What can I do with the cremated Remains?

cremated-remainsToday as more families choose cremation as a final disposition option, so more folks consider what they can do with the cremation ashes once they are returned. Typically about 3 to 7 pounds of cremated remains are generated once a person is cremated. Once fully processed by the crematory these cremated remains resemble a gray-like ash compound.

These days more funeral homes are reporting that families are not even collecting their loved ones’ remains, and in fact many funeral homes now include a clause stipulating that they have the right to respectfully scatter any uncollected remains after a period of 90 days has passed.

So what do you do with cremated remains once you have collected them from the funeral home?

Burying cremated remains

cremation nicheMany people choose to bury the cremation urn.  You can purchase a small cemetery plot (usually similar to an infant size), or purchase a cremation niche in a columbarium.  Indeed more cemeteries are adding both columbaria and scattering gardens.

Alternatively, you may choose to inter a cremation urn into an existing grave plot with a loved one already passed.  Cemeteries will charge you an opening and closing fee to do this, but it can be a great way to ensure loved ones are respectfully laid to final rest and provide a common memorial site for future family to visit.

Keeping cremated remains at home on the mantelpiece

This is not for everyone.  In fact, most folks tend to say that they don’t really know what to do with the urn when they bring it home!  An Aunt of mine used the remains of her late husband in his urn as a doorstop for many years.  Now there are so many different cremation urns, even quirky personalized urns, that the choice can be overwhelming!  Keepsake urns (a set of 1 or more small urns into which the cremated remains can be distributed) also mean that family can share out remains between siblings or family members.  However, it seems that more often than not, a cremation urn kept at home may end up in the back of a cupboard!

Scattering cremated remains

Ash scattering is fast becoming a low cost means by which to ‘dispose’ of someone’s mortal remains that can also offer the opportunity to lay someone to rest in a ‘space’ they loved. Cremated remains are basically organic matter and so pose no threat at all to the environment.  In fact, you could actually argue that scattering cremated remains is a symbolic gesture of reuniting one’s mortal matter with the Universe, and could be interpreted as such by the biblical reference of “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”.

As scattering cremation ashes is gaining popularity, we find we are asked more and more frequently as to what laws govern ash scattering.  There is very little legislation and policing of the scattering of ashes, so long as one conducts it with dignity and common-sense.  If scattering on private land you must have the permission of the landowner.  There are some public areas where you do need to gain permission or sometimes even a permit.  However, in the main, you are at liberty to dispose of a loved one’s remains by scattering them to the winds.

There is an array of ash scattering companies today, and you can choose from an aerial scattering over the natural beauty of mountain ranges, scattering at sea off the coastlines and or having a portion of remain blasted into space to be scattered.  The great thing is that there is something to suit every budget and imagination!

Creating cremated remains artifacts

Memory-GlassBeing largely organic matter cremation ashes can be mixed into a variety of compounds to be constructed into memorial artifacts.  The carbon from a person can be used to create a cremation diamond at the cost of around $3,000.  A cheaper option is to use some cremated remains to make hand-blown glass ornaments and jewelry, and prices for this start at around $30.00.  Cremains can be mixed with cement and used to construct birdbaths and garden ornaments, or even made into a memorial reef fixture.

Transporting cremated remains

Mailing cremated remains

You can legally transport cremated remains, either in person, or by United States Postal Service.  The cremated remains must be securely packed and marked as “human cremated remains”.  USPS offers Label 139, so that the package can be clearly identified and tracked, and it has to be shipped by Priority Mail Express Service.  Courier companies such as FedEx or UPS will not ship cremated remains.

Flying with cremated remains

If you opt to fly with cremated remains, you must ensure that you meet the TSA guidelines for traveling with cremated remains.  The remains MUST be in an x-ray friendly container such as cardboard, plastic or wood, and you should carry the supporting documentation such as cremation permit and death certificate.

