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PUBLISHED: 1st Jan 1970
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When deciding what to do with ashes

Almost half a million people in the UK are cremated every year according to the Cremation Society. It is now the norm for most people in the UK to choose to scatter the ashes of a loved one. Where in the 1960s only 20% of people removed ashes from the Crematoria now it is the other way around, only 20% of people leave them there.


People have many reasons for scattering ashes and an even wider number of locations that they choose. The location will be symbolic to the family in some way: the place of a favourite family holiday; a regular walk over the hills; a view over a hometown; or a sports ground.


Sometimes people have very set ideas about where they want their ashes to be spread but, more often than not, it is left to the family after the funeral. If left to the family it is vital that they take into consideration the consequences of where the ashes are scattered, acting in haste can sometimes lead to problems. For example if the children scatter the Dad’s ashes at his favourite sports venue, they wouldn’t be able to scatter the Mum’s ashes with him, especially if she hated the place! However, some families are so scared of getting it wrong or can’t agree on what to do so they don’t do anything at all and the ashes are left at the Funeral Directors or stay in the home for years.


Scattering Ashes have come up with a few simple pointers (TOWARD) to help families make choices they are comfortable with when thinking about ashes:


  • Take your Time. Many families feel that they need to do something as soon as the funeral is over. This is not the case; this is a big step in the bereavement journey and if all the ashes are scattered they cannot be ‘un-scattered’. It is important to wait until everyone is ready for the ‘separation’ to happen, especially the spouse of the deceased. As the expression goes ‘act in haste repent at leisure’.
  • Opposing views. If there is no will stating what to do with the ashes then families will often have different views on what ‘Dad would have wanted’. This can cause or bring to the surface any family tension surrounding the loss. Unless there are religious grounds for not splitting the ashes there is nothing to stop you from scattering/keeping the ashes at different locations.
  • Who owns the land?. The law in the UK permits the scattering of ashes if you have the landowner’s permission.
  • Access and future use. Scattering ashes in many urban locations can be fraught, it is not uncommon to read a newspaper report about a family upset because the location where a relative has been scattered is now the site of a new housing development. Urban land use changes regularly and only a very few places are sacrosanct. You may want future generations to be able to visit the location. This is also true for scattering in your garden, you may need to move house.
  • Respecting last wishes. Your loved one may have unwittingly set a task that was either impossible or prohibited. If this is the case then consider scattering a token amount of ashes at or close to the requested location and scatter the rest somewhere appropriate.
  • Detachment. You might find that scattering the ashes creates some sadness through the separation, especially if the chosen location was some distance from your home. A way many people combat this is to have either ashes jewellery or a discreet keepsake such as a glass heart made. It can be extremely comforting to hold or say goodnight to a loved one.


However, wherever or whenever you choose to scatter remember it is your ceremony. With a little thought and preparation, you can give a meaningful and dignified send off. For more information visit

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