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Scattering Ashes: Everything you need to know

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In Australia, cremation is increasingly becoming more popular for a variety of reasons. Affordability may be a large factor, as families often are not prepared for the added cost of purchasing a burial plot or headstone. Cremation also affords the family more time to prepare for the funeral ceremony and allows a large variety of memorialisation options once the ashes are returned. After the service and cremation process is complete, families are given the opportunity to place their loved one’s cremated remains (sometimes referred to as ‘cremains’ or ‘ashes’) in an urn, bury or inter them at a Cemetery, or scatter the ashes in a special place. If scattering the ashes is chosen, it can be difficult to select the right location, so we have put together a helpful guide about what you need to know when scattering ashes.

Special ideas for scattering ashes

When considering where to scatter your loved one’s ashes reflect with your family on the type of person they were, what they enjoyed, where their passions lay and places they loved (or would have loved) to visit. For a suggested list of locations in and around Melbourne and Brisbane, checkout this blog.  Ultimately the possibilities are as endless and unique as the person being remembered. Some ideas include:
  • Parks, wetlands or bushlands
  • Beaches, lakes or water
  • Your backyard
  • Their hometown
  • The cemetery or near another loved one’s burial site
  • Aerial scattering, skydiving plane, drone or fireworks
  • Public property or private property
  • Tree or trenching burial

When deciding where to scatter ashes also consider whether the location is somewhere you will be able to return to for visits, or if it’s likely the land will be changed for development.

How to Scatter in parks or bushlands

If there is a special park or bushland that your loved one visited regularly this may a great place to scatter their ashes. However, be careful to consider if the park will be around in the long term or if it will be turned into housing or sports field. Consider access and longevity for scattering loved one’s ashes in public or private land. Keeping some of the ashes in an urn may be the solution in this circumstance.

Scattering ashes in a cremation memorial park is another alternative if concerned about long-term land availability. This creates a special place to visit beyond the funeral service and gives families comfort in an everlasting place to remember your loved one. You can choose to scatter ashes, bury or divide in a memorial park.

How to scatter ashes at the beach or in the sea

There are a few ways you can scatter ashes into the sea. You can do it yourself, in a group or hire a company. You can also release the ashes from the urn, or purchase a water-soluble container and perform a floating ceremony. For example, if your loved one enjoyed surfing you could make a ring of people on surfboards and release their ashes in a water-soluble urn, which will float for a few minutes before sinking below the surface to bio-degrade naturally. As with any outdoor activity, be mindful of weather and ocean conditions that may apply to your activity.

Do you need permission to scatter human ashes?

Some locations like private property will require permission from owners to scatter ashes. In Victoria, in public areas state and local councils do not generally require you to arrange a permit to scatter ashes, however there are exceptions to this. Local council and other public bodies have varying requirements concerning the disposal of ashes, with some having no formal policy. If you are considering scattering ashes, it is always safest to research the area first.

Taking the ashes overseas to scatter

A common question asked by families is “can you take cremation ashes on a plane?” The answer is yes, with a few regulations. For example, Virgin Australia’s policy states that “cremated remains in the form of ashes may be stored in carry-on or checked baggage but must be shipped in funeral urns which are effectively cushioned against breakage by suitable packaging. The ashes must be contained in a sealed container (urn) of such construction that there can be no risk of accidental spillage.” It is encouraged to have a letter from a funeral director to verify the ashes to pass through security screening. If unsure about further policies check with the airline before you book the flight.

Each country also has different requirements for bringing in cremated remains. You need to check with that country’s embassy or government website for specific rules and regulations surrounding. Research this well ahead of your trip as you may need to obtain specific letters and documentation from both the Funeral Director and Crematorium.

Can you split ashes?

Some families decide to divide the ashes between family members. This may be to suit different people’s preferences in honoring their family member or due to the size of the chosen urns. The division of ashes can be done by a funeral director or requested at the time of Cremation. If you are choosing to remember your loved one in a memorial glass urn not all the ashes are incorporated into the glass, only a small portion, so the ashes will therefore need to be split.

Scattering ashes ceremony

Another reason people opt for cremation is that it gives them the advantage of more time to decide how best to memorialise their loved one. You can take as much time as you need to decide the best way to honour your loved one in a way that suits their life and how much they meant to you. Planning a memorial service is a strong part of the grieving process to help families say goodbye to their loved ones, and you can use this time and more to plan the ultimate method for remembering them for the rest of you and those close to your loved one’s life. During the ceremony you can choose to scatter the ashes there or hold onto them for another time. You may like to include items at the ceremony that your loved one enjoyed, e.g. their golf clubs if they were an avid golfer, a watch or another favourite item. Even though the ceremony is a time of sadness, it is also a time to celebrate your loved one’s life. They would surely rather you speak of fond memories than to have only sadness and grief at their final farewell. Having someone who will speak positive words about your loved one is a great thing to include in a ceremony. If you’re considering delivering a eulogy, you may want to reference our helpful guide.

Poems and words to say when scattering ashes

Poems, sayings or favourite lyrics are also great to add to a scattering ceremony. Whether they are heartfelt, humorous or personalised, these moments provide a chance for attendees to pay their respects in a way that is meaningful for them. We have created a list of poems and hymns to start your thinking around which reading may suit your family and loved one.

Some practical advice about scattering ashes

Here are 3 tips we have collected that may help your experience scattering ashes run as seamlessly as possible:

  1. Check how the cremation urn or container opens before you leave. Many plastic cremation containers have a small plug on top that can be lifted with a flat screwdriver. Your Funeral Director may also be able to offer a Scattering Tube which have a nicer look and make the process of scattering the ashes a lot easier.
  1. Be aware of the direction of the wind at the time. If it’s a windy day as you go to scatter you may end up with the ashes blowing towards your family or others who are in the area.
  1. Be aware of others if scattering in a public place. It is advisable to try and find a quieter area, if possible, away from the general public and to be mindful of those who may also be using the area at the time.

Scattering ashes is one method for many families that suit their situation, honours their loved one and befits how they would like to remember them. There are many alternative ideas around what to do with cremains. For memorial urns we have created a comprehensive booklet to find a memorial style to suit you and your loved ones.

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