In recent decades, cremation has become the primary funeral option for people across North America. The increase in cremation can be attributed to several things, from concerns over land conservation and safeguarding the environment and its generally lower cost. With the choice of cremation comes other considerations, including: what do you do with a loved one’s ashes?
Here is a quick reference guide, or read on below the list for additional details and considerations.
Now that you know the most common options, let's examine the issue of what to do with cremation ashes further.
Firstly, you should consider if your loved one had any specific wishes that they expressed before they died. Often, some people outline their end of life choices in a living will. If they have chosen cremation, they also probably have specific wishes as to where and how they would like their ashes to taken care of.
Ultimately, no matter how you and your loved ones decide to handle the deceased’s ashes, you will need to consider several logistical and legal factors.
We’ve outlined a few of the most important considerations below.
When discussing the subject of spreading the ashes of a loved one, it should be given the sensitivity it deserves. Generally, laying a loved one to rest can be a sad and significant moment. However, it can also be a celebration—a time to remember your loved one who has passed and the life they lived.
Whatever the circumstances, it’s essential that you take time to discuss, plan for, and even think about how to handle the ashes of a loved one. It’s never an easy situation, so we must approach this subject with respect and sympathy.
A favourite go-to for many when scattering the ashes of a loved one is to go to a meaningful spot. This could be a favourite place for the deceased or a special place close to loved ones. If you are looking to scatter the ashes in a particular area, it’s essential that you do your due diligence.
In Canada, scattering ashes is permitted on any Crown land or water, and does not require a permit, unless there is a sign prohibiting it. The same goes for water on Crown land - like rivers, lakes and oceans. It is permitted in Canada.
If you want to scatter on municipal land you need permission and should check by-laws. In all cases, even though no permit is needed, permission should be obtained before scattering. Further, it is recommended that scattering is done with discretion. Please be respectful of your surroundings and be environmentally aware.
You can also scatter on private property as long as you have written permission from the land owner.
Learn more about scattering ashes in Canada.
If you choose not to scatter your loved one’s ashes, burying them is another viable option.
Burying the ashes
One of the more conventional ashes-handling traditions chosen by Canadians is to bury the ashes in a cemetery. The ashes can be placed in a grave plot for that purpose, often in a biodegradable urn. Some people chose for their ashes to be buried in the same plot as a spouse or with other family members. An urn that contains ashes can also be placed in a cremation niche, which is a shallow recess, usually within a wall, that is used to contain or display an urn. Some cemeteries offer gardens where ashes can be scattered.
Burying ashes could be a good option for those with family plots and find peace and closure in a traditional burial ceremony in a cemetery. An urn burial follows the traditional casket burial style, but in a smaller plot with a lining. It can be in the ground or housed in a columbarium, which is essentially a mausoleum for urns.
Learn more about burying urns in a plot.
Thanks to technology, ashes can now be fashioned into many things: memorial jewelry, glass, fireworks, mosaic art, and other unique objects. They can also be fused into ocean reefs for an underwater burial or sent into space.
Here is a list of some of our partners who offer interesting and unique ways to memorialize your loved ones:
Beyond Burials: send your loved ones into space
Eterneva: Turn your loved one into a diamond
And Vinyly: memorialize your loved one by having their ashes pressed into playable vinyl records.
Parting Stone: Solidified remains - or cremation ash stones - let you feel a meaningful connection with your departed. No more uncomfortable ash.
...or just check out our great blog post here on some creative ways to memorialize your loved ones.
If you’re planning your end-of-life options ahead of time, share your wishes on how you want to be laid to rest. Whether it’s being buried in an urn, kept in a columbarium, or scattered in your favourite place, preserving a record in your will of your wishes is essential.
Whatever your choice is, sharing this information with a loved one can be challenging. Check out our resources to learn how to have tough conversations around choosing cremation.