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Cremation

Shows person following directions to pack box correctly

5 Tips When Shipping Cremated Remains

By Cremation, Explore Options

It’s impossible to know what circumstances you’re going to face after a loved one’s death. In some cases, it may become necessary to transport a loved one’s remains across a large distance. If this is the case, you have three transportation choices: personal vehicle (car or boat), commercial airline, or postal service.

If shipping a loved one’s (or a pet’s) remains is the most logical choice for your individual situation, then the United States Postal Service (USPS) can help you. As the only legal method of shipping cremated remains (both human and animal) within the United States, USPS can ship domestically through Priority Mail Express and internationally through Priority Mail Express International (if the receiving country accepts cremated remains via the postal service). No other service options are available (for example, you can’t ship cremated remains First-Class or Ground).

To make this process as smooth as possible, let’s review 5 key tips for shipping cremated remains.

Shows on person receiving a box

1. Consider Using the Cremated Remains Kit

You will, of course, need a box to ship the cremated remains in. The USPS actually provides a “Cremated Remains Kit” that gives you all of the materials you need to ship cremated remains through the postal service. You can order either Cremated Remains Kit 1 or Cremated Remains Kit 2 at www.usps.com (kits only available online).

The main difference between the two kits is that Cremated Remains Kit 2 includes instructions, bubble wrap, and a self-sealing plastic bag in addition to the box and Priority Mail Express tape. The biggest benefit to using the Cremated Remains Kit is that the kit is free, it is easily recognizable by USPS employees, and is sturdy enough to ensure the safety and security of your package.

However, if you’d prefer, you can use whatever box you want. It’s not required to use the Cremated Remains Kit.

2. Affix Label 139 to the Outside of the Box

If you choose to use your own box, you must affix Label 139 to all sides (including the top and bottom) of the box. This label says “Cremated Remains” in large letters and is brightly colored to draw attention. The Cremated Remains Kit already has this label printed on it so you won’t need to affix additional labels.

The intention behind the label is to ensure that your package is treated with the proper respect and more likely to be delivered in a timely manner. You must affix the label for both human and animal cremated remains.

Shows person following directions to pack box correctly

3. Pack Your Box Carefully

Whether you use the Cremated Remains Kit or your own box, it’s important to ensure that the urn/container is securely closed and packaged. It’s always a good idea to ship the urn/container in a sealed plastic bag.

With both a securely closed urn/container and a sealed plastic bag, you can ensure that the cremated remains are contained at all times and won’t sift or leak out of the box during transit.

You should definitely add plenty of padding to cushion the urn/container. Also, it’s good practice to include your name, address, and other contact information on a sheet of paper inside the shipping box.

The USPS has given detailed instructions on the best way to package cremated remains (whether human or animal). You can find a PDF version here or a video explanation here.

4. When Mailing Internationally, Check the Policies of the Receiving Country

Just because the United States allows the shipping of cremated remains doesn’t mean that other countries do. When shipping cremated remains (human or animal), contact the receiving country’s embassy or consulate. They can tell if it’s legal to send and receive cremated remains within that country.

In some cases, it’s not legal. In other cases, there may be additional forms to complete or regulations to follow. You can always check out the International Mail Manual (IMM) provided by USPS, and if the regulations aren’t clear, contact the embassy/consulate directly.

Do NOT mail cremated remains internationally until you’ve determined whether or not they can be successfully received by the recipient. Also, don’t forget to complete a customs declaration form.

Shows man and woman packing boxes carefully

5. Decide Whether Extra Services Will Provide Peace of Mind

If it will give you more peace of mind, you can sign up for extra service options when shipping cremated remains. You can request Return Receipt, Insurance, Signature Required, or Signature Waived. If you’d prefer not to pay or request these extra services, they aren’t required.

Consider the Risks

It would be remiss not to mention that there are risks to shipping cremated remains (human or animal). You run the risk of the box getting lost or taking an inordinate amount of time to reach its destination. Review all your options, and if shipping is the best option, then do it.

Also, don’t hesitate to contact the funeral home in charge of your loved one’s cremation. They may have helpful tips or might even be able to handle the shipment for you.

If shipping a loved one’s (or a pet’s) remains isn’t right for you, you can always make the drive by car or fly commercially. To learn more about flying with cremated remains, check out What You Need to Know About Flying with Cremated Remains.

No matter what you decide, may you find peace and healing in the days to come as you mourn the loss of someone dearly loved.

Shows people boarding a plane with sunlight on their hair

What You Need to Know About Flying with Cremated Remains

By Cremation, Explore Options

Did you know that it’s possible to fly – both domestically and internationally – with cremated remains? While flying with cremated remains may not be something you’ve ever thought about before, there are many reasons why someone might consider flying with a loved one’s cremated body. Here are a few possibilities:

  • Your seatmate is taking the cremated remains to a specific place for scattering or burial.
  • The surviving family is hosting a memorial service across the country to allow distant family members to say goodbye, and they want the cremated remains present.
  • The person died away from home – either in country or abroad – and your seatmate is flying them home.

No matter the reason, sometimes flying with the cremated remains of a loved one is necessary. But before getting on a plane with cremated remains, there are a few things you need to know to make the process smoother.

