What To Say When Scattering Ashes

When someone passes away, family and friends traditionally come together to offer a memorial service that reflects their life and personality. Cremation has become a popular choice and the scattering of the ashes is now common practice. While this is a solemn moment in which many may opt to have a moment of silence, some people choose to say some words while scattering ashes. But what should you say?

Personal Story and/or History

An idea many follow is for the details and life history of the deceased person to be read while scattering their ashes. This serves as a way to remind those at the burial that, although the dearly departed has been reduced to ashes, they were a person with a name, title, and role that they played in the life of many. 

Meaningful Quotes

Quotes are simple words that carry heavy meanings. In moments where emotions may weigh heavily, the grieving family and friends will need simple words to carry the day. You can say quotes while scattering the ashes of your loved one. Here are some notable quotes that you can mention during the scattering of ashes: 

“To us, the ashes of our ancestors are sacred. And their resting place is hallowed ground.”

— Chief Seattle

This powerful quote takes note of the ancestors we came from and mentions the resting place that the departed one is going to. You, as the family and friend, guide them between the two and have a symbolic role to play during the ash scattering.

“Lives are like rivers: Eventually they go where they must. Not where we want them to.”

— Richard Russo

Russo’s quote reflects on the moment where we must accept that the life of a loved one has come to an end. Despite the grief you feel, you can honour them by moving forward.

“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.”

– Ernest Hemingway

This is yet another compelling quote by an American author, Ernest Hemingway. It serves as a poignant reminder that death is part of life, and it is upon everyone to live their life in the best way possible.

“Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.”

– Aiki Flinthart

This quote provides comfort that the one who has departed lived a brave life and faced many battles and situations but came out stronger. This also provides comfort to the grieving that as the loved one’s body will be cremated, they faced other fiery situations while alive, and we brave enough to face them too.


Life has a rhythm that the heart also beats to. But when life ends, your heart can carry on beating in tune with their memory. You can say poems while scattering the ashes of your loved one to help reflect and honor that fragile rhythm. Here are a few of the most popular and some modern poems that are recited when spreading ashes.

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“Ashes to Ashes”

It is often thought that the phrase “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” came directly from the Bible. However, this saying points back to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, which was first printed in the year 1662:

Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we, therefore, commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working, whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.”

“She’s in the Sun, the Wind, the Rain” 

This poem was composed by Christy Ann Martine. It brings about a sense of comfort that although you will have released your loved one, their presence will still be felt. The last line of the poem is: “You’ll see her in the clouds above, hear her whispered words of love. You’ll be together before long. Until then, listen for her song.

“A Psalm of Life” 

A Psalm of Life was composed by an American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The following stanza depicts how although your departed one may have walked with you through life for a while, they will have left a lasting impact in your life: 

“Lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us, Footprints on the sands of time.”

Henry Wadsworth

You Will See Them Someday

This poem by Stephan Banks is suitable for every family member. It is a poem for a grieving dad, mum, daughter, or son and it gives a sense of hope that one fine day, you will see your loved one again.


We have written a selection of poems, including our favourite scattering ashes poem

Poems for Scattering Ashes at Sea

Your loved one may have been a sailor or a sea lover. Therefore, scattering their ashes at sea would be a befitting send-off. Also, water is considered to be infinite since it goes through a whole cycle. From the rain falling on the earth, making its way to rivers and into the sea, evaporating into the clouds and starting the cycle again as raindrops. By scattering the remains of your loved one at sea, you will be symbolizing the cycle of life and releasing them into the horizon and eternity. The following are some of the poems of scattering ashes at sea:

Crossing the Bar

Crossing the Bar by Alfred Lord Tennyson is a classic poem that suits such an occasion. In it, he talks about how going out to sea helps him to return home:

“When I put out to sea, But such a tide as moving seems asleep, Too full for sound and foam, When that which drew from out the boundless deep, Turns again home.”

Burial at Sea

This poem by John Companiotte was published in 1993. Just like the title of the poem suggests, it is about a burial at sea. It is quite moving and highlights how life will move on, even after death. The introduction is quite powerful since the first two lines read as follows:

“There will I lie, Forever with a moving element.”

