40 Meaningful Things to Do With Cremation Ashes (2021 Update)

Updated

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With cremation, there’s a world of possibilities regarding what to do with a loved one’s ashes. While many people choose to keep their loved ones close in an urn, the sky is truly the limit. From scattering ashes somewhere special to creating a unique work of art, it’s possible to turn your loved one’s cremated remains into a legacy in itself. 

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Taking time to consider what to do with your loved one’s ashes can bring peace after a loss. While a traditional urn is undoubtedly a trusted, thoughtful choice, it might not be the right fit for you. By tapping into what made your loved one special, you can create a custom, unique sendoff. 

For inspiration, here’s a complete and updated list of meaningful things to do with cremation ashes. There’s no such thing as a sendoff too big or too small. Take this list as a starting point to discover what brings you and your family peace. 

Display Urn Ideas for Cremated Ashes

Display urns come in all shapes and sizes, and these are a great way to keep your loved one close. While you can purchase an urn through your funeral home, sometimes it’s worth exploring a wider variety of options like the picks below. 

1. Turn ashes into stone

Parting Stone transforms ashes from loved ones and pets into a real stone. These solidified remains are a reminder of nature and are built to last. These stones have weight to them, allowing you to feel the significance of holding your loved one or beloved pet in the palm of your hand. 

2. Custom urn

Foreverence understands there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to urns. This urn provider specializes in unique, custom-made urns designed with your loved one’s story and passions in mind. Examples include classic cars, sports memorabilia, and even an image of your beloved pup. 

3. Engraved urns

While classic urns are beautiful in their own right, an engraved urn offers even more customization. Including your loved one’s name, important dates, and a special message adds a lot of meaning to an otherwise simple urn. Better yet, there are many engraved urns available on Amazon.

4. Teardrop urn

Some urns are so gorgeous they’re essentially pieces of art. This teardrop urn from the Simics Handicraft Store is one-of-a-kind. 

5. Memorial bear

Memorial bears are a warm alternative to traditional urns. These soft, cuddly teddy bears have a space inside for holding a loved one’s ashes. You can find memorial bears on both Amazon and Etsy, and they are easy to customize. 

6. Candle urn

It’s customary in many cultures to light a candle for the dead. This can be a way to practice mindfulness and remembrance. Candle urns are inexpensive yet gorgeous, and you can often replace the candle time and time again. This candle urn has space for a tea light, keeping a loved one’s memory shining bright. 

7. Wooden urn box

For a simple option, a wooden urn box is hard to beat. Displaying a loved one’s ashes in an elegant, hand-crafted box is a durable alternative to a traditional urn. Reminiscent of more traditional caskets, there are so many different designs to choose from. From hand-carved leaves to the tree of life, these are treasured ways to honor someone’s life.  

8. Cremation niche

A cremation niche is an above-ground burial space that holds someone’s cremated remains. These are often in above-ground vaults, mausoleums, or columbariums. This gives families a physical location to return to feel close to their loved ones. 

9. Ancient burial site

Return the ashes to nature with Sacred Stones. This relies on one of Britain’s oldest burial traditions, turning a loved one’s remains into stones in the countryside. This is a unique twist on the cremation niche that offers a return to tradition and nature. 

Keepsake or Memorial Jewelry Ideas for Cremated Ashes

For many, being able to hold their loved ones close after a loss brings a lot of peace. Keeping ashes in a touching keepsake or memorial jewelry makes it possible to keep your loved one close, no matter where life takes you.

10. Memorial diamonds

Eterneva is the leading provider of memorial diamonds. Using a carbonized process similar to nature, ashes are transformed into a one-of-a-kind, stunning diamond. This can be worn for years to come, and it makes the perfect family heirloom. This is also a lovely option for pets!

11. Cremation pendant

An alternative to a memorial diamond is a cremation pendant. This pendant includes a vial for ashes and is a discrete way to carry your loved one with you every day. These can be customized with your loved one’s initials or stay in a simple vial shape

12. Cremation bracelet

For those who don’t wear necklaces, a cremation bracelet is a similar option. These metal bracelets have an interior compartment for holding a small amount of ashes. Though discrete, you’ll always feel your loved one close. This engraved cremation bracelet from HoneyThorns is one of the top urn jewelry options on Etsy. 

13. Cremation ring

Artists have used cremains for hundreds of years to create wearable jewelry pieces, and these cremation rings are no exception. Created using resin and ashes, these rings make a unique and beautiful gem.

14. Hourglass jewelry

Hourglasses symbolize the passing of time, but they can also be a reminder to live every day to the fullest. These hourglass cremation necklaces from IdaMemory allow you to use your loved one’s cremated remains within a functional hourglass. These make for unique and meaningful memorials. 

15. Cremation keychain

Not everyone wears jewelry regularly, and you might still wish to have a way to keep your special someone close. Cremation keychains are something you can use each day, keeping your loved one or pet close. There are so many unique cremation keychains to find on Etsy.  

16. Mini urn 

A mini urn is a type of keepsake urn. These aren’t designed to hold all of someone’s ashes. This is a perfect option when families split ashes between multiple people. You can even personalize your mini urn with The Singing Koala on Etsy. 

Cremation Art Ideas

It’s also possible to transform cremated remains into art. This not only makes a unique keepsake, but it also breathes new life into cremains. 

17. Memorial portrait

A memorial portrait is created by mixing ashes with paint, allowing a portrait to come to life. Skilled artists offer memorial portraits to capture your loved one’s likeness, a favorite memory, or another meaningful visual. Paintru is a specialist in memorial portraits. You can also find lots of solo creators on Etsy. 

