What Can You Do With the Ashes of a Cremated Loved One?

Your loved one wished to be cremated. Yet a big question remains: What can you do with the ashes of a cremated loved one? You have three loving options. You can scatter them, bury them or keep them.

Each of the three options has developed far ranging expressions throughout a world of people who have taken on this responsibility, who want something personal and unique, and who have come up with creative interpretations of, say, scattering the ashes. The scattering of cremains can be done by the loving hand of a spouse or a child in a remote and natural location. But the practiced hand of the pyrotechnic expert lighting a solo rocket at the start of a city fireworks display can also technically scatter the cremains. You might even say to a greater degree. The traditional burial of cremains in the earth or at sea are loving and time-worn ways to memorialize a loved one. Another way could be in a cement ball built to be part of an eternal coral reef.

We want to remove the limitations with this article. We want you to know that the personalization of what you do with your loved one’s cremains is unlimited from the beautiful and heart-warming traditional memorials to the literal shooting of cremains into space. If your loved one left no instructions on what to do with ashes from cremation you can still honor them with something truly heartfelt. We’ve done some research here to try to offer some inspiration for ideas of what to do with the ashes of a loved one.


Scattering Your Loved One’s Ashes

The scattering of a loved one’s ashes is a time-honored method to memorialize the passing of a loved one. The scattering of cremains has been done in many creative ways, and technology has only increased the possibilities. This is the most common image surrounding cremation. You take your loved one’s ashes and scatter them in a special place. Popular choices are the ocean, woods, a garden, or a scenic view. Remember, to seek permission before scattering ashes on public land.

If you’re still left wondering what to do with cremains, a more modern (and frankly beautiful and fun) method of ashes scattering is the “Memorial Spaceflight Services”. These services can end in earth’s orbit and reenter as a shooting star or even reach the moon. Pricings for these services generally run in the low thousands, with even the companies that claim to send the ashes to the moon running less than $15,000.

People often choose a Celestis Memorial Spaceflight because of an interest in space, astronomy, or science fiction – tofulfill a dream of spaceflight, to become one with the cosmos, or to continue the grand adventure of exploration.

Charles M. Chafer | Co-founder and CEO, Celestis, Inc.


The pricing for a fireworks display is not much cheaper, unless you’re willing and able to take a DIY approach. An entire memorial fireworks show, consisting of around 200 shells, can cost upwards of $5,000. But some companies will sell you the box of shells for prices running only in the hundreds.

A more economical, yet no less explosive, option is the recent innovation of putting ashes in hunting ammunition. Some online companies will load cremains into live ammunition. They tend to come in 250-round cases or 100 cartridges in standard calibers depending on the firearm.

Burying Your Loved One’s Ashes

This is quickly becoming a popular alternative when family members are faced with wondering what to do with the ashes of a cremated loved one (especially in comparison to the more costly and traditional burial). You can select a biodegradable urn or a wooden urn to go with your loved one’s ashes.

Typically, places of burial are cemeteries (yes, you can bury ashes there), crematoriums, or even in your backyard. We can help you choose the right funeral urn or burial urn to help bring you a sense of peace and joy.


The location of interment represents a final sentiment, a place for the decedent to inhabit in his rest. This can be marked in many ways, including an engraved stone to dignify the spot even in a family garden.

Traditional burial methods for cremains can be simple, and experienced within the privacy of family, but they can also be unique memorials that require professional assistance. Several companies offer a variety of methods for the cremains to live on in a new way. Once such resource is The Reef Ball Foundation which has a division to create memorial reef balls. The division site is called “Eternal Reefs” and offers a unique way for cremains to be an active and living part of an ecosystem. These memorial reef balls can use all the cremains in a concrete mixture. In case anyone is wondering, yes you’re allowed to write your name in the cement before it dries. The company encourages family participation in the process. These reef balls become permanent fixtures in the coral environment and are intended to help preserve the coral.


Eternal Reefs is the only cremation memorial other than ash scattering, that encourages family members to participate with the creation of their loved ones living legacy. Families that choose to participate find the entire process to be a healthy, positive experience. They mix concrete and the remains together, they get the opportunity to personalize the reef with hand prints, written messages and small mementos in the top of the reef.

~George Frankel, Eternal Reef

Be wary of taking a DIY approach to the biodegradable urn when trying to decide what to do with cremains.

The idea of merging with the new life from a planted tree or shrub bears a lot of romantic and sentimental qualities. But a concentrated layer of human cremains can be very damaging to nearby plant life. The high pH and sodium levels can actually kill roots.  However, several online companies sell special biodegradable urns and even organic compounds meant to dilute the pH and sodium levels and to create a healthy atmosphere for planting a tree or a shrub. The dream of rising like the phoenix in the leaves of a tree can still live on. Just do it in an informed manner.

A lot of ideas exist for creating living memorials out of cremains. Look around before settling if your loved one did not leave instructions for what to do with ashes from cremation. Don’t be afraid to be creative and keep it personal. The same level of respect, including a memorial funeral, can accompany the burial of your loved one’s ashes as a coffin and body.

