Bereavement: when to scatter the ashes
Bereavement: when to scatter the ashes. We receive a significant number of calls from a daughter or son who have rung asking about how to do something with with their Dad’s/Mum’s ashes. In general they ring with a good heart and want to scatter the ashes somewhere significant but don’t know how to go about it. And so we start to talk. Mum or Dad generally still has the ashes in his/her bedroom/loft/garage/living room and hasn’t done anything with them. So son or daughter thinks that by doing something with the ashes they will be helping the parent to overcome their grief. As I said it comes from a good place, they genuinely want to help, they honestly believe the sooner they can deal with ashes the sooner the parent can “let go” (their words not mine).
Unfortunately it is not as easy as that, the bereavement journey is different for everyone, the length of time it takes to get to the stage where you want to do something with the ashes will vary from person to person and from bereavement to bereavement.
It might be a good time for you very soon after the funeral, in fact for most Hindu and Sikh families as soon as possible after the 13 day mourning period is the ideal time, but many take a much longer period – especially when they are having to arrange a family gathering with family who are travelling from outside the UK. Most use a water urn and put the ashes into a river that flows to the sea in order to allow the water the wash away bad spirits.
Other families often speak to us after about a year. The first anniversary of the person’s passing has been experienced as well as Christmas and that often triggers the family to want to do something to commemorate their loved one. This can be immensely helpful for the family and we help people to carry out their requests from scattering the ashes in a favourite spot to putting them in the sea or a river. We have arranged fireworks, Viking funerals and World War II planes, we always do our absolute best to give the family and friends a ceremony that helps them to celebrate their loved one.
But what if Mum or Dad isn’t actually ready to do that yet? Often they will have been together for a long time and sometimes 12 months isn’t long enough to get them to a stage where they are ready to celebrate the life lived.
The Victorians gave widows two years of mourning where they were expected to wear black and be ‘in mourning’. Although this was a trend started by Queen Victoria after the death of Prince Albert there is now a sense of a length of time required to pass through the bereavement journey. However most psychologists talk about the five or seven stages of grief which have no time constraints at all. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. There is a really good article about grief on the Cruse website and they also offer lots of really good advice as well as practical support.
If you suspect this is the case with your mum or dad or if you are being pressed into doing something before you are ready you might want to think about splitting the ashes. As long as your religion doesn’t forbid it you could keep some of the ashes back. You could scatter some or the majority of the ashes in a favourite spot so that the family has somewhere they can go to to remember their beloved parent – this can be a very helpful thing to do for grief, to go and actually be where you have scattered the ashes – but keep some. Then when the time is right for them there will be enough ashes for them to do something to memorialise their relationship with their loved one.
We’re here to talk this through with you and remember bereavement is a journey with no fixed time scales that if rushed may cause more issues in the future. Only you will know when it’s right for you to do something with the ashes, this might not be exactly the same time as other members of your family.