Shows a woman holding an urn clos

Use your Carry-on Instead of a Checked Bag

While many airlines allow travelers to transport cremated remains in a checked bag, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) doesn’t necessarily recommend it. If you’ve flown before, you’ve probably looked out the airplane window and seen airport employees tossing checked bags around rather quickly and roughly. They have no idea what’s in your bag. To them, the most important thing is to get all the right bags to the right places as quickly as possible.

That said, by transporting a loved one’s cremated remains in your carry-on, you ensure that they are handled with care every step of the journey. All you have to do is use an x-rayable container that fits into your carry-on suitcase.

One more quick note: Please, even though you have the urn with you, don’t open the container while on the flight or in the airport. Turbulence and bumping into bustling human beings happens, but if the urn is tightly closed, your loved one will remain secure.

Choose an X-rayable Urn or Temporary Container

Just like the rest of your carry-on items, the urn must make it through the x-ray machine at the security checkpoint. To make it through security, TSA recommends that you choose an urn or temporary container made of wood, plastic, biodegradable paper, or even fabric. Avoid metal or lead-lined urns, which will register as opaque on the x-ray.

If your container registers as opaque, TSA may try a few other options, but they will NOT open the urn (even if you say it’s okay). In part, they will not open the urn out of respect for the person who has died, but additionally, it is illegal for airport personnel to open any container that holds cremated remains.

Shows x-ray machine at airport security

If TSA is unable to clearly determine what’s inside the container, you won’t be allowed to take it on the plane. In order to avoid this complication, select an urn or temporary container that will easily make it through security.

If you have a decorative urn, you can always transport it in your checked bag (packed very carefully). Once you reach your destination, you can place the cremated remains back into the decorative urn.

If you’d like more guidance about temporary urns or containers, feel free to call your local funeral home. They can give you options and suggestions for traveling with ease.

Give Yourself Extra Time to Get Through Security

While TSA has a streamlined process for screening cremated remains, it’s always good to allow a little extra time. With an appropriate urn, the process should be smooth and quick. However, if there’s a problem, you’re going to want time to figure out your next steps. The airport is already a somewhat stressful place. The last thing you need when transporting a loved one’s remains is to run around last-minute trying to figure out what to do. Leave a little earlier and give yourself extra time.

If you have any questions about TSA’s policies, you can contact them directly through Customer Service.

Shows man going through airport security with carry on bag

Have the Appropriate Documents Readily Available

When flying, it’s important to have the necessary documentation on hand. The most commonly required documents are:

Certificate of Cremation (also called Disposition Permit or Cremation Permit)

This legal document certifies that a cremation has taken place and identifies the person cremated. Additionally, it includes identification information for the crematorium and the qualified staff member who oversaw the cremation itself. The funeral home or crematorium should give you this document when you receive your loved one’s cremated remains.

Death Certificate

The death certificate is used for many purposes, including updating accounts, switching beneficiaries, and receiving life insurance funds after the death of a loved one. It’s good practice to bring a certified copy with you when flying, just in case it’s asked for. You can obtain copies (usually for a small fee) through your local Registrar or Vital Records Office.

However – each airline makes their own regulations regarding the transportation of human remains. Contact your specific airline to find out what documentation is required. To be extra safe, you might also bring something that shows proof of relationship. You could use a birth certificate, marriage license, or a copy of the obituary.

Talk to Your Airline About Specific Guidelines

It cannot be stressed enough that you need to contact your airline about their specific regulations. For instance, some airlines do not allow cremated remains in checked bag at all or may require more documentation. By contacting the airline, you decrease the likelihood of issues at the airport.

Also, if you’d prefer not to take the cremated remains on a plane at all, you can ship them through the USPS. You can learn more about this option by reading 5 Tips When Shipping Cremated Remains.

Shows airport terminal with airplane outside window

A Few Extras for International Travel

All of the tips we’ve already discussed apply to flying internationally as well. However, there are a few extra things to consider. Let’s go over them.

  • Check with the embassy/consulate of your destination country
  • Be prepared for extra documentation

Every country has their own regulations when accepting cremated remains within their borders.

Because of that, if you are taking cremated remains outside the United States, you should contact the appropriate embassy or consulate before you travel to determine what that country requires. Some countries may require special forms or additional authorizations, so give yourself at least two weeks to get everything completed.

If you are entering the United States with cremated remains, you will go through U.S. Customs, which has its own policies. In general, if the remains have already been cremated, you should be fine, and a death certificate won’t be required.

If you have additional questions about international travel, contact your local funeral home for assistance.

Shows people boarding a plane with sunlight on their hair

Be Prepared for an Emotional Journey

As you get ready to travel, take a little time to prepare yourself emotionally. If your grief is fresh, this may be an emotional journey, and that’s to be expected. Give yourself grace. Grief is the natural result of love. When we love deeply, we open ourselves up to the grief that comes when the person we love dies.

It will take time and intentionality to come to grips with everything you think and feel, but it’s okay to give yourself permission to grieve. Use this journey to reflect on your loved one’s life and remember just how much they mean to you.

What You Need to Know About Pet Burial and Cremation

By Cremation, Pets

When a pet dies, we often feel a deep sense of loss. But no matter how we feel, we must also deal with the logistics of ensuring that our pet finds a final resting place. For most families, that will mean either burial or cremation. Let’s review both options so you can select which works best for your family.

Pet Burial

First, let’s review burial. This option has been around for a long time, and for many families, it’s the best option for keeping things simple and cost effective.

