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

 by Wendy Jacobson

Image of ocean

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. At OneWorld Memorials, we strive to educate families about options when it comes to caring for loved ones that have passed. Whether you decide to keep the ashes of your family members in your home or not, we hope to help make the decision easier by exploring all of our options and things to consider.

If you’re wondering what to do with ashes, these questions and conversations should start between you and your loved one while they are still living if possible. If your loved one has passed, they may have mentioned their wishes in their will, or their family may have ideas as to what their preference is. In searching for cremation ashes ideas, the answer may have already been determined. However, a sudden loss may come before these questions can be asked.

Part of our mission is to educate families about all of the different ways they can care for the deceased. 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 backyard 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. This flexibility can help family members work through different stages of grief while also providing a viable option for those that are in a temporary living situation.

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 them during an ash scattering ceremony at their favorite beach, and bury the rest at a cemetery? How do you balance the wishes of the deceased with your own needs and comfort level?

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. Scattering ashes can seem like the right solution for you, but it might not be right for your lost loved one. The same can be said about holding ashes in a cremation urn at home.

Fortunately, with so many different cremation and memorial options available, there’s likely a solution available that can balance your desires with the final wishes of your loved one, though we recommend having these conversations while all parties are living and able to come to a mutually agreed upon solution.

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 within the glass itself. The keepsakes come in several decorative and functional styles, including paperweights and oil candles.

Maybe you’ve considered double urns for ashes, or urns for married couples. These types of urns feature two compartments so that your lost loved one and their partner – whether that be you or another – can be laid to rest alongside their love. Husband and wife urns have become increasingly more popular in recent years and are an option to be considered.

Death and what to do with your loved one's remains can be a difficult topic to broach. 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:

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.