It’s Not Like TV Ash Scattering

Ash scattering can be done over water or land.

It’s Not Like TV Ash Scattering

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Over the holidays I was blessed to visit with family and friends. Being in the industry, something about cremation always comes up with someone saying, “I’ve always wondered…” Well this year, it was followed by, “Is scattering ashes like how they do it on TV?”

In the movies, we’ve seen examples of dark humor where cremains get blown back in the family’s faces or the urn falls off the mantle and spills ashes all over the ground. The reality of it is that although it “might” be possible, these types of scenarios rarely actually happen for a few reasons.

First, let’s be honest, not everything you see on television reflects things as they really are.

Second, ashes (technically called cremains) are processed bone fragments. As a result, a vast majority of the remains are heavier than burned wood or cigarette ashes and don’t just float away. Many describe ash scattering as pouring.

Third, Aerial scatterings, if done correctly, will use a tool to ensure that none of the ashes come back into the plane. A reputable scattering pilot will make sure the experience is respectful and that the remains are properly placed outside the plane. If considering this option, absolutely ask the pilot what method they use.

Lastly, unless requested, most crematories are going to return the remains in a plastic bag that is placed in the urn. So even if the urn happens to fall off a shelf or mantle, there should not be ashes thrown everywhere. Note: Some families request that ashes be placed directly into biodegradable urns so they can be naturally distributed.

The only exception I think of is one I witnessed a few years ago. When visiting West Virginia’s Bridge Day, I watched a BASE jumper pay tribute to a friend by scattering their ashes as he parachuted to the bottom of the gorge. Since I was on the bridge, and not the landing area, I can’t guarantee that the jumper didn’t land in a shower of remains. However, I still feel fairly confident the remains fell directly into the river while the jumper floated down to the landing area.

If you have a loved one requesting to be scattered, don’t be concerned. It can be a truly inspiring experience. Do your research on types of scattering and the various techniques. Ask your cremation service provider for their suggestions as well. Scattering is a wonderful way to memorialize a loved one. Just make sure you plan ahead and have the right expectations so the experience will truly be a special one.


Mary Beth Barnett

Mary Beth Barnett is a licensed Funeral Director in Texas. Her involvement with aCremation began before our doors opened – researching how we could provide affordable cremations and still keep quality and service standards high. Through this process, she developed a passion for working with families who are going through one of the most stressful phases of life – planning for death.

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