1. Home Burial

If a family has the available land, they may choose to bury a pet at home. By doing this, your pet will remain close to you, and you can even add a grave marker or have a burial ceremony. If your family chooses this option, there are a few things to consider.

  • Is it legal? Check your local laws to ensure that pet burial on personal property is allowed.
  • How deep should you dig? Four feet is usually sufficient to keep predators away.
  • Do you have a large pet? For large animals, digging a grave can be difficult so you may need a back hoe or help from friends or family.
  • What should you bury them in? Make sure that anything non-biodegradable is removed (like plastic) and consider placing your pet in a wooden or cardboard casket or box.
  • Have you chosen a good place for burial? Make sure that you know what’s below the ground where you plan to dig a grave, ensuring that you aren’t going to disturb buried lines or your neighbor’s water supply.
  • What if your pet dies in the winter? If you live in a place where snow blankets the ground in winter, making it difficult to bury a pet, have a chat with your veterinarian. Often, the vet’s office is willing to preserve the pet until spring arrives.

2. Pet Cemetery Burial

Another burial option is to talk with a funeral home that offers pet services or a pet burial services company to request burial in a pet cemetery. With this option, you don’t have to worry about potential legal issues, and if you move away, your pet’s grave will always be in a place you can visit, if you choose.

Typically, you can choose whether you’d like private burial or communal burial. Private burial is often more expensive, but it comes with the ability to add a memorial marker and gives you a specific place to visit, if that’s important to you. Communal burial means that your pet will not have an individual marker and may be buried with other pets. However, the cemetery may offer a memory wall where you can add a memorial for your pet.

Pet Cremation

Cremation is a second option to consider when deciding how best to care for a pet’s body after death. As with burial, you have a few choices, though cremation entails a few extra decisions. Let’s review your cremation options.

1. Private/Individual Cremation

The most important thing to consider when looking at pet cremation is whether or not you want memorial items. For instance, do you want to have an urn at home with your pet’s ashes? Do you want cremation jewelry or to have a memorial box? Would you prefer to keep your pet’s ashes close to you? If you do, then private/individual cremation is best for you. While this type of cremation is more expensive, it gives you greater flexibility on what you’d like to do with your pet’s ashes.

2. Mass/Communal Cremation

If you know that you don’t want memorial items and you also don’t want to bury your pet, then mass/communal cremation might be the best option for you. Because your pet will be cremated with other pets, this option is typically less expensive (often based on the weight of your pet), but it also means you won’t receive any ashes back.

With both of these options, speak to a funeral home that offers pet services, a veterinary clinic, or a pet burial services company to determine the current rates and full range of services available for each type of cremation.

What’s Next?

Once you’ve chosen which type of final disposition is right for your pet, you can decide what to do next. Do you need to purchase an urn or memorial item? Should you select a spot in the backyard for home burial? Do you need to choose a grave marker or headstone?

Another thing to consider is whether you want to have some kind of burial or memorial service. This practice is often quite helpful for children. If you opt for home burial, you can allow your child(ren) to choose the burial spot, encourage them to decorate the area with flowers, and maybe say a few words. With both home burial and private burial, you can work together as a family to choose a meaningful grave marker. These actions may help your child grieve and find closure following a pet’s death.

With cremation, you will need to decide what you’d like to do with the ashes. You can place them in an urn or memorial box, where your child could see it daily. Alternatively, you could scatter the ashes at a favorite park or outdoor area. Saying goodbye is always hard, so deciding what’s best for all members of your family is important and necessary.

For some additional ideas on memorial options for pets, feel free to read 7 Pet Memorial Options and 10 Family-Focused Pet Remembrance Ideas.

What You Need to Know About Burial at Sea

By Cremation, Explore Options, Plan Ahead, Planning Tools

After a loss, we feel both a deep sense of loss and an innate desire to honor the memory of the person we love. We want to remember them for who they were. Recall the times when they spoke truth to us, comforted us, or simply made us laugh. This desire to honor and remember our loved ones is why it’s important to personalize a funeral – so that there is a unique and special tribute for the one you love.

One unique way to honor a loved one is through burial at sea. While burial at sea is not as common as burial or scattering on land, it is still an option worth considering, especially if your loved one had a special connection to the sea.

What You Need to Know About Burial at Sea

Burial at sea has a long history and is one of the oldest types of funeral ceremony. Throughout history, we see it used by the Greeks, Egyptians, and the navies of various nations.

Today, there are two ways to request burial at sea: through the U.S. Navy or through a civilian charter company. Each one has its own regulations, though both will provide your family with the date, time, and longitude/latitude of your loved one’s committal.

Naval Military Vessel

With the Navy, the committal ceremony is performed while the ship is deployed. This means that the family cannot attend, though the commanding officer will send a letter to the family sharing the exact date, time, and location where the committal ceremony took place in addition to any photos that may have been taken.

Only eligible veterans and their dependents can request burial at sea with the Navy. Following the death, your trusted funeral professional contacts the Navy and Marine Corps Mortuary Affairs Office on your behalf and begins the coordination and transportation process.

You will need several documents to request naval burial at sea:

  • Photocopy of the death certificate
  • Burial transit permit or cremation certificate
  • Copy of the veteran’s DD214, discharge certificate, or retirement order
  • Completed “Burial at Sea Request Form”

As with shore burial, veterans will receive the proper military honors, including the playing of Taps and the closing of colors. An American flag will fly at half-mast during the committal ceremony. If the family provides the flag, it will be returned; if not, the Navy will provide one.

