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Scattering Ashes

A Few Things You Should Know About Scattering Ashes

When a loved one dies, and that person will be cremated, the last thing you want to think about is disposing of their remains. But the time comes when a plan must be made. If you’ve decided to scatter your loved ones’ remains, versus keeping them or storing them somewhere, there are a few things that no one really talks about that might help you prepare and make your scattering a successful tribute to your loved one.

1. Identify who will receive and/or scatter the ashes.

Unless the specifics are already outlined in a will, or plans were made ahead of time, that define who will keep or scatter the ashes, you’ll need to discuss the subject with those who need or want to be involved. Before you release any of the ashes, you will likely want to check with other family members or close friends to see if they would like to participate and/or save any of the ashes. Otherwise, you could upset relatives who were hoping to keep a piece of their loved one close, or be involved in the tribute somehow. Remember, this is a difficult situation for everyone, so it’s best to err on the side of being inclusive, if you can.

2. Plan where to scatter the ashes.

The ashes don’t necessarily have to all be released at the same time, or even in the same place. Your loved ones’ wishes and your grieving process will dictate when, where and how many times the ashes are scattered. Did your loved one have a favorite place, or several favorite places where you think they would want their remains to be released? Did you always talk about traveling somewhere specific? Talk with other family members and close friends to confirm the best spot (or spots) to scatter the ashes. Or, if it is outlined specifically ahead of time, then you can follow the wishes of your loved one. Remember, though, that – while your loved one may have requested something specific – this is your grieving process so it’s perfectly alright to honor their wishes and do something that feels good to you as well. A cremated adult will result in four to six pounds of cremains, plenty to honor both your loved one and yourself – and maybe some family members and friends as well.

You can also read our blog post about where you can and can’t scatter ashes.

3. Don’t do it alone.

While it’s common to see pictures of people scattering ashes solo, it’s a good idea to consider bringing someone along with you. When the time comes, you may need either practical or moral support. You never know when something unexpected may occur, and your emotions may be unpredictable as well. Having a friend or family member there with you may help you get through the experience more successfully.

4. It probably won’t look like it does in your head.

Cremated remains don’t look like fireplace ash. They’re not uniform in size or consistency. And, they’re typically white and very fine – more like coarse sand and powder than ash. Also, the remains may contain fragments of bone as well. You don’t usually hear that, but it’s true and it’s worth knowing ahead of time. So, when you go to scatter the ashes, some may take flight, but larger pieces may just drop on the ground in a less picturesque fashion.

5. It’s messy.

What you don’t often hear about scattering ashes is that it can be messy. When you get where you’re going, it’s important to identify where the wind is blowing, so you don’t end up with ashes in your face, hair or mouth. Ash also sticks to skin easily, you may be a little dirty when you’re done. You can plan to bring a bottle of water and a small towel, so you can clean any errant ashes off yourself. This may feel more respectful than wiping your hands on your jeans.

6. Capture the experience.

You may want to remember the experience after it is over, or possibly share it with those that can’t be present for the event. One way to do this is to document the process. Start with a photo of the ashes in the container before you release them, and if you have someone with you, have them take a picture or video of you scattering the ashes. Take pictures of the journey to the place where you are releasing the ashes, and of the trip back home. The pictures will provide something tangible from the event that you can keep and share with friends and family.

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer on how to scatter your loved ones’ ashes. Aim for finding something that feels good and meaningful to you, honors your grieving process and your loved one.

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A Few Things You Should Know About Scattering Ashes - Phaneuf
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  • Madeline Root Reply February 17, 2018 at 8:52 pm

    My mother’s wishes were to have her ashes spread over holy ground. Where would that be?

    • Kay Hollon Reply June 2, 2018 at 9:39 pm

      The church grounds where she attended church would be my thoughts on that!
      Or really any where she felt a lot of peace and tranquillity and felt God’s presence there, if she’s told you or you just know it!

  • Nellia Reply September 24, 2019 at 7:04 pm

    This is a great service for all those looking to scatter ashes in the Bay Area. The scenic San Francisco Bay certainly helps with the memories. With the other half of the ashes we saved we will be using Well Lived to scatter the ashes along the Pacific Coast Highway in my fathers other favorite spot.

  • Scarlette Reply September 24, 2019 at 7:26 pm

    Thanks for the tip that families should avoid scattering a person’s remains on a beach and should be legally done three miles offshore and in water at least 600 feet deep. It is also important to make sure you have the correct permit if applicable. I am happy we chose a Well Lived to scatter the ashes for us while we watch, they have been very helpful providing help along the way and making sure everything is within the law and guidelines per location.

  • Lyla Peterson Reply October 16, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    That’s a good idea to take photos of the ashes and the scattering process. I have been thinking about having my father’s ashes scattered in the mountains because he loved hiking and camping. I think it would be a great way to honor his memory.

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