Advice From Funeral Celebrants

Why the Scattering of Ashes on the Sea is Gaining Popularity

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Scattering ashes on the sea has become a much more popular method of burial.  It’s not just that it is much less expensive.  Traditional values that used to require a land burial are changing.  In times past, most families would live in the same area where they were born for their whole life.  Generations were buried in the same cemetery, often in a family plot.  It was common to visit the graves of their family members on a regular basis.

In the 21st century, things have changed tremendously.  Today, in much of the country, it is unusual for a family group to live in the same location as their parents.  The current generation is much more fluid.  A family may live in several different areas in their lifetime – nowhere near the graves of their loved ones.  Ties to land burial are not nearly as strong as before.  The thought of tying up a plot of land into perpetuity that the family will not visit seems no longer viable.

Added to this are the concerns of pollutants associated with land burials.  According to Wikipedia, each year 30 million board feet of hardwoods, 104,272 tons of steel, 2,700 tons of copper, 1,636,000 tons of concrete and 827,060 US gallons of embalming fluid including formaldehyde are buried in US cemeteries. With today’s environmental awareness, compare the above with scattering nonpolluting ashes in the ocean and you can see why there is such a major shift to cremation and burial at sea.

Land burials are often morbid and depressing, with a pall of sadness and gloom hanging over the family for days.  This is not the case when scattering a loved one’s ashes at sea.  I have been doing burials at sea for 15 years now and I can count on one hand the number of families that have returned to the dock overly sad.  There are some tears and sadness as the family says their goodbyes before the ashes are scattered.
Scattering Basket
However, after the ashes are scattered, while we are there in the boat watching the ash cloud disperse, as the rose petals sail off in the breeze, and the seagulls whirl down to check them out, it is like an emotional release as the family remembers their good times with the deceased. 

It is as though the sea, along with the sea life – dolphins, sea lions, seagulls, pelicans and all sorts of sea birds, washes away the sadness and wraps the family in a blanket of peace.

Captain Ken Shortridge
Ashes on the Sea


    • admin Reply

      Yes, it is ok in New Jersey to ship to and use off the coast. Call for specifics.


  1. What a wonderful little article. I hadn’t thought about the pollutants associated with land burials! Very informative. It really brings home the sweetness of the emotional release and peace in scattering ashes at sea.

  2. For many families there is a strong connection to the sea or beach. For instance, when our dog died, state law mandated that he was cremated because of his size. One of our favorite places to go with him was the beach. He loved to play in the ocean and the sand. You make a great point about how a burial at sea by spreading their ashes there can help a family feel like someone has returned to a place they belong. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings.

  3. I love the idea of being buried in the ocean, especially with what you mentioned about how rather than being sad and depressing, like a land burial, it is often freeing and peaceful. Someone once told me that it was really important to them that they have a funeral service that serves their family’s needs, not theirs. In my opinion, doing a service for your family at sea combines the freedom and joy of having ashes scattered with the closure and support system of a traditional funeral service.

  4. Of course, Susan, scattering ashes on the sea has become a much more popular method of burial since it’s much less expensive than traditional funerals. This is more practical for families that don’t have the ritual of visiting the graves of their family members on a regular basis. When it comes to an emotional state of family members, I find that land burials often morbid and depressing too than having a funeral at the sea.

    • This is true, it seems to be gaining more popularity as time goes on, I feel that for some people the idea of a burial at sea can be some what emotionally freeing.

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