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Cremated remains mixed with local soil

10 popular options for scattering ashes

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Better Place Forests creates and maintains conservation memorial forests for people who choose cremation and don’t want their ashes to end up in a traditional cemetery.

If you are choosing cremation for your end-of-life plans, it’s also a good idea to decide what you’d like to happen to your ashes. Though it can be tough to think about, taking control of planning what happens to your remains after you die can help you feel empowered and bring you peace. Planning ahead also takes the burden off your loved ones so they aren’t faced with a difficult decision while they’re grieving. 

That being said, deciding where to scatter your ashes can be difficult. There’s an overwhelming number of choices, ranging from traditional to unconventional. The best way to approach a decision is to educate yourself about what’s available, then examine your feelings to find what option brings you the most comfort. If you choose to have your ashes scattered it’s important to check state and local guidelines. For example, scattering ashes in California is typically legal with written permission from the owner of the property or governing agency. A quick Google search will tell you what you need to know before you plan to scatter ashes in a certain location. 

Here are 10 popular options for scattering ashes that may guide you in your decision-making process. 

1. In the ocean

Beaches and oceans are magical places that are special to many people. When it comes to spreading ashes in the ocean, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) generally allows the legal spreading of ashes as long as it’s done three nautical miles from shore. When scattering ashes at sea, consider releasing fresh flowers at the same time. The flowers will flow with the ashes, creating a beautiful scene to remember your loved one.

2. In the mountains 

Spending eternity among scenic peaks and valleys is a comforting idea to those who love the mountains. If your family made special memories while hiking and camping under the stars, spreading ashes on a mountain may be the perfect choice. Just be sure to do your research and get permission from the necessary governing agency. For example, if you want to scatter ashes at a state park, you may need to file paperwork first. 

3. In the air

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) permits you to scatter ashes from a plane as long as it poses no danger to any property or people. If you want to spread ashes from a plane, just be extremely careful to release the ashes with the flow of the wind, otherwise, the ashes could blow back into the plane, which may be distressing.

4. In a memorial forest

If scattering ashes in an open environment like the ocean, mountains, or air feels too impermanent, you may want to consider having your ashes spread in a memorial forest. Rather than having ashes scattered in an area that may not always be there for loved ones to visit, a memorial tree will be protected and cared for years to come. Memorial forests allow multiple ash spreadings, so you and your family — including your pets — can spend eternity together. 

5. In space

There’s a company that offers “memorial spaceflights” for those who want to send cremated remains to space. You can choose to have them orbit either Earth or the moon, or launch them into deep space where they will remain for eternity. This is a unique option for those who love stargazing and watching the planets. 

6. In the garden

A garden is a lovely, intimate place to spread ashes. If you have a loved one who was very fond of their gorgeous garden, it would be meaningful to give them back to the earth that they loved to tend. You can mark the area with a memorial or plant that means something special to the family. Just make sure that this garden won’t be altered or removed in the absence of the person who created it.

7. At a favorite vacation spot

You may have a favorite place where you feel most happy and content. Your family can take a trip and scatter your ashes at the destination. If they’ve never traveled there with you, leave them a list of places to see, things to do, and write down what those spots or activities meant to you — it will allow them to feel your presence and learn more about you, even after death. 

8. In glass keepsakes

If you want to memorialize your ashes but don’t want your ashes to be spread outside, consider having your remains made into glass keepsakes. Glass blowers can add cremated remains, which turn a lovely sparkling white color when heated, to shape the glass into sculptures, paperweights, or jewelry pendants. And if several of your family members would like a memento, multiple keepsakes can be made for each of them.

9. In a national park

With their breathtaking beauty and iconic scenery, national parks are a wonderful choice for a final resting place. Scattering ashes in national parks is often allowed, however, each park may have its own rules. You may need to fill out a form for permission, and follow the park’s specific guidelines. These may vary from how far the ashes must be from water or certain areas of the park that are off-limits. The park’s website may have the information you need. 

10. In a painting

Like a glass keepsake, you could have cremated ashes mixed into paints, which are then used to paint a beautiful portrait of you or a beautiful scene. Art that makes your loved ones think of you whenever they look at it is a unique and special gift. If a painting doesn’t feel like the right fit, there are other keepsakes that can be made with ashes

Choosing the right end-of-life option for you or a family member is a deeply personal decision. Luckily, with so many choices for scattering ashes available today, you should be able to find a perfect option that brings comfort to you and the people you love.

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