Civilian Vessel

For those who are not veterans, you can charter a vessel through a burial at sea provider. By going through an official provider, you ensure that the vessel is Coast Guard inspected for comfort and safety and that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulations are followed. Additionally, you can select a vessel intimate enough to accommodate only close family, or if you wish, you can charter a larger vessel to allow additional family and friends to take part in the committal service.

The EPA states that the vessel must journey to a distance of at least 3 nautical miles and to a depth of 100 fathoms (600+ feet) before any kind of burial can take place. Additional state laws may apply. Also, any materials placed in the water must readily decompose, so plastics and metals are not allowed. To learn more about the EPA’s guidelines, click here.

If you wish to bury a full body at sea, a licensed funeral director must be present to oversee the care and custody of the body until final interment. If possible, ask that preparation of the body be done with non-toxic chemicals. Any casket or burial cloth must be biodegradable.

The most common form of burial at sea is scattering of the cremated body. For this, you do not need a funeral director present. The family can facilitate a private service onboard, followed by scattering the ashes and placing wreaths or flowers in the water.

Whether you choose full-body burial at sea or scattering, the charter company will provide a certificate marking the exact coordinates of your loved one’s final resting place.

Helpful Hints for Civilian Vessels

  • Dress casually with a wind breaker and non-slip shoes.
  • Bring a camera, sunscreen, sunglasses, and other desired personal possessions.
  • Report any known or potentially unknown medical conditions to the captain before disembarking; this includes pregnancy, back or neck pain, or susceptibility to sea sickness.
  • If you are susceptible to seasickness, it’s for the good of all that you remain on shore. Many charter companies will provide binoculars for viewing and will call your cell phone when the committal ceremony begins. If you choose not to remain on shore, consider using motion sickness aids.

Planning Ahead for Burial at Sea

If you or a loved one are interested in burial at sea, it’s best to make your wishes known now. You can do this either by communicating your wishes to your family or by sitting down with a knowledgeable funeral professional who can walk you through the process of preplanning the funeral. The more information you provide, the easier the funeral planning process will be on your loved ones. Also, because burial at sea is a specialized service, it’s best to prepare everyone ahead of time to ensure that all the details are taken care of according to your wishes.

Permanent Placement Options for Cremated Remains

By Cremation, Explore Options, Plan Ahead, Planning Tools, Precare

These days, it’s not uncommon for the family to keep the cremated remains of a loved in an urn at home. While keeping a loved one nearby can be helpful during the grief process, it’s important to have a permanent plan for your loved one. It’s unrealistic to expect family members to continue to amass a larger and larger number of urns through the years, so in order to ensure that your loved one is cared for after you’re gone, it’s best to put together a permanent plan.

You have many options for permanent placement of cremated remains. And you don’t have to make up your mind at the time of loss. You can keep your loved one close for a few years, and then visit the idea of where you want to inter them as a final resting place.

Reviewing the Options

Urn Burial

The first option is burial. Some cemeteries have landscaped urn gardens while others offer burial plots similar to those used for traditional burial. If you choose a burial plot, the cremated bodies of multiple people can be buried together. As with traditional burial, urn burial requires an outer burial container.

Another form of urn burial is green burial. The main difference from traditional burial is that the urn must be biodegradable, and the cemetery must be specifically set aside for green burials. The number of green cemeteries in the United States is limited, so you may need to travel a distance to lay your loved one to rest. One thing to remember: an outer burial container is not needed for green burial.

Columbarium

An above-ground structure, the columbarium is filled with niches (wall spaces) where urns are placed and interred. Each niche typically includes a memorial plaque that acts as a grave marker, listing the name, dates of life, and an epitaph (if the family wishes). All columbaria are communal, though a family can purchase a family-size niche to allow multiple urns to be placed together.

Scattering

Scattering is the act of taking a loved one’s cremated remains to a special place (or places) and scattering them. The possible locations for scattering are numerous. You could elect to go to a scattering garden, which is a designated, beautiful space attached to a cemetery that is simple and environmentally friendly. With a scattering garden, the cemetery often provides a means of adding a permanent physical memorial like a plaque or grave marker.

Alternatively, you can go to the ocean, the mountains, or some other place that is special to you and your loved one. If you do decide to scatter your loved one somewhere other than a cemetery, make sure that you check the laws and regulations for that place.

Should you decide to scatter all of a loved one’s ashes, take time to prepare yourself emotionally. For some, it is an emotional shock to realize that everything remaining of a loved one is gone.

Planting a Memorial Tree

It is now possible to plant a loved one’s ashes so that a memorial tree will grow. The cremated remains don’t actually cause the tree to grow. Instead, you will place a special, biodegradable urn in the ground. In the top section, seeds and soil mix together. There is a separate section underneath for the cremated remains. First, the seeds grow in the soil, and once they reach a certain level of growth, the roots spread down to the cremated remains, and everything mingles together. This option is inexpensive, and afterward, you can visit the memorial tree anytime you wish.

Options at Sea

Underwater Mausoleum

Off the coast of Florida, you can have a special urn placed in an underwater mausoleum (similar to a columbarium). With different options available for memorialization, it’s an option for those who love the ocean.

