Scattering Ashes - The Right And The Wrong Way

Scattering Ashes - The Right And The Wrong Way

As cremation becomes more popular in the United States, people are beginning to find creative ways to say goodbye to their loved ones. Gone are the days of sad, somber funerals. Scattering ashes with love and passion has replaced what used to be the slow march to the gravesite.

But scattering ashes isn't as simple as opening an urn and spraying the contents to the wind. It takes some planning and research. We've compiled a few tips for you to consider here.

The Right Place For Scattering Ashes

Here are places you should consider when you first start planning to spread ashes of a loved one:

  • Consider the deceased's wishes. If the deceased left any specific requests for where their ashes should be scattered, it's important to honor those wishes. This could be a particular location that was special to them. Or simply a general preference for scattering in nature versus a more urban setting.
  • Check local laws: Before scattering ashes, it's important to research local laws and regulations. Some areas may have restrictions on where ashes can be scattered. Others may require a permit or have specific guidelines for scattering.
  • Choose a meaningful location. If the deceased did not leave any specific requests, consider choosing a location that was meaningful to them or to the family. This could be a place where they spent a lot of time. It could also be a location with sentimental value, or simply a beautiful natural setting.
  • Consider accessibility as much as anything. While a remote mountaintop or ocean cliff may seem like a beautiful location for scattering ashes, it's important to consider accessibility. No one wants to have to come rescue you from a back country trail. And, if family and friends want to visit the site in the future, it should be an easy walk. A location that is difficult or dangerous to reach may not be the best choice.
  • Think about the environment. When scattering ashes in nature, it's important to consider the impact on the environment. Avoid scattering near bodies of water. Don't spread ashes in areas with delicate ecosystems, and always follow guidelines for scattering to minimize the impact on the environment.
  • Consider a memorial option. If scattering ashes isn't feasible or desirable, there are other options for creating a meaningful memorial. This could include a dedicated memorial site, a cremation urn that can be displayed in the home, or even incorporating the ashes into a piece of jewelry or artwork.
  • Involve family and friends: Scattering ashes can be a meaningful and cathartic experience for family and friends of the deceased. Consider involving loved ones in the process, and take time to reflect and remember the person being honored.

It's A Personal Decision

Remember, finding the right place to scatter cremated ashes is a personal decision. It should be made with care and consideration. Taking the time to choose a meaningful location and follow guidelines for scattering can help ensure a respectful and lasting tribute to the person being honored.

As an Ash Administrator, I have been asked to scatter ashes in all sorts of places. One of my first Ash Scattering Memorials was a trip to scatter ashes near the top of Denali, the highest peak in North America. I have scattered ashes several times in the Icy Straits of the Atlantic Ocean outside of Juneau, Alaska. Other areas include the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, the Appalachian Trail, and New York. One of the most amazing places was overlooking the Mokes on the windward side of Oahu in Hawaii.

The possibilities are endless. But, I caution you to do your own research. Find out the rules for the area you want to scatter your loved one's ashes and follow those rules. They are enacted to protect everyone including yourself.

The Wrong Places For Scattering Ashes

With that in mind, here are some of the wrong places to memorialize your loved one with an ash-scattering memorial.

  • Private property without permission. It is illegal to scatter ashes on private property without permission from the owner, so be sure to get permission or consider other options if you don't have permission.
  • Public spaces without permission. It is also illegal to scatter ashes on public property, such as parks or beaches, without permission. Be sure to check with the appropriate authorities before scattering ashes in a public space. I have a complete list of the Ash Scattering policies in the US National Parks. Just drop me an email and I will be glad to send you a copy.
  • Bodies of water. While scattering ashes at sea is a common practice, it is important to check with the appropriate authorities. In addition, it is not recommended to scatter ashes in bodies of water that are used for drinking water or swimming. Even though it may not be harmful, some perceive it to be. Make sure you complete an EPA application within thirty days of scattering ashes at sea.
  • Gardens or flower beds. While scattering ashes in a garden or flower bed may seem like a peaceful option, it can actually be harmful to the plants and soil. Cremated ashes are alkaline and can change the pH level of the soil, making it difficult for plants to grow.
  • Airports or other restricted areas. Scattering ashes in or near airports, military bases, or other restricted areas is not only illegal, but it can also cause safety concerns and disruptions.
  • Places with strong winds. It is not recommended to scatter ashes in places with strong winds. The ashes can blow around and potentially harm others.
  • Near sensitive areas, It is important to avoid scattering ashes near sensitive areas, such as schools, hospitals, or nursing homes. This can be distressing to those who may see it.
  • Places with high foot traffic. Avoid scattering ashes in areas with high foot traffic, as it can be disrespectful and potentially harmful to others.
  • Places with cultural or religious significance: It is important to be respectful of cultural and religious practices when scattering ashes. Be sure to research any cultural or religious customs before scattering ashes in a particular location.

Make It Special

No matter where you choose to scatter the ashes of your close friend or loved one, make it special. Carry something with you that was special to the person who passed away. Play music they would have liked. Recite a poem. Bring other family members and friends.

This is a ceremony but it's not like the old-time funerals where everyone dressed in black and followed the casket to the gravesite wailing. Yes, it is sad to say goodbye. But it should also be a chance to memorialize your loved one in a way they would want to be remembered.

With love.

Stan Reese is the President of Eternal Alaska and Eternal Alaska Urns.

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