Traditionally, people tend to either scatter their loved one’s ashes or keep them in a special container called an urn. But with cremations becoming more and more popular in the UK, there are now lots of different options for a unique send-off.
There are lots of things you can do with a loved one’s ashes
Some common things include:
Scattering your loved one’s ashes yourself, often at a special location - such as a beach, forest or garden
Burying your loved one’s ashes, potentially at a cemetery
Placing your loved one’s ashes in a columbarium, which is a structure for storing lots of people’s ashes in separate urns
But some people will prefer to do something different, often linked to the career, taste or hobbies of the person who’s died.
You could scatter your loved one’s ashes via ‘aerial scattering’
This is where someone drops the ashes of the person who’s died from up high.
You might choose this option if:
You want to scatter your loved ones ashes somewhere which is difficult to access
You want to scatter your loved one’s ashes in a particular way
You want the scattering ceremony to be particularly memorable
If you choose this option, it’s important to check where the ashes will land. Unless they land on open water or your own property, you will need to get permission from the landowner in advance.
Drones & Aircrafts
If the person who’s died loved aviation, you might choose to scatter their ashes from a particular aircraft. This could be anything from a hot air balloon to a vintage bi-plane!
This could also be useful for scattering ashes at hard-to-reach sites, like mountainsides or the open ocean. It might also be appropriate if you or your loved ones have access needs, meaning reaching particular locations is more challenging.
You'll usually need to find a company or individual to provide the aircraft of your choice, and someone to fly it.
You might also need special permission to scatter the ashes. This is usually from the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority, which is in charge of aviation in the UK. You could discuss this with whoever is providing you with the aircraft.
If you’re going to scatter someone’s ashes
There are a few things you might want to know. Our article on scattering ashes offers some ideas of where to scatter ashes, as well as practical advice on how to do it.
If your loved one wanted to literally go out with a bang, you could hire a specialist to make their ashes into a firework by mixing their ashes in with gunpowder. This could be either an entire display or a smaller at-home ceremony.
Some people might find the idea of using ashes in a firework uncomfortable, but it's becoming more and more popular as a way to celebrate a loved one’s life.
It’s important to discuss what is possible with the fireworks specialist. They should be able to advise on where best to release the firework, as well as the colours and patterns available.
Space travel (well, almost)
Turning your loved one’s ashes into space dust might sound like science fiction, but it’s an increasingly popular option. The specialist attaches the ashes to a special balloon, which floats away into the sky. The balloon then releases the ashes once they reach the boundary between space and our atmosphere.
If you want to keep hold of your loved one’s ashes, there are lots of ways you can do this
Most people are aware that you can keep your loved one’s ashes in a specially-designed urn, or turned into jewellery. But there are also some less well-known ways of finding your loved one’s final resting place.
Planting a tree
This is where someone puts your loved one’s ashes into a special pot, often made of biodegradable material, along with some seeds. You can then plant it, and the nutrients in the ashes help the tree grow. Some people might call this a ‘living urn’.
This could be a good option if the person who’s died was a nature-lover or environmentally conscious. But it’s important to think carefully about where you plant the tree, as there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to visit it in future.
Getting a tattoo
Some tattoo artists are able to mix a small amount of your loved one’s ashes with ink, which they then tattoo onto your body.
This could be a meaningful way of keeping your loved one with you. But for some people, it could be an unwelcome reminder that their loved one has passed away. Tattoos are permanent - so it’s important to think carefully about what is right for you.
You could also think about the tattoo design, size and placement, and consider which artist is best equipped to work in the style you’re after.
Writing on the wall
Artist Nadine Jarvis made a series of household items with human ashes, including a box of pencils, where the ashes formed the pencil lead. The user sharpened the pencils back into the box, meaning they could keep the pencil sharpenings containing some of the ashes.
Commissioning an artist
Lots of artists can create paintings, ceramics and other artworks out of human ashes. They normally do this by mixing the ashes in with their art materials.
This could help you remember the person who’s died, and provide an interesting talking point for guests to your home. But it’s important to do your research - you might want to make sure the artist has experience of working with people’s ashes. This can also be one of the more expensive options, depending on the scale of the artwork.
Pressing a vinyl
If your loved one was a huge music fan or vinyl buff, you might choose to get their ashes pressed into a custom vinyl. This can contain an audio track of your choice - anything from their favourite song to a recording of them talking.
Arrange a cremation today
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What you do with a loved one’s ashes is a personal decision
It’s important to do what is right for you, your loved ones and the person who’s died. This can sometimes cause tension, especially if you or a loved one wants to do something unconventional.
If you are planning your own end-of-life arrangements, you could discuss them with your loved ones, to ensure you are all on the same page. If you feel strongly about what happens to the ashes of a loved one, you could discuss them with the other people involved.
Ultimately, there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to end-of-life events, and this includes what you do with your loved one’s ashes.