Cremation is one of the most meaningful ways to celebrate the life of an incredible loved one. It’s one of the most popular alternatives to burial, and there are many reasons why people choose it for the people they love. 

When someone in your life passes away and has requested to be cremated, it’s easy to wonder about the most respectful and meaningful way to scatter their ashes. In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about how to respectfully cremate a departed loved one.

Everything You Need To Know About Cremation

Before we can explain a few options for scattering ashes, it’s important to understand how cremation works to know whether you’d like to choose it for yourself or your loved ones.

Choosing a Cremation Method

The two most common types of cremation are flame-based cremation and alkaline hydrolysis, also known as aquamation. 

Flame-based cremation uses a controlled fire to transform our loved one’s remains into ashes. 

Aquamation uses water for this transformation, mimicking and expediting the natural process of decomposition that would occur during earthen burial. This method is more sustainable than flame-based cremation, but it is a newer innovation in post-life services. Unlike flame-based cremation, aquamation is only available in a few U.S. states.

Where Does Cremation Happen? 

The cremation process takes place at a funeral home or crematorium. After a loved one passes away and their remains are scheduled for cremation, a funeral home collects their remains and stores them until the date of their cremation. 

Why Choose Cremation?

While there is no right or wrong decision for end-of-life services, these are a few reasons why people may choose cremation for their loved ones:

  • Cost. One of the primary reasons why people choose to be cremated is the difference in cost between cremation and burial. In most cases, cremation costs nearly half as much as earthen burial. This is because cremation doesn’t require the purchase of a burial plot, a headstone, or embalming services.
  • Sustainability. Another reason why many people choose cremation is for the sake of the planet. Because the process of embalming a body uses many chemicals, some people opt for cremation (especially aquamation) as a simpler burial method with a smaller carbon footprint.
  • Memorial Options. Many people also choose cremation because there are many thoughtful ways to transform memorial ashes. When we choose to be cremated, our loved ones can celebrate our lives  by scattering ashes, wearing memorial jewelry, or creating a diamond made from our ashes or hair. 

5 Ways To Respectfully Scatter Ashes

After a remarkable loved one passes close friends and family members may choose to gather for a scattering ceremony. To keep this ceremony and memorial service respectful and lawful, it’s best to either scatter the ashes on private property that you own or on land that you have permission to use. 

As an alternative, the scattering of ashes is also legal on public land in national parks, near public bodies of water, or in special scattering gardens. Below are some tips to honor a remarkable loved one with your scattering service thoughtfully and respectfully.

  1. Scatter Ashes Into the Wind

One popular option for a scattering ash ceremony starts with simply scattering cremation ashes in the direction of the wind. As the ashes blow away, you can say a few meaningful words to celebrate the impact and legacy of your incredible loved one. 

Before the act of scattering, you’ll want to deposit the ashes from the crematorium into a specialized scattering urn. This tube makes it easy to hold a meaningful cremation service without any extra tools required. 

  1. Water Burial 

After the cremation of a loved one, you can place their ashes in a biodegradable urn, then scatter them into inland waters. This respectful and meaningful form of water burial can take place at the shore or from the ocean. 

One way to perform a respectful water burial service is a method called trenching. Trenching involves digging a shallow trench on the seashore, scattering the ashes into the hole, and letting the tide bring them out to sea. If you are honoring someone who loved the ocean, this is a meaningful way to celebrate their life.

It’s important to note that the EPA’s Clean Water Act requires you to scatter ashes at least three nautical miles from land if you choose to go out to sea. To keep your scattering service compliant with federal and state laws, make sure to travel out to sea with someone who knows the local waters well. 

  1. Plant a Tree

Another thoughtful way to scatter ashes is in a private garden or on public land that you have permission to use. You can toss the ashes gently over fertile soil, say a few meaningful words, and then plant a new sapling in the soil. 

This type of memorial service is especially meaningful if you are celebrating the life of someone who loved to spend time out in nature or cared deeply about the environment. If they carefully tended their own garden or orchard, either of these spots would be a wonderful place for their ashes to be scattered.