Other things you can do with cremation ashes

It does not stop at burying, scattering and creating a cremation artifact.  Today there are all sorts of weird and wonderful things you can choose to do with cremated remains including fireworks, vinyl records, gun cartridges and tattoos!  To read more about quirky ash scattering ideas, visit this Ash Scattering Guide.

Cremated remains held until funeral costs paid in full

The funeral industry is experiencing significant change at present as the shift towards cremation destabilizes a business that has been ‘traditional’ for some decades.  Families are leading this change as they demand lower cost funeral services.  Price and cost are now driving purchasing decisions, largely because families are struggling financially, and paying out thousands of dollars for a funeral is just NOT an option anymore!

unclaimed-cremated-remainsIn September 2012 we published a post about how local county social security departments had a rising issue with families failing to collect cremated remains.  The financial hardship that many families are suffering has resulted in an increase in state, or public, funerals.  County Social Services are dealing with more unclaimed bodies of indigents or low income families.

This story from Illinois highlights how the issue of paying for cremation services continues to plague funeral directors.  In this case the funeral director decided to withhold returning the cremated remains to the family until all payments were made in full.  He is effectively ‘ransoming’ the ashes!  Was he wrong to do this?  If you purchase any other consumer item and fail to make the required payments, the item would be re-possessed.  Today if you purchase funeral products you must pay in full when you purchase these items.  Walmart will not dispatch your $995 casket unless you have paid in full.

As we turn to cremation as a nation, the issue of what to do with cremated remains will continue to present challenges.  I often hear individuals claim that they just wish for family to scatter their mortal remains.   But often families either end up with remains sat in the back of a closet undecided about what to do with their loved ones ashes.

Funeral homes are also reporting a growing issue with unclaimed cremated remains, and the problem this presents for them in storing a growing number of cremation urns.  Some funeral homes have combated this by adding a clause to their cremation contract to allow for them to dispose of the cremated remains if they are not claimed within 60 days.

Low cost cremation services adds to this dilemma.  When a family has managed to arrange an inexpensive disposition for just a few hundred dollars, they are less likely to want to incur further funeral costs on elaborate cremation urns.

Inexpensive cremation options generally need to be paid for IN FULL before the direct cremation is conducted.  A budget direct cremation will usually include a temporary cremation urn/container.  This can be a small plastic urn or a cardboard container.

If you are concerned about funeral costs, then a simple direct cremation is the most affordable option.  A direct cremation can be performed in most areas of the United States for between $495 and $1,395 (depending on where you live).

 

What to do with the cremation ashes after your cremation service?

TIME Magazine’s ‘Cremation: The New American Way of Death‘ highlights a very real issue that is a growing concern as more Americans choose cremation as a preferred disposition choice.  What do you do with the ashes?

The cremation rate is now at 42% and it is predicted that by 2017, one in every two Americans will be cremated.  A cremation service offers a simple and much more affordable funeral alternative.  A basic direct cremation service can be conducted in some cities in America for as little as $399*.  For those Americans choosing a cremation service  instead of burial, the decision about what to do with the cremated remains is now proving a growing dilemma.

There are basically 4 main options of what to do with your loved ones’ ashes –

  • Inter the ashes in a niche, columbarium or existing grave site.
  • Store the cremated remains in a cremation urn at home
  • Scatter the ashes in a ‘special’ place
  • Have something personalized done – cremation diamonds, cremation ammunition, or send the ashes to space or to the bottom of the ocean

cremation-urnCremation may be cheaper – but interring cremated remains is not cheap

Interring the ashes is not necessarily a cost friendly option.  It is widely accepted that many Americans are choosing cremation because it is so much cheaper than a traditional burial.  A cremation can cost a quarter of the cost of a traditional funeral.  By opting for cremation you eliminate the need for the expensive cemetery elements – such as a casket, grave liner, cemetery plot and headstone.   The cost to inter cremated remains can still seem expensive though, when it can run to a few hundred dollars, for that budget cremation service  that only cost a few hundred dollars itself!

The funeral industry reports that they have a growing issue with families NOT collecting cremated remains [especially after that quick and low cost direct cremation], and some funeral homes are storing hundreds of unclaimed cremated remains.

