Cremation is quickly becoming a popular choice for many Americans planning their funeral. In fact, in 2016, cremation became more common in the United States than casket burials.
This reflects a big change from how we think of traditional funeral ceremonies. The church, the ceremony, and the burial can give many families a sense of structure at their time of grief.
However, with this change comes great opportunities for how we can personalize ceremonies to become more unique and more expressive. It allows both families and funeral directors to think outside the box, and celebrate the deceased and their Irish heritage in the most fitting of ways.
Particularly in the case of those who want their cremated remains to be scattered, the sky is (quite literally) the limit in terms of how their final send off could look like. (We mean this literally, check out this CNBC article on the company sending your loved one’s cremated remains into space!)
Whether you’re an Irish family planning how to best scatter remains, or a funeral director looking to organise an Irish scattering ceremony, we’ve put together a list of the top four things to consider when planning the scattering ceremony for your loved one.
Receiving and releasing the cremated remains of a loved one can be a highly emotional event. Cremated remains don’t look like you imagine them to. There will be bones. It doesn’t look like campfire ash, it’s courser, denser and heavier. This can be a surprise for many people. Seeing the cremated remains of your loved one for the first time will be difficult, and knowing what to expect can help you in the process.
Sometimes, people wait for some time (even years) before releasing the cremated remains of their loved ones. They can often feel like they’ve become accustomed to the loss. While “resolving the cremains” (which is funeral parlance for finding a final resting place for the ashes of your loved one) is an important step in the grieving process, some people can underestimate the grief that will again be released once the ashes are scattered, and can be surprised by the burst of emotion that resurfaces once the ashes are released.
Some people may prefer to release ashes alone, but many others prefer to invite a small group of friends or family to join in remembering the deceased. Whatever your preference may be, be kind to yourself. Scattering ashes can be an emotional, cathartic event for many people, and you are not alone in your grief.
There are many different options to consider when choosing a location for scattering ashes. Did the deceased leave any specific instructions? If not, ask yourself what would be most meaningful to them.
Scattering ashes into the ocean, into a lake, or off mountain tops are popular choices, as there is a real sense of releasing the ashes truly into nature. Scattering in forests can also be a popular choice (although be sure to check out any restrictions your State might have first).
For the Irish community seeking to scatter ashes in a way that honors the deceased, solutions can be as creative as identifying some of the deceased’s favorite places. Perhaps your loved one had a favorite Irish bar, a city park where they used to stroll, or at an Irish monument that meant something special to the departed.
In picking a location, ask yourself the question: what was meaningful to them, and where would they like their memory to be associated with? Be sure to follow the laws of your State, and seek permission if scattering on private property.
You might be taking your loved one’s ashes on a plane to scatter back in Ireland, or perhaps your hoping to scatter the cremains in the town that your loved one grew up in.
Either way, if you’re taking a flight, be sure to keep the ashes in your hand luggage.
A great tip in an article written by the blog, “Modern Loss” reminds us of the dangers of luggage going missing - cremains with it! Don’t take any chances, and keep your cremains with you when travelling.
Your funeral director will be more than willing to help you put together a ceremony that helps you honor your loved one, and let’s you and your family remember and release the ashes in the most meaningful way possible.
Many families wish to commemorate the release of ashes by planting a tree in remembrance of their loved ones. James Romanelli-Stephen Funeral Home based in New York, provides some wonderful tips for families looking to create personalised ceremonies for scattering ashes. They describe a “ringing ceremony” for the planting of a tree. A trench is cut into soil, and ashes are sprinkled directly in to the ground, around the tree or seedling that is planted in honor of the deceased.
A tip for families who want to bring a unique sense of Ireland into the scattering ceremony is to incorporate the Handful of Home Ceremonial Canister of pure Irish earth. Mixing the release of the ashes with the earth of Ireland returns your loved one to rest in the land from where they came from. Irish earth can be scattered alongside ashes, or added into tree planting ceremonies, allowing the deceased rest on the earth if their ancestors.
For other ideas on how to incorporate a sense of Irish-ness into your ceremony, check our our blog post “5 tips to make your funeral ceremony more Irish”.
As a final take away, with the rise of popularity of cremation, there are an increasing number of resources out there that that will allow you to celebrate the life of your loved one and their heritage in the most unique and fitting way. Don’t be afraid to get creative!
If you have any tips on how to make a scattering ceremony more “Irish”, please let us know by leaving a comment below.
The Irish have a long history of burial traditions which have been used for centuries to allow communities come together and say their final goodbyes to the deceased. We’ve put together a list of some of the top ways in which you can honor the Irish roots of your loved one, giving them a send-off to be proud of!