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How to decide what to do with your ashes, or those of a loved one?

Many people plan their funerals ahead of time, but often run out of ideas when deciding what they would like done with their remains. Deciding on burial or cremation can be difficult (link to other blog), but burial has limited outcomes and places it is approved to lay someone to rest, like a family burial plot or a mausoleum. If you decide to be cremated, there are many more options


Similarly, when a loved one passes away, you can be left to make a decision about what to do with their ashes, without the ability to ask them what they might prefer. When a loved one passes away, family and friends often want to keep their memory alive. For many people, scattering the ashes of their loved one is a meaningful way to remember them. But deciding where to scatter someone’s ashes can be an overwhelming decision for those left behind.


Here are some tips for understanding and making this important choice:

If you’re planning for yourself

Think about what you’re like as a person

The most important part of this decision is that you’re happy with it. It’s pretty common for clients to choose a favourite place to have their ashes scattered. Are you very close with your family? You may want to talk with them about a family niche or a plot. Maybe you’d like to feel that you’re close to them as they live their lives, in which case you’d choose a decorative urn. Just like personalised coffins, urns are available in all shapes and sizes, and to suit all kind of interests. If you’re the adventurous type, maybe you’d like to be scattered from a plane, or taken on one last road trip a la Elizabethtown. If you’re eco-minded, how about having a tree planted on top of your ashes? Whatever you choose, make sure it reflects you, and the way you’d like to be remembered.

You’re only limited by your imagination

The traditional choices are limited, but still classics: interred in a plot, placed in a decorative urn, or scattered somewhere meaningful. Now, thanks to technology, the options are almost limitless. You can have ashes made into memorial jewellery, pressed into a vinyl record which plays a meaningful song, incorporated into tattoo ink, turned into part of a coral reef,  or even have them launched out of a cannon into the sky. You can have your ashes scattered in a meaningful place, or somewhere you always wanted to visit. Do a little reading, and see what resonates for you.

Consider the needs of your loved ones

When it comes right down to it, this isn’t a job you’ll be doing yourself. Your loved ones will be carrying out your wishes for you, and it’s best to think about how that’s going to happen. If it’s a simple matter of interring your ashes in a family plot or a remembrance wall, that’s pretty easy to organise, but if your plans are more elaborate, or involve travel, it could be more difficult on your family after you pass. For example, if you’d like your adult children to take your ashes back to the country you grew up in, that will be more difficult if it’s a long and expensive journey, or if they can’t stand to be in the same room as each other. Whether you want your ashes to be scattered from a plane, turned into commemorative jewellery, or anything in between, a little planning and forethought goes a long way.   

Make your wishes clear

The people in your life aren’t mind readers, and they won’t know what you want to do unless you tell them. Once you’ve decided what to do, have it written into your will, and speak to your executors and your loved ones about your intentions. It will save headaches for everyone later down the road.

If you’re making the decision for somebody else

Understand Your Loved One’s Wishes

First and foremost, you should understand your loved one’s wishes regarding their final resting place. If they did not make those wishes known before they passed away, you may be able to figure out what kind of place they would have wanted based on his or her likes, interests, and personality. For example, if your loved one was an avid hiker or nature lover, then it may be fitting that the remains are scattered in a national park or forest. On the other hand, if your loved one was a city dweller who enjoyed the hustle and bustle of urban life then scattering his or her ashes in a busy downtown area might be more appropriate. Do they have space reserved in a family plot? Would they want to be kept close to family or released into the wider world?

Consider What Will Bring You Comfort

While honouring your loved one’s wishes is important, it is also important that you choose a location that will bring you comfort as well. After all, this is where you will go back to visit when you want to remember your loved one and reflect upon their life. Consider places that have special meaning for both you and your loved one; places like childhood homes or favourite vacation spots could be potential locations for scattering the ashes.

Think About Practical Matters

Finally, before making any decisions about where to scatter someone’s ashes it’s important to consider practical matters such as laws and regulations regarding cremation as well as access issues related to certain locations. Do some research beforehand so that you know what restrictions may apply in certain areas; for instance, some parks have rules about how close ashes can be scattered from trails or facilities within the park boundaries. Additionally, some sacred sites may require permission before allowing visitors access onto their grounds with cremated remains in tow.


If you’d like to hear more, check out our podcast, Death Defined ( where we discuss the complicated emotional spectrum of death with real people, from their experiences. Hosted by funeral director Matt Kwoka, we delve into the complicated emotions, processes, and taboos surrounding one of the experiences that unites all humanity.


If you’d like to discuss requirements for a funeral, you can contact us at Southern Cross Funerals.