Cemeteries are also now dealing with the issue of families scattering remains over an existing grave, rather than pay the large cost to open the grave and inter the remains.

Keeping mortal remains on the mantle can seems gruesome for some!

There have been plenty of spoof movie scenes featuring some catastrophe happening with that ceramic cremation urn over the fireplace holding grandma’s remains.  Meet the Fockers always sticks in my mind – and quite clearly highlights how, culturally, we still find the idea of having the mortal remains of a dearly departed ‘invade’ our living space somewhat macabre.

I have heard stories from families where cremation urns have ended up as door-stops, or been stored away in the back of a cupboard for generations.  Cremation can detach us from the fixed notion of a ‘final resting place’ in the way that a traditional burial ritual did.

It seems that scattering ashes is becoming more popular alongside the trend towards cremation.

 Permits, prohibitions and ‘ash scattering’ police

The legalities of scattering cremated remains are a somewhat complex and as of yet relatively ‘un-policed’ matter.  Interestingly the TIME feature mentions ‘wildcat scattering’ – an activity where relatives scatter the remains of a loved one at a site of their choosing, without gaining any consent.  Apparently Disneyland has an issue with this.

I am quite sure we will see more ‘wildcat scattering’ as more folks choose cremation and decide to opt for a special final resting place for their cremated remains.

Personalized cremation artifacts

Memory-GlassIf money is no object, and you want something quirky and unusual, there are a whole host of possibilities today of what you can do with cremated remains.   With a spare $4,000 you can be turned into a memorial reef at the bottom of the ocean, or with around $3,000 you can be made into a cremation diamond.  If you want something less expensive, you can maybe opt for being made into a birdbath, glass goblets or tattoo!   This article on ash scattering explores quite a few possibilities.

There future of final resting places is certainly changing alongside the trend towards cremation.  In some ways it heralds a complete reinvention of what the notion of a cemetery is in the future.

* Direct cremation prices vary but a basic direct cremation can cost under $500 in areas such as Nevada, Florida and Washington.

Memorializing after the direct cremation

Understanding Direct Cremation Part 4 – Save on your memorialization costs

A direct cremation offers a family the opportunity to ‘simply’ employ the services of a funeral director and/or crematory to conduct the disposition of the deceased.  As mentioned in my earlier posts on Understanding Direct Cremation, it can help the family to arrange a direct cremation at a low cost, and then the family can arrange their own memorial service.

cremation-memorialOnce the direct cremation has been performed and the family have the ashes returned, a memorial service or life celebration service can be held.  This can be held anywhere and does not need to be in a funeral home.  Indeed it can be more befitting and uplifting to hold a memorial service somewhere that is special to the family or the deceased.  It can be held in a place of worship, a community center, a golf course clubhouse or outdoors in a garden or park.  The possibilities are endless!

Some in the funeral industry will have us believe that the ritual of memorialization is integral to how we grieve.  I believe that how everyone handles loss and grieving differs, and that a family are far better equipped to know and commemorate their loved one that has passed.

Some families need a funeral director, a minister or a Celebrant to help them conduct an appropriate and befitting tribute.  However, there is no ‘rule’ that says that this is right for every family.  If you feel you wish to conduct your own personalized memorial service, there are many resources and ideas online to help you.family-led-memorial-service

These days you can quite easily make your own memorial products such as memory tables or boards, memorial candles or balloons, memorial DVD tributes or a dedicated online memorial webpage.  If you are considering scattering some (or all) of your loved ones ashes, there are many creative ways to do so.

Part 6: Death away from home – a direct cremation & shipping cremated remains

[Sara Marsden] Google+

What you need to know to transport cremated remains

shipping-cremated-remainsAs cremation becomes more popular, there is a rising need for people to consider transporting cremated remains.  This can be the case either when someone has died in a different state or country, a cremation has been performed at the place of death, but the ashes need to be returned to the family.  Or in some cases people are opting to distribute the cremated remains between surviving family who may be located across the U.S.

