As more people continue to choose cremation over burial due to cremation cost and other factors, more families are scattering ashes of a loved one. While it seems simple, there are many things to consider when scattering remains. This includes the location, which scattering urn or container to use, filling the urn or container, transporting ashes, how to hold the urn while scattering, holding a ceremony, and weather considerations.
Choosing a Location to Scatter
The location (or locations) you choose to scatter is something that should be given a good amount of thought and consideration. There are almost endless places where families scatter ashes of a loved one. This can include at your home or on your private property or at a special park or other nearby location. Many families are also choosing to scatter ashes of a loved one at sea – just be sure that you are three nautical miles from shore when doing this (to comply with federal law). Another popular place to scatter is at a National Park – many parks throughout the U.S. allow for this, however, you just need to get permission first. In addition, many cemeteries or memorial parks are also catering to people who choose cremation with designated scattering gardens. These are typically beautiful sections of the cemetery that include plants, trees, fountains, etc. and can be a great option for families.
Another trend that is growing is scattering ashes of a loved one at multiple locations. This can include scattering some of the ashes at home and some in the water or elsewhere. Some families are also having multiple types of memorials for a loved one - this can include scattering a portion and growing a living memorial from a tree urn with the remainder, or scattering some and burying a portion at a special place with a burial urn.
It is legal to scatter ashes in most states, however, if you are interested in scattering on property you do not own or at a public park, you should get permission first.
There are thousands of cremation urns available on the market, however, only a select few are actually designed to scatter ashes. This includes the Eco Scattering Urn, an all-natural biodegradable urn made from bamboo (a sustainable resource) that is designed to scatter and is simple and easy to use. It comes in four sizes to accommodate families who want to scatter all of a loved one’s ashes or just a portion, and has a unique open and closing locking top that gives families the ability to scatter with control and locks the ashes in place during transport. Starting at $49, this is an affordable option for most families.
If you’re looking to scatter ashes in the water (commonly referred to as a water burial) a popular option is the Eco Water Urn. This patent pending urn floats like a buoy and gently releases the ashes from the bottom of the urn into the water. It’s 100% biodegradable and comes packaged in a sturdy and attractive bamboo container – perfect for transporting the water urn holding a loved one’s ashes to the scattering location.
Other options include scattering urns made from cardboard and simple containers found around the house. While these can work for some, there are some unique challenges with each. For example, most of the cardboard scattering urns are single use (cannot lock a portion of the remains back in the urn to scatter at multiple locations or to take home). In addition, these can break down during weather events and typically require gluing which can be challenging for some. Containers found around the home can work too, however, these are typically not the optimal shape and blow back (where ashes fall back on the person scattering) can occur.
Filling the Urn
Most funeral homes will fill a scattering urn for you – all you need to do is ask. Alternatively, if you already have had your loved one cremated and the ashes are at home, you can easily fill it yourself. The Eco Water Urn and small Eco Scattering Urn come with a unique biodegradable funnel to help get the ashes into the urn. Simply remove the top of the urn, cut the bottom of the funnel to make a wide hole, place the funnel in the hole on top of the urn, and gently pour the ashes into the urn. When done, simply press the secure top on the Eco Water Urn or simply place the lid back on and the Eco Scattering Urn in the ‘locked position’ with the wood locking pin provided. The medium, large and extra-large Eco Scattering Urns do not come with a funnel, however, the hole on top is large enough where you can simply pour the ashes into the urn. It’s a good idea to also place a small tub or bucket below any urn when filling. That way, in case some of the ashes do not make into the urn, you are able to easily recover them.
Transporting ashes from a funeral home or to a location to scatter is easy, just be sure the container or urn the ashes are in is secure (for example, the Eco Scattering Urn has the lid on in the locked position). Also, it is a good idea to either have the urn held by a passenger during the drive, or placed securely in a box or wedged next to something in the car so it will not move around or tip over.
How to Scatter Ashes
There are multiple ways to scatter ashes. If you are using an Eco Water Urn, gently place it in the water and give it a slight push or let the current take it. If you are using a scattering urn or other container, be sure to select one that is long in shape with an opening on top. If you use a shorter urn or container, there’s an increased chance for blow back, which is when ashes get on the person scattering and possibly others nearby.
Before scattering, pay attention to the wind conditions and make sure the wind is blowing away from you and others present are not standing down-wind. Then, carefully open the top, hold the scattering urn with your arm out away from your body and gently move the urn in an up and down or side to side motion. The more you tip the top of the urn downwards, the faster the scattering.
Holding a Scattering Ceremony
Many families are choosing to hold a ceremony before and during the scattering. This allows family and friends to be present, share stories and memories about the loved one who passed, enjoy each others company, and even participate in the scattering (as some families choose to let people present scatter a portion of the ashes). Families also sometimes include live music, a minister or other religious person to be present, food and beverages, etc.
Since scattering ashes takes place outdoors, it’s important to check the weather conditions before heading out to scatter. Windy days can make scattering more challenging and other weather conditions can make it a challenge for the people who may be attending.