No Man is an Island

This is a poem by John Donne, and it paints a picture of how we all need each other, even in the time of death. In the verse, he makes mention of being washed away by the sea.

The Full Sea

This poem by William Ernest Henley is perfect for sea burials or scattering of ashes at sea because it paints a picture of how one would prefer to be put in the restless sea, and not rest on the earth. 

Life Lessons

You can opt to share a lesson that the departed one taught you so that in life and death, their lessons may be shared by them and by you, respectively. It will be a good way of honouring them and what they lived for. 

Prayers During the Service

People of all religions practice prayers, and this guides them and gives them the strength to face every situation in life, the death of a loved one too.

The most famous prayers that Christians can say when scattering the ashes of a loved one include the Irish Funeral Prayer, the Christian Prayer for the Dead, and reciting of Psalms 23. 

5 Tips for Finding the Right Words to Say When Scattering Ashes

Funerals may be solemn moments where you may be lacking words to say since you may be overwhelmed with emotions. However, although there may be moments of silence, you would still have to speak up at some point. Here are some tips to help you find the right words to say:

1. Consider the faith of the deceased and their family. 

You should appreciate the fact that you may come from a different religious background from that of the deceased and their close family. Be considerate as you speak and acknowledge and respect their faith.

2. Practice your speech.

The best way to get ready for saying the right words to say when scattering ashes is to practice and prepare yourself for the moment. Try to come up with a genuine and heartfelt statement. Read it out and determine if it will sound right for the moment.

3. Speak from the heart.

Although you may be using quotes and poems, make a heartfelt and sincere talk as you scatter the ashes. Just like how the ashes being scattered may not be taken back, the words you say shall not be taken back. Therefore, as you speak, be sincere and true to your emotions as you say goodbye to your loved one.

4. Listen to and give other mourners a chance to speak.

At the scattering of ashes ceremony, everyone or selected people may be given the chance to say something as they scatter the ashes of the deceased. If you are to speak, it would be best for you to pay attention to what other mourners say so as to get an idea of the type of tribute you will also give. 

5. Share positive memories.

Each person may have had a different life experience with the departed one. You can reminisce about your good times together and use such special moments as the best way to remember them and say goodbye to them.

What the Scattering of Ashes Symbolizes

Like any other practice that is conducted at ceremonies, the scattering of ashes has some symbolism. It may be a task that will weigh heavily on the bereaved family and friends. However, it has the following symbolism: 

  • Completing the circle of life.
  • Letting go of your grief.
  • A special connection to a specific place.
  • A ‘free spirit’.
  • Releasing your loved one and their soul.
  • Freedom and liberation.
  • Sowing of your loved one’s remains, with the hope that they will rise up again in the new life.
  • Identifying with infinity, especially when you scatter ashes on a flowing river or a large water body such as the ocean.
  • A sacrifice. Although in most cases people would hold on to the remains of a loved one, scattering of the ashes symbolizes an act of sacrifice as you let go of their remains.

Laws for Ash Scattering in the UK

In life and in death, there are rules that govern our activities. Before you and your family and friends do an ash scattering ceremony, it would be advisable for you to be familiar with the rules governing this activity. If you want to scatter ashes in the UK, you will be free to do so anywhere so long as you have the permission of the landowner, such as a cemetery owner.

However, you will be guided by environmental guidelines if you want to do a sea burial or scatter ashes at sea, on the mountains, or in specific environments. The Environmental Agency requires that you scatter ashes on a calm day. This is for a good reason: to avoid the ashes being blown in the wrong direction.

Also, you should not scatter the ashes together with any item that is not biodegradable. If scattering into a water body, you should be at least one kilometer upstream and at a distance from where people bathe or swim.

Say a Good Final Goodbye

It is hard to accept the death of someone and it is even harder to say goodbye to them for good. As you bid them farewell and wish to have their soul rest in peace, make it a strong and personalised send-off. The person who lived and you loved must have had a lot to share with you and you can also share some words with those mourning with you.