Girl Scattering Cremains in Lake

What to do with the Ashes

Author Bio

Your life journey may well bring the death of a loved one – or preparation for your own death. When you face the death of a family member, you must face, too, the critically important questions of who has rights and obligations to the loved one’s human remains. Why then, do we so seldom discuss or consider such questions?

The deceased person’s preference for disposition of his or her body remains a right that laws usually enforce strictly. Some states confer this right, considering as top priority the decedent’s expressed wishes. That means that if you write out instructions ahead of time, those who care for your body must follow those instructions, no matter what their preferences may be.

You may write instructions that your entire body be buried in the earth. You may even specify that you want a coffin. For centuries, this was the standard for disposition of a person’s remains in the United States.

The practice of cremation has been increasingly common in recent times, however. Cremation burns the body’s soft tissue, and turns much (not all) of the skeleton to ash. The remains of the burning, known as “cremains”, contain ashes as well as large pieces of bone. The crematory grinds these bone pieces in a machine to make them the consistency of ash. They then gather a portion of the total ashes into an urn for final disposal.


Why might someone choose cremation over whole body burial?

Many do so for financial reasons, since cremation requires far less money. Finances guided many or most of the decisions along life’s journey, and they let it guide the end of the journey as well. They want to save money for a spouse or offspring. The funeral home may trick the remaining family into buying expensive add-ons, but the basic cost of cremation is indeed a huge saving over traditional American burial.

Some choose cremation because they are convinced it is safer for generations that follow. They believe ordinary ground burial may contaminate the earth, even though the practice remains safe by governmental standards. They do not consider the oft-ignored environmental concerns involved in cremation, including such things as the emission of gases released during burning of the body.

Younger people trend away from traditionalism, preferring to celebrate the loved one in a unique and personal way. Cremation lets them choose a memorial and disposition method that reflect their feelings.

Increasingly, people choose to rest at multiple sites – a bit of ashes in the family garden, a bit in the ocean, a bit in the country of origin, etc. Cremation allows such distribution.

Many people choose to donate their bodies to medical science after death. The recipient lab takes what helps their research, cremates the remains, and sends the ashes back to the family, freeing your loved ones of even the small cost of cremation.

You can find dozens of reasons for cremation, but all result in the same problem:


For years, scattering ashes took first place as a good burial method for the cremated. After all, you can scatter ashes so many ways. You can scatter ashes in many places. There are other answers, though, to the question of what to do with the ashes. Here are a few of those:

●  Leave the ashes in the urn and set it on a shelf at home;
●  Send the ashes from home to home over the years;
●  Bury the urn or place it in a columbarium;
●  Convert the ashes into a diamond with modern technology; or
●  Empty only some of the ashes from the urn and scatter them.

Search online for ideas of what to do with the ashes, and you get long lists ranging from (1) scattering ashes in some beautiful location to (2) using them for a memorial tattoo.

(1) If you decide on scattering ashes, check carefully on laws, rules, and regulations that apply to the location you prefer. If you need permission for the exact location, be sure to get it in writing so that you will not receive a legal fine later.

(2) If a tattoo seems the most personal way to carry a piece of your loved one with you, remember that this process mixes ashes with the tattoo ink – and nobody has done much study on the exact sterility of that mixture.

What I would do? Let me make a suggestion.


A piece of cremation jewelry or a cremation marble becomes a unique memorial. I’m not talking about the factory-produced pieces of cremation jewelry you find so often on the market. I’m referring to the cremation jewelry of an artist whose warmth glows in each individual piece.

The beautiful pieces offered at incorporate a small amount (about ¼ teaspoon) of your ashes into a stunning, durable glass pendant or marble. I own several of this artist’s pendants, and my husband owns two marbles. We both can attest to their unique attractiveness and durability. I get admiring compliments each time I wear one of my pendants.

You may decide to order a cremation pendant or marble for every family member who would like a lasting memorial of the deceased. The artist at can provide as many as you wish.

The artist sends you a kit when you order, and gives you simple instructions on how to forward a small amount of ashes for each item you order. After he creates your piece or pieces, he returns any remaining ashes.

You will find the artist very compassionate as he invites you to include a few written memories and/or photos of the one whose life you wish to commemorate. He uses these to help him focus on that specific individual as he fashions each piece you ordered. No factory machine or robot can infuse compassion into cremation jewelry, but this artist can and does.

Cremation jewelry gives you a truly personal way to remember your loved one and carry a portion of him or her with you throughout your life.

Think about that when you are determining what to do with the ashes.


What to do with the ashes causes a dilemma for many families who cremate a deceased loved one’s human remains. You need not rush this decision, since cremation keeps the matter on hold until you decide. Take time to discuss it with others in the family unless the deceased already made that decision in writing.

Remember, you are likely to grow wiser as you age, and an impulsive move now could cause you and others future grief. Choose a tasteful, satisfying option.