With many people nowadays choosing to have a cremation rather than a traditional burial, there is now one final step after saying your goodbyes at a funeral - scattering their ashes.
Scattering the ashes of a loved one can be an emotional process, so it’s good to know what to expect. This guide will walk you through the meaning behind scattering ashes and give some advice on where you can scatter ashes.
The process of scattering ashes can be a deeply moving experience. Generally speaking, some people associate scattering ashes with returning their loved one back to the earth as a part of the circle of life.
Each of the world’s major religions has its own views on scattering ashes and honouring the dead. For example, Hinduism has a long-honoured tradition of cremation and scattering the ashes of a loved one in the Ganges river. Buddhism and Sikhism also favour cremation, while traditional Judaism and Islam explicitly forbid it.
Christianity tends to have mixed views depending on whether Catholic (against) or Protestant (for) so be sure to check you aren’t going against your loved one’s religious beliefs when making plans to scatter ashes.
It’s possible to scatter ashes in many different places in the UK. Some people leave behind instructions on where they’d like their ashes scattered, some don’t.
Generally speaking, you may find it best to scatter the ashes in a place that meant something to your loved one. It’s also worth thinking about whether you’d like the ashes scattered in a place that you can revisit to pay your respects in the future. Here are some of the most common places people choose to scatter ashes.
Ashes can be scattered in a beautiful garden space at crematoriums, offering the place for peaceful reflection. Many crematoriums can also provide a plaque, so you have a fixed place to pay your respects, or scatter the ashes over an existing family grave.
Scattering ashes at sea or in running water can be a beautiful send-off. There are no laws that say you can’t do this, and you don’t need a license, but there are a couple of environmental guidelines to keep in mind:
If you do scatter ashes into open water, especially off a boat at sea, a biodegradable water urn is recommended as ashes being blown back onto the boat or shore can be upsetting. The Royal Navy can also commit the ashes of ex-Naval personnel to sea free of charge.
You’re welcome to scatter ashes on a beach. If you do, try to pick a time when the tide is out, and there are few other people around. You can either release the ashes straight into the water or dig a long, shallow hole in the sand and scatter the ashes into that.
You could even shape the trench into a heart or letters spelling the person’s name to make the experience more personal. If you time the ceremony right, you’ll be able to watch the tide come back in and see the waves take the ashes out to sea.
While there is no law stopping you from scattering ashes in a park or nature reserve, it’s always a good idea to check with the local council or park trust first. Once you have permission, you may want to find an area that was special to your loved one - trees or garden spaces tend to be popular choices.
Some people choose to scatter the ashes of a loved one in their own garden to keep them close to home. Also remember that if there’s more than one place that’s particularly special to your loved one, you can always split up the ashes and scatter them across different sites.
Regardless of where you choose to scatter ashes, you might like to hold a small ceremony while you do it. This can simply be a chance to gather everyone together, say a few words, and scatter the ashes together.
It’s completely up to you. Some people choose to say a short prayer or read religious texts or poems as they scatter the ashes. Alternatively, it might be more fitting to share some stories of happy memories or play their favourite song. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it’s personal to you, your family and the person you’ve lost.
Here are some practical tips on how to scatter ashes:
Above all, scattering the ashes of a loved one should be a dignified moment to say your final goodbyes and lay your loved one to rest in a place that’s special to both them and you. If you have any questions about the cremation process or what to do with the ashes you receive, your funeral director will be happy to offer advice.
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