Barrier Reef

Another option is to mix the cremated body with concrete to create an artificial coral reef. These artificial coral reefs assist in the repair and conservation of natural coral reefs by positively impacting the ocean’s habitat. As a memorial to your loved one, consider affixing a plaque to the artificial reef.

Burial at Sea

When we think of burial/scattering at sea, we often think of military personnel. However, scattering at sea is an option for civilians as well. While the Navy will work with a veteran’s family to arrange an official scattering at sea, services are available to civilians for an eco-friendly sea burial per US Coast Guard guidelines.

Launched into Space

It is now possible to send a person’s ashes into space. If your loved one adored space and all its mysteries or was always looking for the next big adventure, you might consider this option. Of course, there will be regulations and stipulations to follow, but this option is surprisingly affordable.

No matter which option is most appropriate, make a decision on providing a permanent home for cremated remains. Keeping the urn at home may be just what you need in the beginning. But, in three, five, or even ten years, consider the benefits of setting up something permanent. A permanent home will ensure that your loved one is cared for long after you are gone.

Cremation and the Importance of Ceremony

By Cremation, Explore Options, Meaningful Funerals, Plan Ahead

Cremation is a rapidly growing trend in the United States, with just over 50% of those who died in 2016 selecting cremation for their final disposition. However, many families who choose cremation don’t realize that they can still have a healing and meaningful funeral experience, even if they choose this form of disposition. According to respected grief experts, the funeral is a necessary part of the grieving process. And while cremation is a popular option for final disposition, it shouldn’t prevent individuals and families from the benefits of having a healing and meaningful funeral ritual.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, less than half of Americans associate cremation with a memorial service; only 11.8 percent associate it with a funeral that includes a viewing or visitation; and more than 50 percent of Americans are not aware that you can have a funeral/visitation/viewing with the body before cremation takes place. So, what do these statistics tell us? That when families choose cremation, they are likely missing out on the opportunity to memorialize and commemorate the life of a loved one.

That said, let’s review the basic service options for honoring a loved one who has chosen cremation.

1. Traditional Service/Viewing/Visitation Prior to Cremation

First of all, choosing cremation does not prevent a family from having a traditional service with the body present. The family may choose to have a private family viewing or public visitation. They may even hold a full funeral service with the body present using a rented ceremonial casket. A rental casket looks like a regular casket on the outside. The difference is that a rental casket holds a cremation container insert on the inside. After the service, the funeral home staff removes the cremation container and transports it to the crematorium. For family members, the main benefit of holding a service or viewing with the body present is having an opportunity to emotionally process the reality of the death, which is very important to the grief journey. In fact, one of the best ways to acknowledge that someone is no longer with us is to physically see them and say our goodbyes. With that said, for some it may not be possible to view the body. In that case, you can still say your goodbyes and acknowledge the reality of the loss in your own way.

2. Memorial Service After Cremation

A second option is to plan a memorial service to take place after cremation has already occurred. Like a traditional service, you can create a personalized event complete with all the elements of a meaningful service, tailored to honor the life of your loved one. The main difference is that at a memorial service the body will not be present. However, you can place an urn in a place of honor during the service. By planning a memorial service, you still offer mourners an opportunity to come together. They can offer support to each other and remember the life of someone loved. It’s important to honor a loved one’s life and show them the proper respect. Without a ceremony or service, this need may go unaddressed. And even if your loved one didn’t want to “make a fuss,” gathering together, supporting one another, and honoring life is a necessary part of the grief journey. Before you skip the memorial service, consider the effect on those who mourn if they don’t have the opportunity to come together to grieve.

3. Direct Cremation

Finally, a third option is direct cremation. Often, families choose this option for one of three reasons. First, the one who has died didn’t want a “fuss” made over them after their death. Second, they were financially unable to select a different option. Or, third, they didn’t know they had other options. If your loved one chooses direct cremation and you agree with their choice, honor their wishes when the time comes. However, if your loved one sets their mind on direct cremation and you don’t agree with their choice, sit down with them. Talk about why you would like a meaningful service to accompany their cremation wishes.

As you make your end-of-life plans, carefully consider what is best for your loved ones and friends, what they will need as they mourn your loss. Each of these three options may be appropriate in different circumstances and situations. We all have different expectations for what a funeral service will entail and what we want it to look like. No matter which option you choose – cremation with traditional service, viewing, or visitation; cremation with memorial service; direct cremation; or a combination of options – find a way to balance your family’s needs with your own personal wishes.

Selecting a Cremation Urn

By Cremation, Explore Options, Plan Ahead, Planning Tools

According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), cremation has continued to grow as a choice for final disposition. In fact, in the 2017 Cremation and Burial Report, the NFDA found that approximately half of Americans chose cremation in 2016. However, in spite of the growth of cremation in the U.S., many people don’t know about all the options available to them.

For example, families sometimes feel overwhelmed by the number of cremation urns they have to choose from. You can narrow down your options by considering what you want to do with the urn. Whether you are putting together a complete advance funeral plan or planning for the death of a loved one, consider how you want the cremated body to be memorialized. Want to plant a memorial tree or rose bush? Choose a biodegradable urn. Want to keep the urn at home? Choose a decorative memorial urn. Want to scatter the ashes at sea? Choose a scattering urn. Form follows function, so think about the function first, then choose the form.

