A memorial is important to many bereaved families, giving them a focus for feeling closer to the person they have lost. There was a time when choosing a memorial was as straightforward as selecting a headstone. But as the number of burials in the UK has fallen and the number of cremations increased, people are looking for new ways to ensure that their loved ones are remembered.
With 140,000 burials in the UK every year, headstones still account for a sizeable number of the memorials chosen in the UK. The Headstone Guide explains the various types of headstone available, explaining styles and designs, materials commonly used and even providing inspiration for inscriptions. The Headstone Guide puts the costs of headstones anywhere between £400 and £2,000.
Although headstones are rarely used to mark cremated remains, it is not unusual for families to mark the spot in a cemetery or churchyard where their loved one's ashes have been scattered with a memorial plaque. These are often made from the same materials as headstones but are smaller.
It's important to remember that there are often local rules and regulations specific to local churches and cemeteries; your funeral director should be able to help you make choices appropriate to your area.
Following a cremation, many families choose to scatter the ashes of their loved ones. But for those who prefer to keep the remains close to them there is a huge variety of urns available from many sources. You can even buy them on eBay.
One of the key factors in choosing an urn is to remember where it will be kept. Being practical, the urn needs to be big enough to hold the ashes, but not so big that it can't be stored or displayed easily.
Also, how does the style of the urn you choose reflect the personality of the deceased? With materials ranging from traditional brass and wooden urns, through to glass and fibreglass there are an array of options. Urns can be incredibly ornate or elegantly minimalist to reflect the tastes of your loved one. A range of miniature or 'Keepsake' urns is also available for families that wish to scatter most of the ashes but keep some with them.
For people who always want to keep the memory of their loved one with them, jewellery designed to contain a small amount of their ashes are an option. Pendants, bracelets and even keyrings that hold ash in a sealed compartment are widely available.
Jewellery that is actually made using cremation ashes is also an option.
Ashes Memorial Jewellery in the Midlands creates jewellery imprinted with the ashes of your loved one or containing a resin 'gem' embedded with ashes. Diamonds made from cremation ashes can also be incorporated into jewellery, but with a complicated and lengthy laboratory process involved costs are higher, starting at £500 and rising to £10,000 depending on the size of diamond desired.
For some families, location is an important part of remembering their departed relative, helping fix their memory in a cherished place. Memorials benches are a popular way to create a lasting link between a lost loved one and a favourite spot and can be seen in some stunning locations around the UK.
Costs vary depending on location and arrangements made for upkeep. Many local councils offer memorial bench schemes that last for a fixed number of years and include the bench, a plaque and maintenance. A memorial bench in Manchester, for example, costs just over £1,000 for 10 years. Gardens and parks also often offer bench sites, with Birmingham Botanical Gardens charging £2,500 for 10 years.
One more way to create a special place where your loved one can be remembered is to sponsor or dedicate a tree or even an area of woodland that you can visit as a living, natural memorial.
The National Forest in Central England will plant a tree on your behalf and dedicate it to the person you are remembering. You can choose from six types of native British tree, decide how many you wish to plant and then create a personalised memorial certificate. Alternatively, you can visit the forest on specific 'planting' days and plant your own tree.
The Woodland Trust, with sites across the UK, lets people dedicate individual trees, but also areas of woodland from a quarter of an acre upwards. The cost of woodland dedications starts at £250, but benches or marker posts with a personalised plaque, are available starting from £1,500.
Choosing a way to remember your loved ones is a very personal decision. From traditional headstones to diamonds made from ashes, the choice should reflect the personality of your loved one and how you wish to remember them.
Golden Charter has one of the largest network of independent funeral directors in the UK. Many are long-standing, family-run businesses and all provide a compassionate and professional service. Find out more about how you can plan for your funeral with one of the funeral directors in our network. Request a free, no obligation information pack or call 0808 169 4534.