Losing a loved one can be one of the most difficult experiences you’ll ever go through. A lot of strong emotions are attached to the grief you’ll experience—including anger, denial and depression. Stress shouldn’t be one of them, which is often why loved ones will discuss their wishes for their final arrangements before their death.
When wishes are made known to a lawyer, a funeral home, or simply told to family or friends, there is significantly less stress on those left behind. You can set yourself at ease knowing this was what your loved one wanted.
However, even if we know a loved one wishes to be cremated, knowing what comes next and what it means is another thing. This may be the first cremation in your family and you may have a lot of questions about the process and options available to you.
If your loved one has chosen cremation as part of their final arrangements, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
1. Cremation is popular
Cremation is more popular than you think. In 2015, the cremation rate in the United States rose to 48% and is estimated to reach 71% by 2030 (“Cremation Rate Rises…as Public Attitude Changes”, CANA). Many experts believe that it is rising in popularity, in part, because it is always offering new options and traditions in commemorating the life of a loved one. “With cremation, families have more flexibility in the timing and locations of memorial services, and many options for creativity and personalization in and how and where their loved one’s remains will be placed” (Timothy R. Borden, president-elect of CANA). Cremation services are also offered by most funeral homes, making them more and more accessible.
2. Ashes can be buried
You can still have a burial with ashes. Family plots can (and commonly do) contain buried urns holding ashes. Often, smaller burial plots can be purchased at a cemetery for a more cost-effective burial. Other common resting places for ashes include columbarium/mausoleums, urn gardens and scattering gardens.
3. Ash scattering is not illegal
Ash scattering is not illegal. Deciding the final resting place of your loved one’s cremated remains is a personal decision, but scattering their ashes is not out of the question. Oftentimes, your loved one may have left a request on where their ashes should be scattered. Check your local laws before making any plans to scatter ashes. A great legal resource to investigate local scattering laws is nolo.com.
4. You can be creative
Ashes allow for creativity in the grieving process. They are easy to transport, and therefore allow families to find unique final resting places. Scattering ashes by water, at favorite vacation spots, or even by air are just a few of the many new traditions available to people. Some of the more popular options and traditions that involve cremated remains include:
The important thing to remember is that there are an infinite number of traditions available to you and your loved ones. As an increasingly popular decision, cremation allows your loved one to make decisions that best suit their character and personality, and create new and unique ways to remember them when they’re gone from this earth.
Cremation opens the door to many new ways of mourning and memorializing those we love. Ashes allow for versatility and creativity in the grieving process. One increasingly popular way to memorialize is through what has been coined a “scattering ceremony.”
These ceremonies are completely up to you and your loved one on how they will be carried out. Most commonly, people choose a meaningful location to hold the ceremony and gather family and friends to take part in the scattering of cremated remains.
Before planning the scattering ceremony, there are several things to consider. We have outlined a simple step-by-step checklist to assist you in planning the perfect scattering ceremony for your beloved.
1. Timing Cremated remains have the flexibility of being stored until the time is right for the scattering ceremony. Take into consideration the time of year, the schedules of those participating in the ceremony, and any significant dates you want to incorporate. You may choose to have multiple ceremonies at different times of year. It is ultimately up to you and the wishes of your loved one when it comes to timing. Remember to store the ashes in a cool, dry location until the time is right. Check with your local funeral home on best practices and if they have a storage facility you can use until the time is right.
2. Location In many cases when cremation is chosen, a person has communicated the wishes of how ashes should be handled or scattered ahead of time. Sometimes, it is up to those left behind to choose the location of significance for the scattering memorial. In either case, the location is an incredibly important component of the ceremony. A lot of times locations have significant meaning to the deceased. Perhaps it is the site of a favorite fishing spot, or where they spent their summers vacationing with friends and family. Often, people are even more specific with their location. It could be the tree under which they asked their spouse to marry them, or the rock they were sitting on when they were told they would be a parent for the first time. After the location is chosen, make sure to communicate it to those who will be taking part in the scattering ceremony. Keep in mind that when ashes are scattered in a location that is not private property, it is best practice to check withlocal scattering laws and regulations.
3. People Scattering ceremonies are meant to be time for remembrance and memorializing those who mean the most to us. The people involved in the ceremony will also play a key role in the significance of the ceremony. It may just be you, scattering ashes of your spouse or child in a private ceremony of grief. In other cases, it may make sense to invite family and/or friends in a communal memorialization ceremony. In either case, take into account the wishes of the deceased and what feels right. Also remember that you can have multiple ceremonies. Perhaps a private scattering ceremony takes place in a location known only to you and the deceased. Later, a more public scattering ceremony could take place in a universally significant place to those invited. Having additional people take part in the ceremony also allows the organizer to assign roles that assist in the planning. It is common for families to host “celebrations of life” or receptions after scattering ceremonies that may take more time and resources to plan.
