Cremation and the Importance of Letting Go

Beautiful orange sunset behind mountain range.

When we lose someone we love, it’s important to let go. We don’t mean let go of their memory or your love for them, of course. Grief isn’t something that ever ends, it just evolves over time. It is, however, important to let go of their remains.

Cremation has rapidly surpassed burial in the US as the preferred method of disposition of the deceased. Although a dignified method of attending to our deceased, for some families, this has created some unexpected drawbacks. Unlike burials, where loved ones must be laid to rest soon after death, cremation doesn’t require the immediate “letting go” of a loved one’s body into the ground or mausoleum. This lack of immediacy can lead to families hanging onto ashes for years to come.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with keeping the ashes of a loved one at home if one so chooses. But there can be downsides. With burial, families have no choice but to ‘let go,’ or come to terms with the reality of a loved one’s death. Holding onto remains can postpone the acceptance of a loss, which is a crucial step in healing. Many people have the best intentions to scatter their loved one’s ashes in time, but end up putting off what can be an emotionally difficult event. An urn on a mantlepiece or bookshelf can be a constant reminder of their death, rather than their life.

There are also logistical hiccups that can occur. Many people end up with the ashes of family members that their parents and grandparents held onto for years, and have no idea what to do with them. Unfortunately, many end up in dumpsters or on the stoops of funeral homes, ours included. It’s not uncommon to find an urn in an abandoned storage unit. Without a permanent resting place, for these particular individuals, there will never be a place for friends and relatives to pay their respects.

This doesn’t mean everyone should choose burial over cremation. A family should choose what’s best for them. There are many ways to let go of cremated remains without letting go of a loved one’s memory. By burying their ashes or placing them in a niche, you create a place where anyone can visit, for generations to come. When properly dispersed or interred at a cemetery or memorial park, an individual’s heritage is protected. The cemetery records the name of the deceased and their family, preserving their legacy and making it possible for their relatives to find them and connect to their ancestry.

If you or a loved one want your ashes to be scattered, we encourage you to tell your family (even better, put it in writing!) exactly where you’d like the scattering to take place, eliminating any uncertainty and increasing the likelihood that it will be done.

For those with cremated remains at home that they’re unsure what to do with, we invite them to scatter them at Sunset Memorial Park’s Rose Garden on our annual Scatter Day and receive a complimentary memorial engraving.

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