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What to do with the ashes

Just like a body that is not cremated, one that is can also be buried in a cemetery grave or placed in a mausoleum. In the cemetery, it can be buried in a cremation grave or most cemeteries will allow ashes to be buried on top of someone else's grave with the grave owner's permission.

For burial on personal property, you must also have the property owner's permission. Before you bury ashes on personal property, such as your own land or yard, you may want to consider a couple of things:
  • what if you move? For this reason, you would probably want to put the ashes in some type of impermeable urn or container so it can be disinterred and moved with you. There are also urns like the sundial pictured above, that have space inside so the cremated remains are still are still outside or in the garden but are above ground and can be easily moved. 
  • if you bury them somewhere other than your own property, is there a chance you'll change your mind about where you buried them? As mentioned in the previous point, make sure they're in a protective urn or container.

Whether you're burying in a cemetery or private property, a protective urn may be one made from marble, bronze; there are also items known as combination urns and urn vaults. These are made from a durable substance and cost less than purchasing both an urn and an urn vault and will satisfy the requirement of an urn vault for those cemeteries that require one. More information about urn vaults is on our Cremation urns & vaults page.

If you're burying on private property or even in an urn garden, you may want to use a biodegradable urn. These will break down within six months, allowing the ashes to return to the earth. There are several styles available; a blue one is pictured above.

Cemeteries that have a mausoleum usually have spaces (niches) for placement of an urn. Some of these have a glass front so you can see the urn; these spaces cost more. There is also usually some space for a few small personal items. Many cemeteries have a "mausoleum" that is only for cremated remains, a columbarium. Spaces are usually priced with those at eye level costing more than those above or below. Because these are free-standing outdoor structures that have niches on all sides, there are no glass fronts for security reasons.

Before you scatter, remember it's final; you can't re-gather them if you change your mind or wish you'd scattered them somewhere else.

Scattering the ashes is a common choice. The family of the deceased sometimes decide to do this but it's much more common for the person who died to tell people ahead of time that he wanted his ashes to be scattered. Again, this cannot be done on private property and for the most part, it cannot be done on public property. Most commonly, the laws about public areas prohibit scattering in state forestlands and public waterways. There are companies that will scatter the ashes at sea for a charge. Burial at sea must be done at least three nautical miles from land. If you choose to do this yourself from a boat or yacht, you may want to choose a biodegradable urn made just for this purpose. It will remain on the water's surface for a few seconds before descending into the water. One design is shown in the last picture in the heading above. There are also other designs that are available in sets (usually of six) that allow a few family members or friends to participate. Examples of these can be seen here.

Many churches or cemeteries have a scattering garden. This is usually done as part of a meaningful service.
Many people choose to keep the ashes of someone they love at home. Please be respectful about how you do this. Don't put them on a shelf in the basement, attic, or garage. If you want to keep them near but don't want people to know by seeing an urn sitting in your livingroom, there are many urns available that do not look like urns! (Some are shown on the page, Cremation urns & vaults.

Less common choices include shooting them into outer space or incorporating them into fireworks.

No matter what you choose to do, a small amount can be kept. You may choose to just keep them as is or you may choose to put them into a piece of jewelry. Many items, such as pendants, bracelets, keychains, and other items can hold this small portion. See some of these are on the page, Other products and a few are on the page, Our personal favorites. A few other options include having them made into a diamond, mixed into paint in a work of art, or in a handblown glass pendant.
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