Keeping Your Loved One’s Ashes


Many creative ideas have been developed into products for preserving cremains. Une Belle Vie offers elegant urns for original and sincere memorials. This is the number one choice for those who want to keep the ashes of a cremated loved one. With a keepsake urn or custom urn, you provide a beautiful memorial for your loved one in the privacy of your own home. You can create a special space to add pictures and mementos, and we can create a custom urn as part of your loving tribute. You can view our custom gallery here and watch this video to imagine the endless possibilities.

Out of all the ways to preserve cremains, the diamond method may be the most precious. People are mixing cremains in everything from stained glass windows, paint for a portrait or interior wall painting, to tattoo ink. But the same as an artistic urn or a creative sculpture, companies exist that will actually form a small portion of human cremains into carbon before pressing the compound into a real diamond. This can be an additional, or even integral, part of your more common memorial jewelry.

What to do with the ashes of a loved one—answers as unique as the individual.

These three fundamental ideas of what to do with cremains really offer infinite options. Your spreading of the ashes can include a hot air balloon or an airplane. Cremation burials can happen on land or at sea, or even come back to life again through a carefully planted seed. You can also choose to do a combination of all three if you want. You can have a public ceremony with friends and extended family as you scatter your loved one’s ashes over the sea. And you can have a private memorial on your mantle just for you. With cremation, you have the option to tailor your loved one’s funeral and not feel pressured to make a hurried decision.

You are not alone in this journey. When you’re deciding what to do with the ashes of a cremated loved one, we hope these three ideas will help you find the right memorial decision.

8 Responses to “What Can You Do With the Ashes of a Cremated Loved One?”

  1. From Timothy Reeg

    I like your all the ideas but I would like to share few more like : Scatter by air, Place in a columbarium, Share with family and Create a reef.

  2. From Karrie Sanders

    My question is we are moving from California to Texas and I am trying to find out if there are any legal procedures or paperwork that needs to be completed before we can transfer my father’s remains with us as much information as you can possibly provide would be greatly appreciated thank you very much for your time sincerely Karrie Sanders

  3. From Une Belle Vie Customer Service

    Hi Karrie –
    We have two articles that address transporting ashes. This article covers general guidelines about the legalistic of transporting and this article discusses concerns with traveling with the ashes.

    We hope those two resources help you find answers to your questions.

  4. From Leonard Wombolt

    Sometimes keeping the ashes on a mantle or in a nice spot with a nice beautiful urn can be the best choice.

  5. From Steve Goodrich

    Just hit this site by pure luck. One thing not addressed here is making certain what you want for your own remains assuming you opt for cremation of a loved one. You can stipulate in a will to have the ashes be mixed with your own body or ashes upon burial or any of the above options. Also, you can part the ashes of a loved one to, say, bury the cremains with the parents remains while keeping some ashes to bury with yourself. Ebay and suchlike offer many sellers who deal with smaller 3 or 4 ounce urns of which some are absolutely beautiful! You can have the graveside closure with the main urn while keeping a good portion with you to be with you in eternal rest. It’s a pity people in general can’t talk about this sort of thing while they are alive and vibrant! I can testify from personal experience how respectful treatment of cremains can help one have the will to go on after a death. Hurts like hell but we CAN survive if we give it a chance.

  6. From Une Belle Vie Customer Service

    Hi Steve – thank you for your thoughts.
    Yes, it would be wonderful if we as a society were better about communicating about afterlife issues while we are still around to talk to our loved ones.
    The smaller 3-4 ounce urns you mentioned are called “keepsake” urns. We have a wide selection in our gallery here:http://decorative-urns.com/keepsake-urns as well as urns that come if a “full” and matching keepsake size like this one: http://decorative-urns.com/green-garden-1058.html

    Some people choose to have their cremains spread, some are kept in a larger urn, and some are kept in a large urn as well as some of the ashes in keepsake urns that members of the family keep, and more. Everyone chooses a different way to celebrate their unique lives.

  7. From Steve Goodrich

    P.S. By the way, I feel so stupid adding to this page, but cremains are not at all scary to deal with. I’m aware of several people who think I am quite morbid for handling ashes. Cremains are not grey as zombie movies and such pretend them to be. Cremains are a very light tan like beach sand and have little solid bits in them which are naturally bone fragments. They are by their nature sterile and will not communicate any disease if touched. When I first dared to look at them I was reminded of the Peggy Lee song, “Is That All There Is?” They aren’t at all horrible or disgusting. I wondered how I could have been so revolted by the idea for decades! If one is still on the edge about whether to go for cremation or not, just think of all the traditions of the Vikings who set their dead aflame on a raft in the sea or virtually any of the ancient cultures that venerate the deceased with a funeral pyre. A very profound and heroic ending to an earthly soul in honor of their life!

  8. From Steve Goodrich

    O.M.G….I am sorry I ventured into the P.S. before noting your reply!!! I thought this was maybe an orphan site! But indeed YES!!! One can always bury a “Keepsake” urn if after consideration, don’t feel comfortable with keeping even a mantel shrine to a loved one. But one can never undo a burial, except of course for criminal investigation reasons. It is so fundamentally important to consider cremation and subsequent options one has and I thank God for your site to educate people…we suffer so much when there is sometimes an option not to.

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