Whatever the circumstances, when a family wish to transport cremated remains,  the questions can often arise as to how best and inexpensively can this be done.  We have outlined below the key information you need to know if you wish to ship cremated remains.

If you are shipping cremated remains through a service you will need to ensure that the correct documentation accompanies the shipment.  A copy of the death certificate and cremation certificate will be required, along with other authorization forms.

Shipping Cremated Remains by U.S. Postal Service

You can send cremated remains by the U.S. Postal service.  You should use register mail with a return receipt, ship by express mail, and ensure you mark the outside of the package as containing ‘cremated remains’.

The extract from the USPS Bulletin 52, governing shipment of cremated remains, states:

“452.2 Cremated Remains

Human ashes are permitted to be mailed provided they are packaged as required in 463b. The identity of the contents should be marked on the address side. Mailpieces must be sent registered mail with return receipt service.

453 Packaging and Marking

The following conditions apply:

….b. Powders. Dry materials that could cause damage, discomfort, destruction, or soiling upon escape (i.e., leakage) must be packed in siftproof containers or other containers that are sealed in durable siftproof outer containers.”

Shipping Cremated Remains with a Courier Service.

Unfortunately, DHL, FedEx and UPS do NOT transport cremated remains at all, so you cannot courier cremated remains to another destination in the U.S. or overseas.

international-shipping-cremated-remainsTransporting Cremated Remains by Air

You also have the option to transport ashes by an airline carrier.  Most airlines offer a freight or cargo service, so this is one option to consider.  You do need to check with the specific airline as regulations that govern the shipping of human remains differs between airlines.  Some airlines require 7 days notice, and of course, you will require certain documentation.  The shipment will need to be marked as “cremated remains”.

Many airlines do allow you to take cremated remains as carry-on luggage.  Again you need to carefully check the guidance with the airline you are traveling with.  The TSA guidelines specify that “passengers transport remains in temporary or permanent ‘security friendly’ containers constructed of light-weight materials such as plastic or wood. Temporary containers can also offer a security friendly means to travel by air with a crematory container.”  If a cremated remains container cannot pass through an x-ray machine with the contents visible, it will not pass the TSA security check.  The official TSA statement is:

“To maintain the highest level of security, TSA determined that documentation from a funeral home about the contents of a crematory container was no longer sufficient to allow the container through a security checkpoint and onto a plane. Since February of this year, all crematory containers must pass through an X-ray machine. If a container is made of a material that prevents screeners from clearly seeing what is inside, the container will not be allowed through the checkpoint. Out of respect for the deceased, screeners will not open a container, even if requested by the passenger.”

Shipping Cremated Remains Internationally

If you need to ship cremated remains internationally, you do just need to check with the embassy in the destination country.  Some countries have specific guidelines about receiving cremated remains and additional import documentation may need to be completed.  Also, some countries have different rules about receiving cremated remains, and a funeral director may be required to take receipt of the ashes before handing them over to a family member.

You should ensure that sufficient time is allowed for legal processes and documentation.  You probably need 2 weeks notice to arrange an international transportation of cremated remains.  A list of U.S. embassies around the world is available here.

Hopefully, this information has answered any questions you had about how to transport your loved ones ashes.  If you have any further questions, feel free to ask us the question.

Ship cremated remains from the United States to anywhere in: the UK, Europe, Mexico, Central America, South America, Middle East and Indian sub-continent.

[Sara Marsden] Google+

 

 

 

‘Holy Smoke’ – Final resting place on the Shooting Range

As cremation becomes more and more popular, new and quirky options for what to do with cremated remains emerge.  We are increasingly turning to innovative alternatives options for ash scattering, rather than interring or storing cremated remains.

If you are wondering what to do with your loved ones cremated remains – Here is one for all those gun-lovers out there.  Those guys and gals who lived for hunting and always preferred being outdoors….now you can have your cremated remains put into shotgun shells or pistol cartridges.  Then you can quite literally go up in ‘holy smoke’!  yeehaw…

I am sure this will appeal to many out there who are still cowboys at heart, however, it is not a budget option for what to do with cremated remains.

