After receiving the cremated remains of a loved one, you have many options. You can keep cremains in a beautiful cremation urn at home. You can scatter ashes in places of special meaning. You can turn cremated remains into pieces of art or jewelry.

While all good options, they lack a certain level of permanence. Future generations might want to be able to visit a spot where they can find the remains of their ancestors.

Chester French Stewart, chairman of French Funerals and Cremation in Albuquerque, tells the story of a young woman who flew from New York to New Mexico to visit the grave of her grandfather. However, Grandpa had been cremated and the remains scattered in the mountains with no record of the exact spot.

Stewart said, “She began weeping and said, ‘How could you do such a thing?’ We’ve found over the years that when people don’t have a permanent place of remembrance to visit, they often regret it.”

“While they’re honoring the request of the person who died, I usually tell people it’s worth thinking about taking at least a part of the cremated remains and putting them in a permanent place to visit,” Stewart explained. “Often, it skips a generation; it’s not so much the kids that are interested, but the grandkids who are trying to find their roots.”

For those who want to give cremated remains a permanent resting place, here are a few options to consider.

Burying a Cremation Urn
Image provided by disneyite.

Earth Burial
Cemeteries are responding to the rising cremation rate by creating burial plots specifically for cremated remains. Smaller in size than a full body burial plot, they are also lower in cost. Most cemeteries that offer perpetual care will require a burial vault for cremated remains in addition to the container holding the ashes.

The depth of a cremains plot is not as deep, generally three to four feet. The cemetery’s fee for opening and closing a grave would also be less, some charging half the cost of a full body burial.

A columbarium (columbaria in the plural) is a structure for the storage of urns holding cremated remains. The term comes from the Latin columba, which means dove, a reference to dovecotes, the compartmentalized housing for doves and pigeons.

In a cemetery, you might find a wall with cremated remains placed within niches, and memorial information carved into the cover of the opening. Columbaria may also be part of a cemetery’s mausoleum or found within a church.

Placement with Pet Ashes
Many families regard their pets as members of the family and a growing number of people want to be buried with their pets. Some funeral directors will look the other way if a person wants the cremated remains of a pet put into a casket with the deceased. While most cemeteries do not allow burial of people and pets, a few places provide a permanent resting place for cremated remains of humans and their beloved animal companions.

People and pet combination cemeteries are few and far between in the U.S. Best Friends Forever in Albuquerque is the only cemetery in the Southwest to accommodate side-by-side cremated remains burial or columbarium placement. Hillcrest Memorial Park People and Pet Gardens in Hermitage, Pennsylvania offers whole body burial for people with their pets in the same or adjacent lots.

Scattering Gardens
Many cemeteries have scattering gardens with flowerbeds, shrubs and trees. These provide a dedicated place to scatter ashes and still give families a place to visit and reflect. Some cemeteries give families the option of inscribing their loved one’s name, date of birth and date of death on a nearby memorial wall or monument. Learn more in our podcast about scattering ashes.

Underwater Placement
For those who love the ocean, a creative permanent placement is to become part of a memorial reef. Eternal Reefs creates living environmental memorials with cremated remains mixed into concrete reef structures placed in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Families can participate in casting, viewing and dedication ceremonies for specific reef development projects. Scuba enthusiasts can then visit the remains of loved ones as the reefs grow and develop, supporting healthy ocean life.

All of these options provide a permanent site for family members to seek out the cremated remains of their forebears in the near and distant future.

Gail Rubin is The Doyenne of Death™ and author of The Family Plot Blog and the award-winning book A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die. Visit her website, Her google profile.

Have you ever wondered what to do with cremated remains?

With the annual number of cremations in the United States rapidly closing in on one million people, we’re generating literally tons of cremated remains, a.k.a. cremains, every year. What can you do with your loved ones’ powdered bone fragments? More than you’d think!

The top options are to keep, dispose of, or enshrine cremains. Here is my Top Ten list of things you can do with cremated remains, with associated pros and cons for each option.

