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Keeping Ashes in the Home: Comfort, Conflict or Compromise?

 by Wendy Jacobson

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Image by Sarunas Burdulis* 

“Compromise in colors is grey” – Albanian president, Edi Rama

Recently a family of cemeteries, funeral homes and crematories conducted a survey regarding who keeps cremation ashes in the home. The survey, conducted in the states of California and Washington, showed the following results:

  • one in five respondents said they keep the ashes of a loved-one at home
  • about 50 percent of the respondents said they are keeping the remains of a parent
  • only about 15 percent indicated that they are keeping the remains of a spouse

The survey also shed some light as to why. According to the results, 54 percent of family members keep the ashes at home simply because they don’t know enough about other cremation options.

For instance, even if you don’t want to bury the remains at a cemetery, the cemetery can – and will – place a memorial bench or pedestal in a family member’s back yard for an additional expense. This option provides a solution for people who want to remain close to the deceased but might not want the remains inside the home.

“For some people, having the remains in a memorial in their own yard is the ideal solution. It provides a sense of permanence and respect and maintains that feeling of closeness,” said David Montgomery, private family memorial specialist. Montgomery goes on to say the memorial can be moved if the family member changes residences or wants to eventually place it in a cemetery.

A memorial cremation urn at home, or scattering a loved one’s ashes

While everyone deals with the loss of a loved-one differently, most of us want to honor the wishes of the deceased. But, what do you do when you aren’t certain what those wishes are, or worse, you don’t agree with them? What happens when the deceased asked that the cremated remains be scattered at a favorite place, and you’d rather keep them in a beautiful cremation urn on your mantle?

Or, what if your loved one asked to be kept in a memorial urn for display in your home, but you want to memorialize her during an ash scattering ceremony at her favorite beach, and bury the rest at a cemetery?

No right or wrong answer exists. There are pros and cons with each scenario. But life – and death – aren’t always as black and white as that.

Cremation urns, cremation keepsakes and other options

For some, keeping a loved-one’s cremated remains in the home can bring great comfort to the survivors. Our blog, “How does it feel to keep an urn for ashes in the home?”  tells one person’s story in which the presence of the cremation urn brings a feeling of closeness.

For others, seeing a cremation urn every day can cause undue stress and prolonged grief. In those cases, an ornate urn containing the cremains could bring more pain than comfort.

So perhaps you could look for the grey and compromise. That is to say, if your wishes conflict with those stated by the deceased, you can try to appeal to both. Rather than keep all of the remains in a traditional urn, you may choose to keep a portion of remains in a cremation keepsake. These are smaller and can be less ornate than cremation urns. Cremation jewelry offers yet another option. A cremation necklace or bracelet holds a small amount of ashes.

Another option is a glass cremation keepsake, which contains a small portion of your loved one’s ashes. The keepsakes come in several decorative and functional styles, including paperweights and oil candles.

It can be a difficult topic to breach. Discussing the wishes of your loved one can provide comfort and direction. It’s also important to keep the feelings of any close family members in mind, before you ultimately decide what to do. Chances are, you’ll come to some sort of grey area, or compromise, and that’s all right.

How do you feel about keeping cremation ashes in your bedroom or in a room that you walk through every day at home?

*Image can be found here: http://bit.ly/247ZNsM

Wendy Jacobson is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis with her husband, two kids and dog. She helped market her mother’s book, “Hands Off My Hope: Life Lessons on my Journey with Breast Cancer” at the request of her mom, who died two weeks after publishing it in 2008. She also is the editor of Minneapolis Happening, a digital lifestyle magazine about what’s happening in Minneapolis and the surrounding area.


My husband is in his cremation bag from the crematorium, going to get a unique traveling case so he can go every where with me til I can join him in a beautiful hand made urn our pastor made. . So happy to see others take thier spouses with them too… I thought some may think I am crazy … but then I am .. still crazy in love with my husband and will always be.

I keep my wifes ashes with me in our home. They stay mostly in bedroom with me but sometimes in family room .I have taken her outside on deck. I am comfortable no matter where. Its a companion urn so when my time comes we go in together. I cant live without her.

My wife passed away 2/8/19, 8 days before her 60th birthday. Her wish was to be cremated and when the the surviving spouse dies to be commingled. I have her beautiful urn on the mantel with a Digital Photo Frame displaying her through our married life of 42 almost 43 years. After being commingled not sure what happens because she never said and I have no idea. She just wanted to spend eternity with each other.

My Mom passed away at 81. 4 days short of her 82 nd birthday.
after a sudden brief illness. I kept the cremains a few weeks and it started causing me more grief than comfort. so I contacted the cemetery and purchased a Wall Niche. I never opened the box as that would have shaken me more than I was. picking them up was very hard. keeping them was a nightmare. I placed the box in the niche myself. when my time comes I too will be cremated and placed in the same niche next to my mom. both our names are on the memorial plaque/ niche cover. inscribed Beloved Mom & Grandma May 28 1934-May 24 2016. and Beloved Son. Ricky

My hubby passed away just before Christmas. He’s in the back of my car. I take him with me everywhere

I’ve had both my animals cremated and their ashes in an urn next to their pictures at home. I’ve also made cremation arrangements for my other two. I would never put them in a hole in the ground.

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