Prices start at $850 for a set of ammunition which depends on whether you are a rifle, shotgun or pistol shooter.   Still it could be great fun to gather family and friends together at the shooting range for a spectacular send-off!

Creating your own Memorial Tribute

With cremation becoming more popular these days, it is opening up more options for family to hold their own memorial service or ash scattering ceremony.  If you wish to save costs on the overall expense of a funeral, arranging your own memorial service can certainly help.

A cremation with service from a funeral home can cost you anything upwards of around $2,000  An alternative is to arrange for a simple direct cremation, which should cost around $800-$1000, and then conduct your own memorial service.

You can gather family and friends together at home, or at a special place to the deceased and hold a ‘life celebration’, where family members can share stories.  You can make it as simple, or elaborate as you desire.  Choosing to personalize it as a tribute to the loved one you lost.  Did he or she have a special interest, or quirky hobby, that you can theme your tribute around?

You can make your own ‘Memory Board’ or slideshow, make your own guest book/board for guests to leave a memorial tribute in.  Whether you decide to offer food and drink and go for a party style send-off, or just gather together quietly to pay last respects, YOU are completely in control.

There are so many wonderful ideas of how you can personalize a memorial, and if you do it yourself, then it truly IS personal.

INEXPENSIVE IDEAS FOR A PERSONALIZED MEMORIAL: 

Get everyone to bring something that reminds them of the deceased

Hand everyone some memory seeds to plant

Have a butterfly or Chinese lantern release

Record a memory movie and make copies for everyone gathered

Have a themed event related to the deceased’s life

Create a ‘Memory Tree’

Have a candle-lighting ceremony

Whether you choose to keep or scatter the cremated remains is entirely up to you.  Many people can scatter all the ashes and then regret that they have no ‘physical’ legacy of the deceased, so do no rush to scatter all the ashes unless you are very sure this is for you. (Or, of course, the request of the deceased)   There are a multitude of ideas for how you can inexpensively and imaginatively scatter ashes.

All-in-all, creating your own memorial service can cost you less and prove to be much more personalized.

What is the difference between a funeral service and a memorial service?

Both a funeral service and a memorial service serve to give us opportunity to ritualistically say goodbye to a departed loved one.  Funerals are often regarded as practices for the living, and part of the process of grieving.  The distinction between a funeral service and a memorial service is largely the presence of the deceased’s body at the service and the time-frame in which the service is organized.

A funeral service generally takes place within a week or so of a death occurring, and the casket (and deceased) are usually present during the service, whether it be an open or closed casket service.  This can be a funeral service followed by a traditional burial or a funeral service followed by a cremation.

A memorial service often takes place some time after the death has occurred.  It can replace the funeral service, or it can be an additional service providing opportunity for a wider circle of people to participate in the memorialization.  With the rise in cremations, some families are opting to have a memorial service instead of having a funeral service.  This way the family arranges for an immediate cremation and then arranges a memorial service once the cremated remains are returned to the family.

The benefit of opting for a memorial service is that firstly it alleviates the pressure of having to organize a service in the immediate days following a death.  Allowing grieving to take place without frantically making arrangements.  All that needs to be organized is the collection and cremation of the deceased.  Many funeral homes will offer the opportunity to have a private family viewing where you can have the chance to say a formal ‘goodbye’ to your loved one before the cremation takes place.  The cremated remains will be made available for the family to collect, or can be delivered to the family.

Another benefit of a memorial service is the reduced cost.  If you arrange and undertake your own memorial service, not only is it truly personalized, it eliminates the need to pay other people for this service.  Whether you are choosing to inter or scatter the ashes, you can arrange to do so at a time and place that suits your family.

