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.

Cremation options: choosing a cremation ceremony

This infographic from Skylawn Memorial Park gives a great and simple overview of the various cremation ceremony and cremation memorial options you can choose from.

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+

“Best Funeral Ever” – Reality or Spectacle?

BBQ Themed FuneralIt seems everyone in the funeral profession is talking about this latest TV reality show offered up by TLC (The Learning Channel)  “Best Funeral Ever“.  The questions we are all asking are how does this portray the funeral profession to those tuning in?  And really, how tasteful is it to run a reality show about people’s funerals?  Will this help encourage a positive and open dialogue about death care in our culture?

What is the message?

Whilst we wholeheartedly agree that any ‘message’ that gets people openly discussing death care is good.  The more we can dispel that taboo about discussing funerals and end-of-life decisions, the more our society will have a well-rounded perception about death as a natural process.

Is this program really encouraging open debate and discussion about death care in a positive way?  Critics seem to think not.  The Washington Post even go so far as to state “The idea of inserting a reality show into the business of death is more ghoulish than I care to ever see again.”  Other comments I have read concerning the show cite should words as “circus”, “bizarre” and “distasteful”.

The show centers on Golden Gate Funeral Home in Dallas, and is offering up for us an African-American heritage perspective on “home-going” funerals.  These are the kind of funerals where the more extravagant and outlandish the service, the more fulfilled the mourners seem to feel.  Best Funeral Ever shows us funerals themed around BBQs, Christmas and Theme parks.

Certainly the message about personalization is clear.  Although maybe the representation in the show is taking it to an extreme.  We at DFS Memorials encourage the notion of personalization in memorialization today, but largely we are talking about how the family can create their own personal and unique commemoration……not some spectacle put on by a so-called professional who maybe never even met your loved one!

Title of the show

“Words are mightier than the sword” is a truth that Shakespeare could pen centuries ago but has become even more significant in our media-saturated world.  Psychology professors at Yale studying English language designate “best” as one of the ‘power words” that connotes a significant response.

Hence how it is over-used today by retailers to encourage us to consume.  Put “best” together with “ever”, and you are stringing together some pretty powerful messages.  Is this show portraying to us the Best Funerals Ever?  I sincerely doubt it.  It does more to make a mockery of what value is.

What do we learn from ‘Best Funeral Ever’?

Being that this show is hosted on The Learning Channel, we have to ask this question.  Personally, I don’t think we learn anything new about funeral rituals.  It reinforces the stereotype we already knew, that African-Americans choose to conduct more ostentatious funerals, to mourn more openly.  The fact that Golden Gate Funeral Home employ fake mourners to attend funerals and cry, openly exemplifies what a shallow and surreal culture we have now created to live in.

Best Funeral EverI don’t think it is anything new to present the notion that a funeral can be personalized.  Funeral directors around the U.S. (if not world) have been doing this for some time.  I have known of plenty of unique funeral services hosted with a special theme to commemorate the deceased.

The main thing we learn is that spectacle makes for good TV.  What you view on ‘Best Funeral Ever’ should make you realize that reality is NOT reality.

 

The Online Funeral

There are two aspects of what we have come to understand as an ‘online’ funeral.  Firstly, this may involve streaming funeral services online so that family & friends who are unable to attend, may still participate.  Secondly, it is now possible to actually arrange a direct cremation, or direct burial, without even visiting a funeral home.  The whole process can be arranged online via a website, and as with other consumer purchases, it can be offered at a discounted rate, when service overheads are significantly reduced by offering the service online.

This article by US Funerals Online on The Online Funeral: How digital technology can reshape funerals as we know them highlights some of the changes we are witnessing in the death care business driven by new technology.

No Body will be at this funeral – the death of the traditional funeral!

I came across this great little column to day, where a baby boomer had expressed her feelings and changing attitude towards death care and funeral rituals.

The trend in funeral care now is most certainly shifting towards cremation accompanied by a personalized memorial service.  This column from Linda Jo Scott succinctly highlights just how much peoples’ attitudes have changed.

It resonates with our shift to focus on a funeral as a ‘life celebration’ as opposed to a somber event.  It also suggests that the baby boomer generation, and indeed those that follow, will demand new, innovative and personalized memorial tributes.   Are we entering an era where the memorial service will take over from a traditional funeral service?

It is a wake-up call to the funeral industry, many of whom are still very slowly adapting to the huge cultural change within the death care industry.

What are your thoughts?  What kind of send-off do you envisage for yourself?  Do you think it is important to drive more acceptance of discussing final plans?

 

‘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!

Natural Death Care: the ‘do-it-yourself’ alternative

Have you ever thought about caring for your deceased family member yourself?  Washing him or her, preparing he or she for burial (or cremation), building your own wooden coffin, transporting them to their final resting place and conducting your own funeral service.   Sounds a little extraordinary doesn’t it?  Yet it is not that long ago since that was how it was done.  Most people died at home and the family cared for them, perhaps enlisting the services of their minister and an undertaker/cabinet maker.

However, home funeral care is gaining more popularity, as there is a cultural shift towards reclaiming these rituals for the family.  We are witnessing a revival in the home funeral, or family-directed funeral, as culturally and financially Americans are seeking other alternatives for a funeral.  Natural death care seems like the other paradigm to natural childbirth, bringing the rituals of entering and leaving our lives back towards a more holistic approach.

Conducting your own funeral offers some more simplistic, personal and natural methods of disposition.  Whether you are seeking a completely organic, ecologically- friendly earth burial, or a simple cremation, arranging to do-it-yourself gives you complete autonomy over the death care ritual.

How does a green burial save money?

An average funeral in the US today costs around $7,775 (according the NFDA 2012), yet much of this cost is spent on professional fees and elaborate merchandise, and it does not include any cemetery fees.  A simple natural burial in a green cemetery is likely to cost a family something in the region of $1,000, especially if the family direct their own preparation of the deceased and opt for a basic wooden coffin.

There are a number of ‘green’ natural cemeteries across the US where you can bury your dead in a green reserve where they are naturally returned to nature.  Many of these sites even operate as non-profit organizations where a donation is requested in lieu of a burial plot.

The $1,000 Family Farewell

Yes, you can probably do-it-yourself for the cost of $1,000, an inexpensive family send-off.  Many green burial sites charge a basic fee and around $500 should get you a single burial plot.  If the family undertakes all the funeral preparation themselves, then a simple but dignified burial can be achieved for $1,000 in many areas of the US.

A basic cremation is the other alternative that can facilitate a simple low cost family funeral.  A direct cremation can be obtained in most metro areas in the US now for $500 – $800.  Cremation has long been a disposition method in many faiths and cultures, and considered by some to be a more ‘natural and spiritual way to dispose of our earthly body.  In this way cremation can facilitate a natural DIY option for the family.  Once the family has the cremated remains, a private family memorial service can be held.

Resources for Family-directed funerals:

Home Funeral Directory  – http://homefuneraldirectory.com/

National Home Funeral Alliance – http://homefuneralalliance.org/

Natural Burial Co-operative – http://naturalburial.coop/USA/

DFS Memorials – Locate your nearest low cost cremation provider

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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