Saying Goodbye After Cremation

What To Do With a Loved One’s Ashes

Woman letting go of lantern in a body of water.

When someone dies, their family usually has one of two options when it comes to the final disposition, or handling, of the remains. They can either bury the body or have it cremated. Although many families already know which method they will choose for their loved one, oftentimes they don’t realize the options available to them when it comes to the cremated remains, or ashes.

The majority of Americans’ experience with cremation and ashes are what Hollywood has shown us: you either keep grandma in an urn on the mantle, or you scatter her ashes over a cliff into the ocean waves below. While these can both be meaningful final resting places, they’re not the only choices a family has.


You read that right. Cremation does not mean you can’t have a burial. Many families choose to purchase plots and bury the ashes in a grave, providing their surviving families members a permanent place to return to and remember them. Some couples choose to have both their cremated remains buried in one grave, so they can spend eternity side by side.

Cremated remains can also be kept above ground. Most cemeteries have niches or columbariums that will hold a loved one’s urn and other meaningful personal items.


Scattering a loved one’s ashes in a place that held deep significance can be a beautiful and healing way not only to release their physical remains, but to symbolize a part of letting go of that part of them and begin healing. In the state of Virginia, there are no state laws regulating where you can scatter ashes. However, if the property is not yours, we encourage you to obtain permission from the owner. Scattering over the ocean is regulated by the Federal Clean Water Act, which states that cremated remains must be released at least three nautical miles away from shore.

A scattering ceremony can bring deep significance when releasing the remains, and allows family and friends to be a part of saying goodbye to the physical presence of someone they cared about. A scattering ceremony can consist of whatever rituals or activities you want, including having each person tell a story, prayer, special music, and everyone participating in the scattering itself.


For many, keeping their loved one in close proximity is very comforting. There are many options for jewelry and other mementos that hold a small amount of ashes and can be personalized. These include necklaces, bracelets, keychains, and rings. You can even have a diamond made out of cremated remains. Glass or stone art are also popular ways to memorialize a loved one who has passed. 

Many families choose a more traditional method of keeping the ashes close by, and opt for an urn that reflects the style and personality of their loved one. There are other unique ways to keep a person’s ashes close, too. Mixing ashes into ink and having them tattooed into the skin as permanent memorial art is becoming increasingly popular.

Infuse Their Personality

These days, there’s seemingly no end to what’s possible when it comes to memorializing a person with their ashes. Was your loved one a musician? Have their ashes pressed into a vinyl record of their favorite songs. A hunter? Their ashes can be put into bullets for one last hunting trip with the family. Ashes can be turned into coral reef, fireworks, sent to space, painted into artwork, released out of a flying plane, and more. Whatever their passions were, there is sure to be a unique way to say goodbye.

All (or Some) of the Above

Choosing cremation allows for the ashes to be divided. That means you can do different things with them. Each member of the family (and friends, too) can keep some of the ashes. Or you can put some in a necklace and scatter the rest. A family we served scattered some their loved one’s ashes in the garden at home to keep him close, then released the rest of them in biodegradable helium balloons, with love notes attached.

Another family we helped divided their mother’s ashes up among all her friends and family with a request to “take her somewhere beautiful,” then write about it after they released her ashes. The family later had a book bound and published with all the stories they received from loved one’s taking her around the country and the world.

There are many beautiful things you can do with the ashes of the person you love. A funeral director at Farris Funeral Service can answer any questions you have about cremation and help you decide the best choice for you and your family. Just reach out by calling or visiting us at either our Main Street or Forest Hills location in Abingdon, VA. We are always available.


Forest Hills Memory Gardens | (276) 623-2717
19415 Lee Highway, Abingdon, VA

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