  1. Scatter Ashes as a Group

If you are honoring a departed loved one with many friends, family members, coworkers, and community connections, one of the best ways to include everyone in their memorial is to scatter ashes as a group. This is a respectful and emotionally resonant way to remember your loved one’s impact and legacy.

One way to include others in your scattering ceremony is to fill small jars with portions of memorial ash. That allows everyone with a jar to stand, say a few words about their remarkable loved one, and scatter their share of the ashes. 

  1. Scatter Ashes in a Special Place

We all have our own set of meaningful places that are filled with memories. Before someone we love passes away, one of the best ways to spend time with them is to ask them for stories about the places they love the most. 

After your loved one passes on, you can use what you’ve learned about their favorite places to pick the best spot for their remains to be scattered.

3 Meaningful Ash Scattering Traditions

Now that you know how cremation works and some respectful ways to scatter ashes, we can look at some of the traditions and ceremonies that can make your cremation service even more meaningful.

  1. Tell Stories

While grieving a loved one’s passing is a normal and extremely healthy part of life, an ash-scattering service can also be a time for celebration.

One way to celebrate the life of an incredible loved one is by telling stories from their life. We can use an ash scattering ceremony as an opportunity to share the many ways that our loved ones impacted us, made us smile, and made us feel loved. 

Not all of the stories that we share at an ash-scattering ceremony need to be serious. If your loved ones always made you laugh, we can use the opportunity to share some of the hilarious moments we shared together. When honoring a person who had a fantastic sense of humor, there’s nothing better than laughter and levity.

Sharing stories is also one of the easiest ways to share a departed loved one’s legacy with people who weren’t able to get to know them during their life. These stories can spread through communities and generations, keeping their memory alive.

  1. Give Hugs

A scattering ceremony can be an emotional time. We may find ourselves flooded with memories of our loved ones. Embracing emotions as they arise is a wonderful opportunity to seek support from the people around us as we grieve. 

A thoughtful way to process the emotions at a scattering ceremony is to give and receive plenty of hugs. Physical affection is therapeutic, and one of the most meaningful aspects of loss is the way it can draw people together.

By sharing a hug or even a handshake with a friend or family member, we’re extending a meaningful expression of love during a difficult time. Even if you’re not a “hugger,” you can use a scattering ceremony as an opportunity to share and receive love from people you care about. 

  1. Sing a Song

Music brings people together, soundtracks our lives, and helps foster deep connections. If your scattering ceremony honors a music-lover, it’s the perfect time to raise your voice and sing a song they loved. 

We don’t need to have perfect pitch to honor a departed loved one with our voices. Ultimately, it’s the heart behind a song — and what it meant to our loved ones — that makes it so heartfelt. 

A wonderful way to learn more about our loved ones before they pass away is to ask them what music they love and have loved throughout their life. Songs can define entire seasons in a person’s life, and everyone has unique reasons for choosing their favorites. 

If you can, take the time to ask the people close to you about their favorite music. In the future, you might be able to honor their legacy by singing a song that means the world to them.

What If I Don’t Want To Scatter Ashes?

After the cremation of a loved one, you have many heartfelt options to consider in addition to scattering their ashes. For example, you can help their legacy live forever by using their ashes to create a genuine diamond. 

Using the carbon present in cremated ashes, Eterneva can create a one-of-a-kind diamond over the course of 10 months to a year. That diamond, like your departed loved one, is completely unique, and it serves as a meaningful physical reminder of how much they mean to you. 

If you’re ready to get started with the creation of your diamond, we’re here to help you from start to finish. We can even create a diamond using the cremated remains or hair of your beloved pet. 

No matter who you’re celebrating with your diamond, we’re ready to help you honor their legacy and keep their memory near forever.


Summary of the Clean Water Act | US EPA

Self-soothing behaviors with particular reference to oxytocin release induced by non-noxious sensory stimulation | PMC

Music Connects Us: Development of a Music-Based Group Activity Intervention to Engage People Living with Dementia and Address Loneliness | PMC