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

Options for a cremation memorial 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 over 60% and it is predicted that by 2040 the cremation rate will reach a staggering 87%.  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 $495*.  

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 for what to do with your loved ones’ ashes

  • Inter the ashes in a niche, columbarium, or existing gravesite.
  • 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 the bottom of the ocean.
cremation-urn

Cremation 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 a cremation, you eliminate the need for 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 costs 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 paying the large cost to open the grave and inter the remains.

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

Plenty of spoof movie scenes have featured some catastrophe 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.

Scattering ashes seems to be 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-Glass

If money is no object, and you want something quirky and unusual, there are many 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 goblet, 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 the notion of a cemetery in the future.

Scattering Cremated Remains

Visit our Complete Guide to Scattering Cremated Remains to learn more about the complexities and guidelines on scattering safely, what different ash scattering options to consider, and how to ensure you comply with any regulations or local ordinances.

* Direct cremation prices vary, but a basic direct cremation can cost under $800 in areas such as Nevada, Florida, and Washington.

Sara Marsden

I have been researching and writing about the death care industry for the last fifteen years. End of life services and experiences are something most of us choose not to reflect upon until we are suddenly faced with dealing with it. I have been contributing comprehensive and independent resources for families that explain how the funeral industry operates, and the laws that govern funeral practices. Sara writes for US Funerals Online and DFS Memorials LLC, as well as contributing to other forums and publications for the death care industry. I have a BA in Cultural Studies. This helps my analysis of cultural death care rituals, alongside a career background in Business Management. The death care industry is undergoing an epoch of change and this fascinates me.

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