, covering topics such as death positivity, understanding grief and how funerals are changing. You can find Jessica on LinkedIn and Twitter.