In the Light Urns BlogOne: Scatter on land
Pros: It’s free! You can scatter your loved one’s remains at a place they loved to visit. If you are scattering on public land, just don’t do it in front of a park ranger. It’s a “don’t ask, don’t tell” sort of situation. Please get permission if you are scattering on someone else’s private land.
Cons: You can’t put a memorial marker on public land to mark the spot where the scattering occurs. Descendants might get angry when they can’t find where Grandpa’s remains were scattered.

Two: Scatter at sea
Pros: It’s a low-cost fitting send-off for someone who loved the sea. The only expense is getting a boat to take you at least three miles offshore, a U.S. maritime requirement.
Cons: Care must be taken with ocean breezes to avoid the “dust in your face” phenomenon. A biodegradable urn container (paper, cardboard, wicker, etc.) that dissolves after sinking is the answer. Note: Cruise ship management frowns upon throwing anything overboard.

Three: Scatter by air
Pros: This is a fitting send-off for free spirits, including balloonists, pilots, hang gliders and bungee jumpers (who may meet their earthly end sooner than other less-adventurous folks). There are also fireworks manufacturers who will mix cremated remains into spectacular pyrotechnic displays.
Cons: Air scattering services and fireworks manufacturing can get pricey. You will not be able to identify a specific spot for their final resting place.

(further methods of scattering ashes)

Four: Bury in a cemetery
Pros: Cremated remains can be buried in smaller plots that cost less than a full body burial site. Or, depending on the cemetery’s rules, cremains may be interred within a family member’s full sized plot. The family gets a place to visit and remember the deceased.
Cons: Even smaller cremains plots can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on the cemetery.

Five: Bury at home
Pros: Assuming you’ve got a yard at home, it’s free to bury your loved one’s cremated remains. You’ll know they are near. You can mark the spot with a statue, a manufactured marker or a simple rock.
Cons: Whenever you sell the house, you’ll either have to dig up the cremains and take them with you or you must declare the presence of remains on the property. This might adversely affect your property value.

Six: Keep an urn at home
Pros: Your loved one’s remains can be enshrined in a beautiful urn set in a special spot. Everyone in the family can remember that loved one and admire the container.
Cons: Ever see that scene from the comedy film Meet The Parents where Ben Stiller is trying to open a bottle of champagne? The cork flies off and hits the ceramic urn on the mantle that holds the cremated remains of Robert DiNiro’s mother, with disastrous results. ‘Nuff said.

Seven: Place in a columbarium
Pros: A columbarium, a.k.a. columbary, is a place for storing funeral urns, so they give a specific place to visit the deceased. Columbaria are usually located in cemeteries. Some churches have a spot for collecting cremated remains, either keeping them in urn niches or mingling remains in a garden or walled area.
Cons: There is usually a cost associated with obtaining a niche for remains.

Eight: Share with family
Pros: Cremated remains can be split up among far-flung family members. They can be kept in mini-urns, memorial jewelry, even made into glass or ceramic works of art.
Cons: Some family members may not like this idea. Plus, unless you are using coffee cans, the price of multiple urns or pieces of memorial jewelry can add up, depending on the size of the clan.

Nine: Create a reef
Pros: There are services that mix cremated remains into concrete structures that build marine reefs. Your loved one’s final resting place is mapped, and you can go scuba diving to visit them.
Cons: While a memorable memorial option, it can cost as much as burial. Visiting the memorial reef site can become a major investment of time and resources.

Ten: Build a monument
Pros: Speaking of mixing cremated remains in concrete, why not make a monument? You can set it up on your property, or even make it a centerpiece at family reunions!
Cons: Some family members may not be amused.

With the U.S. cremation rate now exceeding 41% and growing, more and more families will be considering these options. If you want to be cremated, figure out your preference and let your family know. Help them avoid the agony of having to decide for you. You’ll be glad you did.

About the author:
, The Doyenne of Death™, is author of A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die and The Family Plot Blog. A Certified Celebrant and an event planner experienced in funerals, she’s also a breast cancer survivor who speaks regularly to groups on getting the funeral planning conversation started. Rubin is a member of the Association for Death Education and Counseling and the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association. She also serves on the cemetery committee for Congregation Albert and volunteers with the Chevra Kaddisha, which ritually prepares bodies for Jewish burial. Her web site is