«Return to Blog List Cremation and Why Many Ashes are Never Scattered

It is not uncommon for many families who choose cremation to be undecided about what to do with their loved one’s ashes. Perhaps the deceased never specified there preference. A common default answer to the funeral director’s question about what will be done with the ashes is “I think we’ll scatter the ashes” because it buys the family time to figure it out. Surprisingly, according to recent studies about half of all cremated remains end up in the closet or on a garage shelf. Typically it is not for a lack of desire rather timidity in making sure to do the right thing. Common questions and concerns that can cause anxiety are:  Is it legal? Is this the place that the loved one would have desired? Maybe a permanent place with a memorial would make more sense for the family? I feel uncomfortable with doing the scattering. Maybe we should send them back to the family cemetery?

All of these doubts are normal concerns because the act of scattering is so permanent. This uncertainty naturally causes the surviving family member to set the ashes aside with the idea of making a future decision. Scattering offers the romantic sentiment of the ashes being returned to nature.  What many people don’t realize is that the ashes are really not ashes, rather, bone fragments that are the remaining carbon from the body after thee cremation. For this reason, when the family picks up the cremated remains they are often surprised by the weight and quantity of the cremated remains. Ultimately, many families are reluctant to scatter because they instinctively do not want a permanent separation. There is a nagging emotional feeling of total separation or no future place to visit. 

For all these reasons the family should always carefully seek professional advice before making a final decision. The reality that there is never closure for many people is the lasting legacy of ashes being “stored” forever, forgotten in a closet. We have all heard the common stories of boxes of ashes that are found in storage sheds or discovered years or decades later. Final disposition of the body does not take place until the ashes are disposed of in a respectful manner in a well thought out place that takes into consideration both the short term and long term needs of the survivors.           

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