Another aspect to consider is setting up a long-term plan for permanent placement of the urn. While keeping the cremated body of a loved one at home is comforting to many, it’s important to have a plan in mind for a final resting place. It’s unrealistic to expect that, in 50 years, future generations will keep multiple urns of family members in their homes. Instead, make a plan – a personal and meaningful one – and execute it. In 10 years, you might scatter the ashes or bury the urn in an urn garden or place it in a columbarium. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter which option you choose, simply that you have a long-term plan for the cremated remains of your loved one so that they will be cared for long after you are gone.

Materials

An urn is simply a container for the deceased’s cremated body and can be made from almost any material. Urns can be made of:

• Plastic
• Cardboard (or other biodegradable material)
• Cast Resin
• Wood
• Ceramic
• Metal
• Marble
• Glass
• Clay
• And many other types of materials!

Types

Cremation urns come in all shapes and sizes, materials, and styles. You may want to talk with a funeral director, who has years of knowledge to impart, to help you make an informed decision. To get you started, here is a quick list of the different types of cremation urns available:

Keepsake Urn

Often small, a keepsake urn is used when either a small portion of the cremated body is kept and the rest scattered, or the ashes are split between more than one relative.

Decorative Urn

A family may choose a decorative urn to display at a memorial service, at home, or to use in a glass-front niche in a columbarium or to place in an urn garden.

Biodegradable Urn

An environmentally-friendly urn option, the biodegradable urn is becoming increasingly popular. This type of urn is commonly used for scattering, especially at sea. However, burial is also possible.

Religious Urn

This type of urn showcases the spiritual beliefs of the one who has died. In most cases, the scenes or verses on the urn are associated with the person’s religious background.

Companion Urn

The companion urn has two main types: a double or single compartment. Though not a requirement, it’s more common for couples to choose a companion urn. In the double compartment urn, each person’s ashes is separate but always together. With the single compartment urn, the ashes are intermingled.

Infant Urn

Usually smaller in size, an infant urn is most often used to hold the ashes of an infant or small child. In many cases, the family wants to keep the child close as they grieve, and the infant urn meets this need.

Sculpted Urn

Sometimes called an “art urn,” this type is a lovely mini-sculpture of your choice, modified to accommodate ashes. If you plan ahead, you can commission a special art urn that reflects your personal tastes.

Themed Urn

You can purchase a themed urn, and the possible variations are as limitless as your creativity. A few common types of themed urn are sport, hobby, art, and nature.

Picture Urn

Just like it sounds, this urn is shaped like a picture frame and allows you to display a favorite photograph of your loved one on the outside of the urn.

Military/Veteran Urn

If the military was a key part of a person’s life, you might consider selecting a veteran urn. The urn itself is designed to commemorate and honor the patriotism and sacrifice of veterans.

SPECIAL NOTE: If you plan to travel somewhere via airplane with cremated remains, make sure that you have an appropriate urn. If airline security is unable to see through the urn on the X-ray machine, they may need to manually search the urn. To prevent this, make sure to purchase a felt or non-metallic material for the urn.

As you can see, choices for cremation urns abound. Before making a decision, you may wish to talk to your family members and speak with a funeral professional. You may get even more ideas after discussing the topic with a knowledgeable person.

11 Meaningful Ways to Honor Your Loved One’s Ashes

By Cremation, Memorial, Plan Ahead, Planning Tools

If you are considering cremation, whether for yourself or for a loved one, it’s important to think about all the options available to you. As a term, “final disposition” refers to the body’s final resting place. It is important, no matter which option you choose, to decide on a permanent resting place for a person’s body. If traditional burial is chosen, the body is placed in a casket and respectfully interred in a cemetery. When cremation is selected, because there are many additional options, the decision isn’t quite so simple.

If you are looking for meaningful ways to honor the cremated remains of a loved one, this list may give you some ideas on where to start. Some are popular options; others are a little out of this world. Keep in mind that a loved one’s ashes can be divided so that some are used for one purpose and the rest for another. As you review this list, put careful consideration into your decision. Remember, it’s important to give family members and future generations a place to return to as they search for meaning. Many people desire to have a place to return to for a time of reflection.

1. Burial

Typically, a cremated body is buried in either a plot (grave) or in an urn garden. Cemeteries can often accommodate either request. If you purchase a plot, most cemeteries will allow you to bury the cremated remains of multiple people in one plot, if you desire. One thing to remember: if you do purchase a plot, you will likely need to purchase an urn vault as well. By placing the urn in an urn vault, you protect it from the pressure of the soil. Also, in the event that the urn begins to deteriorate, the vault will keep the soil around it in place, protecting the cremated body inside. Regarding urn gardens, some cemeteries have an area dedicated to the garden while others inter the remains in the landscaping, perhaps in a fountain or a bench.

2. Columbarium

An above-ground structure, the columbarium functions expressly as an interment location for cremated remains. It is filled with niches (wall spaces) in which urns are placed and interred. A bronze plaque with an epitaph will be placed on the exterior of the niche.

3. Scattering

Scattering is the act of taking a loved one’s ashes to meaningful places and scattering them. This could be by the ocean, in the mountains, specific countries or places. If you want to scatter your loved one’s ashes in a special place, make sure that you are following all the laws and regulations associated with that place. If you decide to scatter all of a loved one’s ashes, take time to prepare yourself emotionally. For some, it is a shock to realize that everything remaining of a loved one is literally gone.

