The cremains, the cremation ashes left after the process is complete, have traditionally been buried, displayed, or scattered. Today, many ashes are also turned into memorial jewelry and other keepsakes.
Receiving the ashes of your deceased loved one may bring unexpected emotions. You’re suddenly facing the reality that they’re gone, but at the same time, there’s that sense of peace knowing that they’re done with whatever struggles they have faced. Knowing the next steps to honor the dead properly can also help you heal and move forward.
Cremation offers certain flexibility for grieving loved ones. There are many meaningful options when deciding what to do with the cremation ashes–from scattering ashes and placing cremation urns in columbariums to crafting keepsake cremation jewelry.
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After Cremation, What Remains Of The Human Body?
When human remains are cremated, the intense heat of the cremation chamber vaporizes all body liquids and consumes all tissues. After the cremation process, the remaining bone fragments are allowed to cool down and processed to become dark grey ash with a consistency similar to coarse sand and an odor that’s comparable to incense. Often they have no odor once the process is complete.
Cremated remains of an adult typically weigh between five and eight pounds or about 3.5 percent of their original weight. Taller persons normally leave more ashes than shorter ones. Younger individuals will also have higher bone density than older people, so their human ashes will naturally be heavier.
How Are The Loved One’s Remains Returned To The Family?
The cremation ashes will be returned to you and other family members in a properly marked sealed bag or container that is often placed inside a cardboard box. You can coordinate with the funeral director or crematorium staff if you wish to use an urn or other kinds of receptacles.
If the crematory needs to ship the ashes to the next of kin, the United States Postal Service has specific guidelines on how to package and ship cremated remains.
What to do with the cremation ashes will depend on the final wishes or will of the deceased or what family members think is best to honor their dearly departed.
How Do You Go About Burying Cremains?
Burial of the cremated ashes is still a popular choice among families as placing their dearly departed in a final resting place brings a sense of closure and healing.
1. Burial in a Plot or Eco-Friendly Burial
One of the popular options following cremation is to bury the cremated remains in a cemetery. Just like in a traditional burial, you need to purchase a plot where you can bury the cremains. Most cemeteries will require the cremation urn to be in an urn vault just like in a conventional interment plot. Likewise, you can also choose to build a family mausoleum or secure space in a community mausoleum as a final resting place for your loved ones.
If you do not want to build an urn vault, there are green burial grounds where you can bury the cremated remains without the need for vaults or grave liners. You can bury the ashes on private property or with permission on public lands.
2. Columbarium Niche
Cremated remains can also be housed in columbariums where you will have niches on walls that are about the size of a cremation urn. Once placed in the niche, you can place a custom plaque with the name of your dearly departed, dates of birth and death, and a favorite quote.
A columbarium niche may cost between $500 and $3,000 depending on where you are located and whether you’re getting a single- or multiple-urn niche.
Where Can You Bury Them?
There are various options if you want to bury the cremated remains of your loved one. The choice will depend on their final wishes or the budget you have available for such burial services.
3. Burial in an Urn Garden
Aside from burying the cremains in a memorial plot or a columbarium niche, many cemeteries today have designated urn gardens. These specific areas are more elaborate you can make the cremated remains part of the landscape such as boulders, memorial benches, fountains, and other landscape features.
4. Burial on a Private Land
One common question following cremation is if you can bury cremation ashes in your own yard. There are no existing federal laws in the United States that prohibit the burial of cremains on private land. However, you need to seek permission if you do not own the property.
You can designate a special spot in your yard and erect a headstone so you can always pay tribute to your dearly departed while keeping them close to you.
5. Burial at Sea
If you are planning to have a burial at sea following cremation, there are certain rules you need to follow. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires everyone to do it beyond the low water mark or more than three nautical miles from the shore. You should also use a biodegradable urn that will easily decompose in the marine environment.
You can consult a funeral director or local authorities if you need more guidance on burial at sea.
