Remembering a loved one is personal to you and the relationship you had with them. Deciding what to do with cremation ashes is never an easy decision, but it's something you should do in your own time and when the time feels right. Don't rush it, and don't feel pressured into making a fast decision – take the time to think, process, and remember.
What to do with cremation ashes?
Deciding how to remember a loved one, especially what to do with cremation ashes, is an important part of the grieving process. Grief is complex and individual. There is no right or wrong way to deal with the emotions that come with grief. However, scattering ashes or finding a special way to preserve them is a cathartic way to say goodbye.
Scattering cremation ashes
The first option for cremation ashes is scattering them somewhere meaningful. This can help with the grieving process because it is the final act of physically saying goodbye. Many decide to have a physical space to mourn – somewhere they can visit again in the future. It doesn't have to be one space; it could be several meaningful and memorable spots.
If this is something you're considering, it's worth thinking about the places that were special to your loved one – perhaps somewhere they always enjoyed being, somewhere they felt happy. It could be a place in nature, like woodland or by the sea. It could be their favourite view, or perhaps a spot on their favourite walk. There are no prohibitive laws in the UK relating to scattering ashes, but you likely need to speak to a landowner if it's private land.
Creating a memorial with cremation ashes
Alternatively, the second option growing in popularity is recreating the ashes into something meaningful to the person who has passed or the people they've left behind. We'll explore these ideas further in our blog, with 22 unique things to do with cremation ashes. Some are a little more unusual than others, but they'll certainly serve as inspiration.
Cremation ashes and the grieving process
Whichever choice you make, it's important to remember that cremation ashes are a hugely emotional aspect of the grieving process. It's common to hear the term 'closure' regarding ashes, but grief is unique, and it's best to take each day at a time. The idea of closure can be unhelpful in some ways, as it's almost like shutting a door, but the healthiest way of dealing with grief is to understand that there are powerful feelings involved, and some days will be better than others. (For more information on dealing with grief after a loss, the NHS website is a good resource).
Here are some unique ideas (some are a little more unusual than others) that we've found you can do with cremation ashes.
1. Plant a Tree
If your loved one was passionate about the environment, or you want to create a lasting tribute for future generations to visit, then planting a tree is a lovely way to say goodbye. You could either plant a tree where the ashes are scattered as a mark. Or, there are now biodegradable urns that incorporate a seed with the cremation ashes that will directly nourish the growth of a tree. Therefore, the ashes naturally return to nature while also creating a living tribute that will grow and flourish over time.
2. Cremation Ashes Jewellery
Jewellery made from ashes is becoming more popular than ever. At Hand on Heart, we offer two different options – cremation ashes jewellery and self-fill ashes jewellery. The cremation ashes jewellery range means you can create a piece of jewellery, including necklaces, rings, cufflinks, charms and earrings, using the ashes from your loved one. The cremation ash is very delicately set into resin, which has a beautiful glass-like appearance while being very hard-wearing, making it the perfect material for ashes jewellery. Available in various colours, the cremation ash is layered to create a beautiful floating and sparkling appearance within the jewellery.
3. Self-Fill Ashes Jewellery
Our other range for jewellery made from ashes is the self-fill ashes collection. These pieces are designed to hold a small token of cremation ashes – the ideal way to keep a loved one close in a beautiful piece of memorial jewellery. All our urn necklaces are made from sterling silver and come with the equipment and instructions needed to transfer a small amount of ashes into the necklace. You can also choose to have your ashes necklace personalised with a message or date, or we can even use a copy of your loved one's handwriting taken from a note or greetings card.
4. Ashes Portrait
A wonderful reminder of your loved one could take the form of a portrait – either of themselves or something special to your relationship with them. An artist can mix the cremation ashes with paint and create a portrait for you to keep forever. One option could be to do this with part of the ashes and then scatter the other half. For example, if there's a particular view that your loved one was fond of, then you could commission a portrait of it using some ashes and scatter the rest at the location.
5. Ashes Tattoos
Memorial tattoos have always been popular, but it's now possible to take the idea of a tribute to a loved one a step further. Several tattoo parlours around the UK will mix ashes with body ink to create a lasting reminder and a unique tribute that's a permanent fixture on your skin. It could be a portrait of them, their name or initials, or a symbolic gesture that was special to them and your relationship. A tattoo is a permanent reminder that they'll always be with you.
6. Cuddly Toys
Cremation ashes can be placed inside cuddly toys or memorial bears – they are typically concealed in a container inside the toy. It's a heart-warming way to offer comfort in knowing that a loved one is still close and can also be a nice way for young children to remember someone who has passed away but will always be there to offer comfort.
7. Vinyl Records
This is an unusual idea, but one that has proven to be a popular concept with young people, after a study found that one-quarter of youngsters like the idea of having their ashes compressed into a vinyl record. A company called And Vinyly will create a bespoke vinyl record with the cremation ashes – complete with a recording of a personal message, soundtrack, last will and testament, or simply the sound of silence.