Another option is a scattering garden. This is a designated, beautiful space often attached to a cemetery. The scattering garden is simple and environmentally friendly. If you select a scattering garden, the cemetery often provides a means of adding a permanent physical marker so that family and friends feel more connected to the lost loved one.

A final option for scattering is an ossuary. An ossuary is a community resting place for cremated remains, often underground, with a memorial plaque nearby. It is often a less expensive option.

4. Keeping the Ashes at Home

More people are beginning to keep the cremated body of a loved one at home. Most often, the family selects an urn to house the ashes. This option is definitely viable, but something to consider if you decide to keep the ashes at home: make sure that you indicate in your will what should be done with the cremated body when you die. After your own death, whoever handles your estate may not know about your loved one’s urn and may dispose of it unknowingly. So, if you do keep a loved one’s cremated body in your home, make sure that you communicate a plan for their care after you are gone.

5. Cremation/Memorial Jewelry

Another popular option is to place a small amount of a loved one’s ashes in cremation jewelry. Often cremation jewelry design includes a small interior space (like a locket) where the ashes are placed. You can choose from various styles, metals, and types (e.g. necklaces, rings, pendants, etc.).

6. Planting Ashes

It is now possible to plant a loved one’s ashes so that a memorial tree will grow. The tree does not actually grow because of the cremated body. Instead, you will place a special, biodegradable urn in the ground. In the top section, seeds and soil mix together. There is a separate section underneath for the ashes. First, the seeds grow in the soil, and once they reach a certain level of growth, the roots spread down the ashes, and everything mingles together. There are a number of companies that specialize in this practice, if you are interested.

7. Under the Sea

There are now options available at sea. One option is to have a special urn placed in an underwater mausoleum (similar to a columbarium). Another option is to mix the cremated body with concrete to create an artificial coral reef. These artificial coral reefs assist in the repair and conservation of natural coral reefs by having a positive impact on the ocean’s habitat. As a memorial to your loved one, consider affixing a plaque to the artificial reef. Also, in many cases, it’s possible to be present as the reef is placed in the ocean.

8. Launched into Space

Interestingly enough, it is now possible to send a person’s ashes into space. If your loved one adored space and all its mysteries or was always looking for the next big adventure, you might consider this option. Of course, there will be regulations and stipulations to follow, but it is an option available to you.

9. Stained Glass or Hand-Blown Glass Keepsakes

Another possibility is to have the ashes of a loved one infused with glass to create beautiful pendants, paperweights, orbs, and other glassware. During the creation process, layers of hot glass encase the ashes. The process fuses the two (glass and ashes) together permanently. As with memorial jewelry, this option requires only a small portion of the cremated body.

10. Pressed into a Diamond

A growing trend is to forge a cremated body into diamonds, which are made of crystallized carbon. This is possible because the second most abundant element in the human body is carbon. After the diamond-making process is complete, the family can create memorial jewelry or other items of significance to remember someone loved.

11. Hour Glass

Essentially, this is exactly what it sounds like. Rather than purchasing an urn, you can purchase an hour glass for a loved one’s ashes. They come in many shapes, sizes, and colors, and you can mix in colored sand if you want. They also have the added benefit that you can choose to place a specified amount of ashes in the hour glass and then place the remainder somewhere else, such as in an urn or scattering garden.

As you can see, there are many ways to honor the cremated body of someone dearly loved. The most important thing now is to determine which will be the most meaningful for you and your family. And keep in mind – these are only some of the options. There may be something else out there just right for you.

What Should I Know When Considering Cremation?

By Cremation, Explore Options No Comments

How Cremation Works

Cremation is the process of using high temperatures and evaporation to reduce a body to its most basic elements. With cremation, the body is placed in a specially constructed container and exposed to extreme heat and flame, resulting in the reduction of the body to bone fragments. After a period of cooling, the remains are processed into a uniform size and consistency, frequently compared to ash.

After cremation, the remains, which usually weigh somewhere between 3-7 pounds, are placed in a chosen urn or temporary container and returned to the family. From here, families have many options for memorialization.

The Frequency of Cremation is Growing

cremation-growth

Cremation has become increasingly common in the United States in recent years; in fact, the National Funeral Directors Association recently released a report stating that cremation rates surpassed burial rates in the United States in 2015. It is projected that by 2017 over 50% of the one million people who die on average every year will be cremated. Diminishing religious restrictions, considerations of the environmental impact of burial, the more mobile population of Americans, and the flexibility that cremation offers are among the top factors of the increasing popularity of cremation.

Is Cremation Really Green?

Although the cremation process reduces land use when compared to burial, the practice is not considered green by either the National Funeral Directors Association or the Green Burial Council because cremation can potentially emit harmful substances, such as mercury, into the atmosphere. In addition, cremation burns fossil fuels, a non-renewable resource.

Cremation Does Not Hinder Memorial Services

After the death of a loved one, grief experts agree that families are able to cope with the reality of the loss much more readily if a time is set aside to see the body and spend time saying goodbye. A viewing, public or private, can be arranged before the cremation takes place for those who wish to “say goodbye” before the body is cremated.

Cremation Presents New and Varied Options

shutterstock_463668569Like burial, cremation offers countless options for final disposition and many choices must be made about the person’s final resting place and his or her memorialization. The Cremation Association of North America cites that families approach memorialization of cremated remains (or cremains) in three ways:

  • Burial/Interment of cremains
  • Retaining cremains through inurnment
  • Or scattering cremains

Although these overarching categories may seem pretty clear-cut, when it comes to the options for memorialization after cremation, not even the sky is the limit.