The funeral industry is resisting this shift to cremation and memorial service, largely because it reduces their revenue and profits.  They like to try and tell us that we need to have a service in order to process our grief.  Whilst I do agree that a ritual may be an important aspect of psychologically managing our bereavement, I do not think that the funeral industry have to be intrinsic to this process.  I believe that we as family can often arrange a memorial service that better reflects our lost loved one’s life, without any assistance from professional services.

At the end of the day, you have to do what is right for you and your lost loved one.  What kind of service you decide upon has to be the right way to memorialize and pay tribute to the person you have lost.

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The eroding tradition of funerals – Is cremation the new vogue?

We are at an interesting time in culture and society.  The industrial revolution changed culture fundamentally, just as the “information revolution” is still redefining culture as we know it today.  We see this impacting upon the funeral industry as it attempts to understand what these changes mean to it.

Firstly I see more funeral homes coming online with a website, something that many resisted when the Internet first started impacting on us as consumers.  The progressive funeral homes are even actively positioning themselves within the social media platforms, in attempts to communicate their ‘brand’ and the value of their services.

But fundamentally the tradition of funerals is changing, and this is where the essence of a revolution is based.  The “information revolution” has enabled the general public to become much more informed about their death care choices.  This recent article discussing the high cremation rate in Maine, encapsulates how our attitudes towards the rituals in our lives, is shifting how we regard the ritual and traditions surrounding funerals.

In discussing this changing culture Peter Neal, a funeral director and member of the Maine Funeral Directors Association, says “Fifty years ago, everyone went to church, everyone had a big wedding, no one moved in before marriage, and no one got divorced. Now, all those traditions have eroded a little. Funerals are no different.”

It is true.  Funerals are not necessarily somber, black-colored, wailing widow events these days.  Many of those that ARE choosing to have a service or ceremony are opting for the more uplifting life celebration type of ritual.  So yes, traditions are eroding, but in some way they are being replaced with new traditions.  Cremation is the most significant change in the funeral tradition.  The national rate in the U.S. is now at 41% and rising fast.  The choice of cremation has created a whole new tradition of ash scattering.  Dove, butterfly and balloon releasing are becoming a feature of memorial services, just as they had become a part of life celebration events like weddings.

The great bonus to the average individual is that a simple cremation costs much less than a traditional funeral service.  It puts control of the ritual back into the domain of the family as opposed to the funeral director.  A family can arrange a direct cremation for less than $1,395 and then perform their own memorial service or ash scattering.  A traditional funeral costs on average $7,300.  Whether people don’t have the money, or simply don’t want to waste money, the cremation option certainly saves a family money and at the same time empowers them to feel in control of the ritual.

As the cremation rate continues to grow, I am sure that we will see the percentage of direct cremations increase also.  Several funeral homes we have spoken with already report that over 30% of their cremations are direct cremations.  DFS Memorials believes that every American should have the choice to select their own death care ritual.  As a consumer society, we have become very adept at making our consumer choices and seeking out best-value deals.  Why should our funeral purchases be any different?  Tradition is defined as “the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation”. The Baby Boomer generation has rebelliously reshaped customs and rituals throughout their lives, and now they have reached their retirement years, they are challenging the inherited way of regarding funeral care.  Yes, I think this is likely to erode the custom of the ‘traditional funeral’ but at the same time it will mark an epoch change in the culture of death care.

So is cremation the new vogue?  How do you feel about what kind of funeral you want?

Ashes to INK…..a memorial tattoo

Tattoos are so popular these days, that although I find this a tad distasteful, I can see it appealing to some.

A Memorial Tattoo involves mixing a very small amount of cremated remains with tattoo ink and then creating a tribute tattoo.  Many people had already started to have tattoos as a legacy to a loved one that they had lost, so I guess this just takes it a step further.

Is it safe to mix human ashes in with ink?  Tattoo artists who perform these ritual tattoos claim it is perfectly safe and they have been doing it for years.  The medical profession is not so sure, claiming that putting any foreign particles into the body can cause an infection, or worse still, a rejection.

Personally, I would have thought it is safer to just have a standard tattoo as a memorial and leave the ashes out of the equation.  But each to their own!