18. Book urn

A book urn is something you can purchase or create yourself. These book urns have been hollowed out, giving space for storing ashes. What better way to honor a bookworm than a final resting place within the pages of their favorite novel?

19. Memorial pencils

For an artist or writer, memorial pencils allow someone’s ashes to be transformed into functional, real pencils. These are touching keepsakes for family members, and they make sure everyone’s story can be told. With the Carbon Copies project, cremains are turned into a set of 240 pencils. You can only remove one pencil at a time, and you sharpen the pencil inside the box. The box then holds the shavings of each pencil, and in time you’ll have a box filled with the shavings and ashes. 

20. Suncatcher

It’s also possible to turn ashes into stunning suncatchers. These are beautiful pieces, and they are a symbol that light can always be found in times of darkness. Spirit Pieces specializes in helping people remember loved ones through glass jewelry, suncatchers, ornaments, and more. 

21. Glass art

You can also transform ashes into unique works of glass art. Created in Lancashire, England, With Love and Light specializes in memorial glass artwork. These creations can be used in your garden, at home, or as part of a funeral. Each piece is entirely unique and created with your loved one in mind. 

Scattering or Planting Ashes Ideas

Returning a loved one to nature brings a lot of peace after a loss. There are so many innovative ways to scatter or plant a loved one’s ashes. Here are some of our favorites. 

22. Tree pod

A tree pod burial is when you bury a loved one’s ashes within the roots of a tree, sprouting new life. Bio Urns make this possible, and you can even customize the type of tree. 

23. Sea burial

What better way to honor someone who loved the ocean than with a sea burial? Eternal Reef uses ashes to create unique reef structures, helping local sea life off the United States coast.

24. Recompose

Did you know it’s possible to turn your body into compost? This new option, offered by Recompose, is currently only available in Washington state but is expected to spread in popularity soon. With composting pods, a loved one’s body is turned into usable compost. 

25. Plant urn

A plant urn is an urn that doubles as a planter. Perfect for budding gardeners, turn a traditional urn into a container for new life and growth. This succulent holder from WoodlandFever is ideal for evoking nature with your memorial. 

26. Biodegradable burial box

Sometimes it’s hard to choose between cremation and burial. A biodegradable burial box is a good compromise. When buried, this box naturally decomposes back into the earth, replenishing the soil.

27. Ocean burial urn

For those who wish to scatter a loved one at sea, an ocean burial urn is a great choice. These slowly release ashes into the water, allowing time for a short scattering ceremony. They’re also very affordable and customizable, depending on your wishes. 

28. Scattering tube

A scattering tube is a temporary urn. It’s used until you scatter a loved one’s ashes, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be meaningful. These eco urns from The Living Urn are natural, biodegradable, and secure. 

30. Aerial scattering

Lastly, aerial scattering is done under the supervision of a qualified pilot. When in the air, a pilot releases ashes into the air, letting them fall back to earth peacefully. A Journey with Wings connects families with pilots across North America, making it simple to organize an aerial scattering. 

More Non-Traditional Things to Do With Ashes

Who said there were any rules when it comes to deciding what to do with your loved one’s ashes? In reality, anything meaningful to you is a good choice, so why not make it unique and special? 

31. Space burial

Plenty of people dream of going to space, but this is something few people experience. Make a space lover’s dream come true with a space burial through Celestis. Launching someone’s ashes into orbit is easier than you think!

32. Memorial tattoo

It’s becoming more common to get a tattoo in honor of someone you lost, and there are so many unique memorial tattoo ideas. This works by mixing the ashes with the tattoo ink, creating a safe, permanent reminder of someone’s legacy. 

33. Skydive scattering

If someone you love always craved adventure, why not take them for one last exciting trip? A skydive scattering is when you release a loved one’s ashes while skydiving. While this involves a bit of coordination, it’s sure to be a wild ride. 

34. Climbing chalk

Another thrill-seeking option is to honor your loved one by mixing them with climbing chalk. Perfect for any outdoor hiker or climber, this lets you take your loved one with you on your next climbing expedition. 

35. Vinyl record

Music has a powerful healing effect, so why not meld your loved one with their favorite tunes? The company And Vinyly helps your loved one live on from beyond the grave by pressing their ashes into a vinyl recording. You can also add a custom soundtrack, message, or other extras to personalize this unique urn.

36. Bullets

Capture someone’s love for hunting or shooting by turning their ashes into ammo. Holy Smoke loads cremation ashes into shotgun shells. Whether you choose to hold onto them for years or fire them off in a big fanfare, these are one-of-a-kind. 

39. Fireworks

Speaking of going out with a bang, you can shoot your loved one’s ashes sky high. Heavenly Stars Fireworks specializes in ash firework displays, and you can even create your own. Customize your firework show to suit your loved one and blast off into the sky!

40. Trip around the world

Last but not least, embark on one final trip of a lifetime with your loved one’s urns. As long as you have a suitable travel urn, you can bring your loved one with you on your travels. Explore their favorite sites and feel more connected to their memory, creating new moments along the way. Consider scattering some of their ashes in each location you visit. Just make sure to be aware of local laws!

The Perfect Sendoff After Cremation

Though many believe cremation doesn't allow flexibility when saying goodbye to a loved one, the opposite is true. There are so many ways to personalize how you lay your loved one to rest. Whether you choose a memorial diamond or a trip under the sea, use this opportunity to share your loved one’s legacy. 

There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to saying goodbye. Anything that brings you peace is the right way to honor your loved one. In the meantime, make your own end-of-life plan for free and share it with those you trust. By thinking about this in advance, you do the guesswork for them, so they know exactly how to honor your wishes when the time comes. 

Post-planning tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, handling their unfinished business can be overwhelming without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.

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