It’s a Family Affair - Scattering Ashes at Sea

Scattering ashes at sea is a time honored tradition that many more are looking to as an alternative to a ground burial. For many reasons beyond just cost, planning a burial at sea has become a mainstream option and can allow everyone in the family an opportunity to honor their loved one.

Scheduling a date for a scattering at sea is really up to the family unless for religious reasons it’s required to be performed as soon as possible. Therefore, dates need to be selected and it’s not unusual for “Save the Date” note cards to be mailed. I sometimes say “The hardest part of planning a burial at sea is coordinating the family's schedule”. Unlike a traditional wake and funeral where the services are performed within a few days of the passing, burial at sea can wait. Once the family is in possession of the cremated remains, there’s no right or wrong time for the ash scattering to take place. Many will wait to schedule around a significant date, such as a birthday or a wedding anniversary, or until everyone planning to be in attendance can agree on a date.

Once the date and the charter are secured, it’s time to plan how the memorial service will be conducted. Since you’re writing the script, anything goes. Perhaps you'd like to play your loved one’s favorite songs, which can be anything from opera to classic rock and everything in between. Children can participate by drawing and painting pictures which can then be released into the water. Decorated cookies is another final tribute children can participate in by writing the name of their loved one with icing. The point I’m trying to make here is that planning a burial at sea allows for a measure of creativity.

Another example of how to celebrate the life of the deceased is to ask each of your expected guests to write a sentence or a short paragraph answering a selected question you provide such as:

What was your favorite memory of ______________.

What’s something we might not of known about ______________. Such as he or she volunteered at a senior center.

What’s the funniest thing you can remember when you were with ________________.

Burials at sea are rather informal for the most part and while you may wish to follow a more traditional or religious ceremonial theme, there's still room for a personal touch. Today’s life celebrations are just that, remembering and honoring the little things along with the major life accomplishments of the deceased.

How can you memorialize the life of someone young, an unexpected death, or a tragic death? Writing a letter to the deceased as a way to express one’s deepest feelings is another way to honor your loved one. Some may find the exercise helpful to work through the grief process.

If you have any doubts as to what is allowed and what isn’t, feel free to contact me.

It is not the intent of this article to address the emotional feelings of loss however, MastersInCounseling.org has a post about coping with loss with an additional 115 links to websites and resources on grief and bereavement.

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