Scattering Ashes Has Gained in Acceptance and Popularity, But What Are The Pros and Cons?
Updated: Oct 14
Many families ask the question if scattering their loved ones ashes is a good idea. It has only been in the last 15 or so years that scattering on land or sea in the US has gained in acceptance and popularity. That said, the next question is where and if the rest of the family is in agreement. Perhaps it was the last wish of the deceased to be scattered and that at least, makes the decision easier, knowing they are in keeping with their loved one’s wishes.
But what about those, in possession of cremated remains without any advanced directive or just a vague understanding of what their loved one wanted? For these individuals, the options can become a source of discord among the family members with the potential of family drama ensuing. Ultimately, it comes down to who has been left in charge, whether it be the next of kin or executor of the estate.
Perhaps the two main points of concern are costs and the ability to revisit the site of internment. With a ground burial, or cremated remains placed in a niche, the family has a place to visit and pay respects - but both options can be costly. Depending on the state, the size and location of a niche or columbarium, the range of costs is somewhere between $750.00 to $3,000.00. This would include the cost of the urn, niche, memorial plaque, perpetual care, the opening and closing, and administrative costs. A ground burial plot would cost more, with the charges to include opening and closing the grave site. This doesn’t include the associated costs of a memorial service if it were to take place at a funeral home.
In contrast, the cost of a scattering is very affordable, ranging from $295.00 for an assisted scattering (permits, location evaluation, etc.) to $1500.00 for a private ash scattering service at sea, with some boats big enough to hold up to 100 passengers. A burial at sea will provide the GPS coordinates of the scattering, but realistically the cremated remains dissipate so quickly, one might not feel it’s truly a resting place.
Ground scatterings in state, federal, or private land ranges in cost from $300 - $1,000. The benefit of a ground scattering is knowing specifically where the cremated remains settled and in part understanding that the remains might still be there, regardless of wind and rain.
The greater challenge of both sea and ground scatterings is the ability to revisit the site. In the case of a private boat charter, one could plan a return trip to the location, but what if it was a location out of state? The same holds true for the ground scattering, how likely would you be able to plan for a return visit, either for yourself or with family?
These are the questions one must ask themselves and those close to the deceased. What’s right for one family, may not be at all suitable for another.
However, the very act of scattering is also the grandest gesture of releasing a loved one to nature or traveling the ocean’s currents. Allowing in spirit the notion that our loved ones are free, not held to any one place and perhaps for us, a measure of acceptance and closure.
I am always reminded of a client whom I accompanied on a private charter. She alone was scattering the ashes of her niece, who was bound to a wheelchair for a significant portion of her life. Upon reaching the place where she was instructed to pour the cremated remains out of a scattering tube, she instead reached in, throwing them to the wind and said of her niece, “She’s finally free”.