4. Religion Choosing to introduce any form of faith into a scattering ceremony is an incredibly personal decision. It is best practice to follow the faith of the deceased, and carry out a ceremony that is aligned with their religious beliefs. If the deceased was not affiliated with a church or faith, you can still find ways to add significance and meaning to the ceremony. If you’re unsure of the religious practices of the deceased’s faith, one place to start is reaching out to their place of worship. Some faiths may allow you to have a pastor or person of faith to conduct the ceremony. This can add significance and take pressure off of you in the planning process. If the wishes of the deceased were to have a non-religious ceremony, you can also look into hiring a celebrant to conduct the ceremony. These are usually experienced individuals who can carry out the ceremony in an organized and meaningful way. This is also a role you can assign to an attendee (see above).
5. Etiquette Scattering ashes is a relatively new trend that is growing rapidly in popularity. However, not everyone is accustomed to this new tradition, nor have best practices been spelled out for anyone to follow. This can lead to people doing things like this, or unintentionally offending people who are unaware of what is taking place. It is best to do your research and follow a principle of using your best judgment when it comes to how a scattering ceremony will be carried out. However, there are a few things you can prepare for when carrying out the scattering ceremony. Take into account the intended use of the location. If you are scattering in a public park or place of recreation, it is most considerate to conduct the ceremony in a quieter location in the park, or a time of day that is not that busy. But remember, always check ahead of time with public locations. In some cases, you may be granted special access to these locations to privately conduct your ceremony.
6. Scattering mode One of the most important, yet most forgotten about components of a scattering ceremony is how the ashes will actually be transferred to the location. You may be wondering why this matters, but it’s more important than you think. Take the advice of this blogger and consider the logistics of how to physically handle the ashes. Things like wind direction, water, and other elements out of our control will factor into how the ceremony is carried out. Good news is, with the growing popularity of scattering ceremonies, there are many options available to you in choosing the right scattering mode. Don’t be afraid to get creative, and always consider the wishes of the deceased. Chances are, the mode you choose will make the ceremony that much more meaningful to those who attend.
7. Make it special The people and location will make the scattering ceremony the most meaningful, but new tools and traditions can help make your ceremony that much more special in commemorating your loved one. The most popular new tradition is having a reception or “celebration of life” following the scattering ceremony. This can be in a location close by, and similar to a reception after a funeral, gives attendees the opportunity to socialize in remembrance of the deceased. Another way to add significance to the location is to provide attendees with a token of remembrance in which to signify the location you are scattering ashes. Some popular options for this include: cremation jewelry, gifts with coordinates, or printed pictures of the location. One thing people often forget about, is that pictures can provide a lot of significance to the event and it’s location. A recommendation is to assign an attendee the role of taking pictures of the location. It is suggested that they not photograph people, in respect to those who are grieving. These photos can help loved ones remember the location and also help when trying to locate the exact spot in the future. Lastly, while at the location or shortly after, you can mark the location using Maplife. The site allows scattering ceremony locations to be easily marked and shared with friends and family. It is free to use, and offers continued significance to your loved one for generations to come.
This checklist should serve as a guideline, helping you plan the best scattering ceremony for your beloved. The most important thing to keep in mind is that no matter when, where, or how you carry out the scattering ceremony, it will always be significant to you and those you love.
Mapalife is a start-up company that provides innovative memorial options for a changing funeral industry. As cremation fast becomes the most common form of disposition in the United States, families are presented with new options (and new challenges) on how to memorialize and remember a loved one. In the summer of 2016, founders Becca and Sam decided to form Mapalife…here’s a glimpse into why:
Put simply, Mapalife was created because of an unmet need in the funeral industry.
While some are cremated and buried in a cemetery, many are placed to rest – their ashes scattered – in a place of personal significance. For the majority of family members who want to know the final resting place of their relatives, this identifies an unmet need. This need continues to grow as cremation rates rise (from 48% in 2015 to 71% in 2030 according to the NFDA).
Mapalife is here to satisfy that need. By creating a Scattersite page, a relative can easily add long-lasting visibility to a loved one’s unique final resting place by sharing the GPS coordinates with family and friends.
The potential to provide value during such a difficult time is what motivates us. Starting out, our main focus is to add significance and traceability to someone’s Scattersite. We believe these special places should be shared and remembered. To accomplish this, we’re working hard to make the process of creating and sharing a Scattersite page easy and affordable.
In addition to sharing a loved one’s final resting place, Mapalife will be your go-to source for cremation information. We will provide quality information for those who choose cremation and their families.
“For the majority of family members who want to know the final resting place of their relatives, this [cremation] identifies an unmet need…this need continues to grow as cremation rates rise”
Lastly, Mapalife strives to be a catalyst for change. The site will change how society thinks about cremation and how the funeral industry services families.
No spoilers here. We commit ourselves to always provide low-cost memorial options, both traditional and innovative.
If you’re interested in providing input or learning more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To stay up-to-date on our progress (and sign-up for our beta test), join forces with us here: mapalife.com.