6. Space Funeral
For someone who wishes to be one with the heavens, you can send the ashes of your loved one into space. A portion of the human ashes can be sent around the Earth’s orbit, the Moon, or even further. The type of space funeral service available may depend on the provider. The cost will, of course, vary on the type of space burial you choose, and typically, they are also sky high.
7. Ancient Burial Sites
Some individuals want their ashes to return to nature and go back to the roots of their ancestors. If this is the case, you have to check with local authorities or tribe elders, if applicable, so you do not violate existing laws or traditions.
Where Do You Store Cremation Ashes?
For those who choose to keep the cremation ashes with them at home or at a place dear to the family, choosing a storage vessel to properly honor the dead is essential.
8. Cremation Urn
If you want to keep your loved one’s human ashes at home or close to you, you can designate a place at home where you can place their cremation urn. Likewise, you can ask funeral homes or artisans to build a custom urn for you made from ceramics, glass, wood, or other materials you or the deceased prefers.
9. Turn Ashes Into Memorial Stones
You can transform the cremains of your dearly departed into memorial stones. Family members can have the solidified remains close to them and even bring them around wherever they go.
10. Vase Urn
Just like custom urns, vase urns can be engraved with the name of your deceased loved ones. The vase comes with a compartment at the bottom where the ashes are stored. These urns can hold flowers or even candles that will be perfect for memorials or private prayer.
Can You Scatter Ashes Anywhere?
One popular way to say goodbye to a deceased following cremation is by scattering their ashes.
The practice seems innocuous. Why aren’t ashes welcomed everywhere? The problem is that ashes do not decompose. While they contain calcium, potassium, and phosphorus, human ashes also contain an excess of salt, which can leach into the soil and kill plant life. A small amount is unlikely to do damage, but too much can impact the composition of the soil.
Here are some common practices you may want to consider.
11. Scattering Ashes in Designated Memorial Gardens
Scattering gardens are designated spaces in a cemetery where you can scatter the cremated remains of your loved one. Such gardens make the choice easier for families as scattering ashes in public areas are either illegal or require special permission. This approach is also more environment-friendly since these special spots are properly maintained.
12. Scattering Cremation Ashes in Private or Public Properties
Scattering ashes on private lands are allowed as long as you have the permission of the owner. For public lands, such as national parks, forests, and reserves, you need to check for specific state laws that may apply in your area. The same is true if you are planning to scatter cremated remains over water, as federal laws may supersede local or state laws.
Other Options To Consider:
How you will celebrate the life of the dead or keep memories in their honor is a personal choice. These days, many people go beyond the traditional burial, scattering of ashes, or displaying of cremation urns.
Indeed diamonds are forever. There are families who opt to turn the cremains into cremation diamonds. Just like how natural diamonds, the ashes are subjected to extreme temperature and pressure to produce a bluish diamond stone.
14. Cremation Jewelry
For those who want to keep a portion of the ashes always close to them, there are companies who can craft beautiful cremation jewelry for you. From memorial necklaces to memorial bracelets, or memorial rings, you can find a jewelry maker that suits your taste and budget.
15. Tree Pod Burial
Those who want to move forward by seeing new life spring from the memories of their departed loved one can have a tree pod burial. The human ashes will be spread on the roots of a growing tree. You can choose the favorite tree of the deceased or allow family members to pick what best represents the individual.
16. Tattoo Ink
If you love body art and want the memory of a dearly departed to be a part of you, you can use a portion of the ashes to be mixed with the ink that will be used for your tattoo.
What could be a better send-off than one that brings smiles and lights up the sky? There are providers today who can help you celebrate the life of your loved one by scattering their ashes during a fireworks display.
18. Coral Reef Strengthening
Cremation ashes can be used to build memorial coral reefs. This is practically a combination of burial at sea and scattering of ashes, though the ashes will be mixed with concrete and molded to mimic natural coral formation.
If you decide against burying the cremains or playing the cremation ashes in a columbarium, there are plenty of options for honoring your dead loved one. If you move around a lot, many of the modern options will ensure that your family member is always with you.