8. Ashes Sculptures
In a similar fashion to the portrait, an artist can create an original work of art by combining cremation ashes with materials to make a beautiful memorial. One popular option is transforming the ashes into works of glass art which can be displayed forever at home, or in a garden, as a unique and memorable tribute.
9. Customised Urns
There are several companies around the UK that will create urns that are unique and custom-made to showcase your loved one's passions, no matter how unusual. For example, some customised urns include the shapes of classic cars, sports memorabilia, food packaging, or even life-size figurines of themselves or their favourite famous person.
Turning cremation ashes into stones is an idea that appeals to many, as the solidified remains are built to last and ensure a meaningful, solid connection. Once the stones have been created, you can hold them in your hands and feel the significance of holding your loved one in the palm of your hand. These stones could also work well as a display to mark where ashes are scattered. For example, if you scattered half the ashes of your loved one in your garden and used the other half to create the stones.
If a loved one said they wanted to go out with a bang, then there's an option to make that happen – literally. There are companies that will incorporate the cremation ashes into fireworks and send them off in style with a firework display for friends and family to say their farewells – a truly spectacular way to say goodbye.
12. Burying the ashes in your garden
Similar to choosing a spot in nature or somewhere significant to scatter the ashes, choosing to bury your loved one's ashes in your garden can be a lovely option if you want to keep them close by. If you're the landowner, you're allowed to bury ashes in your own garden in the UK. However, it's important to be aware that if you sell your home one day, the new owner may not let you visit the spot where you buried the ashes. This idea could be combined with another – for example, by burying half the ashes in your garden and then using the other half to create a permanent memorial in the form of a planted tree with a biodegradable urn, a sculpture, or stones.
13. A space voyage
This is quite a spectacular send-off for a final journey – you can launch and scatter your loved one's ashes in space. A company called Aura Flights uses meteorological balloons filled with helium to carry biodegradable urns to the edge of space. Once the balloon reaches 100,000ft, it bursts and scatters the ashes across the earth – what an incredible send-off for a space enthusiast!
14. Lay them to rest in the sea
If your loved one was passionate about the sea, then an incredible way to pay tribute to them would be to incorporate their ashes into an artificial reef. Through this option, the cremation ashes are placed in 'Solace Stones' and laid to rest on the seabed. The company that does this, Solace Reef, is the first of its kind in the UK, offering the perfect option for those who enjoyed living by the coast or simply loved the sea.
15. Fly a spitfire
This is an incredible option for anyone who was an aviation enthusiast. The company Fly a Spitfire offers a service subject to obtaining CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) permission, which means (depending on location) they can fly over funerals and scatter a loved one's ashes from a Spitfire aircraft.
16. Football grounds
Of course, many passionate football fans love nothing more than the idea of their ashes being scattered at the stadium of their beloved team. Unfortunately, this rarely happens due to the damage to the grass caused by the ashes and the sheer number of requests received by clubs. However, the good news is that many clubs now have gardens of remembrance where supporters' ashes can be scattered. You can view the full list of football grounds that offer this service here.
17. Globe-trot around the world
Did you know that passengers can travel on most airlines with cremated remains? (Although it is worthwhile checking an individual airline's guidelines before flying). In general, cremation ashes can be transported as carry-on luggage on most airlines. Before boarding, the ashes must go through X-ray machines at airport security, so any cremation ashes urn or container must be lead-free.
If your loved one was a globetrotter and loved to travel to new places, this could be an ideal way to honour their memory. You could either travel to an existing place that holds a special memory, or you could take a trip somewhere new and scatter some of the ashes wherever you go.
18. Dove releases
Whether it's one dove, a pair or a small flock, the release of white doves before or after scattering ashes offers a peaceful, moving and poignant tribute to a loved one.
19. A hot air balloon
Taking flight in a hot air balloon and admiring spectacular scenery is a wonderful and special way to say goodbye. Many hot air balloon companies will allow you to release ashes during a private hiring. There needs to be permission from the Civil Aviation Authority, as only water and sand can ordinarily be discharged from a balloon, so be sure to check how much notice they need if this is an option you're interested in exploring.
20. A tandem skydive
A few parachuting companies in the UK offer this as an option, and what better tribute to any daredevils or adrenaline junkies? You can make a tandem skydive from 13,000ft, releasing the ashes on the way down. The descent lasts about six minutes, and you can simply enjoy the ride as the instructor has full control of the parachute.
21. Scatter ashes out of a plane
Commonly referred to as aerial scattering, most pilots who specialise in aerial scattering have an apparatus attached to the plane, which efficiently spreads the ashes over a specific location chosen by the deceased or the family.
22. Memorial pencils
This unusual tribute would fit a keen artist or writer, as ashes can actually be transformed into functional pencils! Apparently, the average body can make 240 pencils – a lifetime supply for those left behind and touching keepsakes that could be used to ensure their story is told.
We hope these 22 ideas of what to do with cremation ashes offer some inspiration of how to remember and pay tribute to a loved one. When deciding what to do with cremation ashes, remember to take your time, consider all your options and don't rush the grieving process.