Burial/Interment of the Cremated Body

When interring a cremated body, the remains may be placed in a columbarium niche, buried in an existing adult burial space, buried in a smaller plot for cremated remains, buried in an urn garden, or placed in a crypt in a mausoleum. Some families also choose to place cremated remains in cremation jewelry or other memorial items, such as cremation glass, cremation benches, memorial rocks, or grave markers.

Retaining the Urn at Home

The cremated body can also be placed in a decorative urn and retained by family members at home. Some families choose to split the cremated remains into portions that can be divided among family members and multiple keepsake urns, while others choose to contain the remains in one ceremonial urn.

Urns are typically chosen based on design and function. Types of urns vary from biodegradable urns that can be interred or put out to sea, to decorative urns made specifically to reflect the personality of the loved one. Decorative urns that can be displayed in the home are composed of all sorts of materials such as porcelain, wood, bronze, stainless steel, ceramic, marble, or glass. You can now even request custom urns that use 3D printing to create the absolutely perfect urn for your loved one.

Scattering

scattering

One popular option for memorializing a loved one after cremation is scattering, which can take place on private property, on public lands (such as national parks), in a cemetery, in a body of water, or shot into the air in a memorial fireworks display.

Families should remember that certain laws and ordinances do apply when scattering cremated remains and should consult any laws that may apply, on both public and private land. For instance, scattering at sea must be executed three nautical miles from shore and should be reported to the EPA within 30 days. Scattering in a national park such as Yosemite requires a permit and no memorial or trace left behind. Most states allow aerial disposition over unpopulated areas. Scattering cremains on public or private property without permission—frequently referred to as “wildcat scattering”—can result in fines.

Consider the Impact of Scattering

shutterstock_89689249Some families choose to scatter all of the cremated body in one location while others choose to scatter some of the remains in different locations or keep a portion in an urn at home. Be sure to consider the impact that scattering can have on loved ones.

For some, scattering all the physical remains of a loved one in one unmarked location can be extremely difficult, and even devastating in some cases. As humans, we have a need to know our loved ones have made a lasting mark. Usually the place chosen for scattering is tied to the memory of the loved one. Although this memory may be sufficient for some, many families choose to erect some sort of permanent memorial that can offer a physical reminder where family members can come for a time of reflection. For this purpose, a portion of the cremated body may be buried or inurned in a cemetery, even if a portion of the cremated body is scattered in a different place. Other options for creating a permanent memorial include setting plaque at the scattering site, an engraved tree planted above a biodegradable urn, a memorial garden, a memorial fund to help others in need, or even a virtual memorial in the form of a website.

Transporting Remains Can Be Tricky, But Not Impossible

Transport of a cremated body via mail or escorted by air will necessitate the completion of proper paperwork and will require verification and certification. In the United States, the only postal carrier that will ship cremated remains is the USPS. Check here for instruction on packing and shipping cremated remains.

In addition, if flying, the TSA has specific restrictions. TSA allows escort of cremated remains. However, certain airlines restrict travel with remains, so be sure to check with the specific airline. TSA suggests placing remains in containers that can easily be screened by XRAY, such as wood or plastic, as this will likely facilitate easier movement through security checkpoints.

If traveling internationally, be sure to contact the embassy(ies) to allow more time for processing.

For more information on traveling and shipping remains, consult the Cremation Association of North America’s website.

Funeral Directors Can Provide Support

Funeral directors perform the same professional functions with cremation as with burial, such as transportation of the body, acquiring necessary permits, and filing for death certificates. Often, a licensed professional is required by law to perform such tasks. Funeral directors are among those who carry such professional licenses. In addition, many funeral homes offer multiple means of carrying out a meaningful celebration of life and can assist families in making decisions about finding a suitable option for final disposition.

Costs of Cremation

cost-of-cremation

The basic charge for cremation alone may in some cases cost less than immediate burial costs, but often the costs for cremation with funeral services are comparable. In most cases, the choice between cremation and burial comes down to family preference.

According to a survey in 2010 by the National Cremation Research Council, the average cost of direct cremation (which covers basic services like transportation of body, cost of authorizations, and the crematory fee) was $1,110.05. This is excepting fees for visitation, formal viewing, or any type of ceremony. Costs such as obituaries, death certificates, keepsake urns or jewelry, memorial plaques, placement in a columbarium, or other services should be taken into consideration as well as the cost of a direct cremation.

What if Cremation Isn’t Right for Me?

Not everyone will feel comfortable with the idea of cremation. If that is the case for you, there are many burial options that can be arranged ahead of time to ensure your wishes are carried out.

Consider the Needs of Your Loved Ones

Whatever your choice, whether burial or cremation, it is important to consider the needs of your family for mourning after a loss. Burial or cremation is not the only choice that is important to make. Loved ones will more than likely need to have a dedicated time to come to terms with the reality of the loss, understand the pain of loss, remember the one who has died, develop a new sense of identity, search for meaning, and engage their support system through a public funeral, visitation, or memorial service. Opting to skip the funeral or memorial could have lasting repercussions from unexpressed, or “carried grief.” Humans have had the need to honor life and memories of loved ones since the beginning of time. This article shares why funerals and memorials are so important.

 

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