OneWorld Memorials Offers Advice on What to do with Ashes

by Maggie Thompson

    Keeping ashes at home

Losing a loved one is always difficult. Perhaps the most difficult part about loss is that it is different for everyone, so there is no clear set of steps for moving through grief. After a loved one has died, you have several different options of how to honor and inter the remains. The choice you make will be based on the final wishes of the deceased and their religious practices. A lot of people choose to be cremated.

Cremation is an ancient practice found in cultures around the world with many meanings and rituals attached to it. Besides its spiritual connotations, cremation can allow a grieving family the luxury of time to decide how to proceed with their loved one’s remains. No matter what you decide, it’s the right decision.

Deciding What to do With a Loved One

It is not uncommon for families to be uncertain about where or how to display, bury or scatter the ashes of a loved one. When there is no rush to decide, the approach of simply putting the cremains in a closet “for now” seems like the easiest choice. This indecisiveness springs from understandable emotions or circumstances, such as:

  • A desire for all surviving family members to come to consensus
  • Logistics that delay the opportunity for a formal family gathering to bury or scatter the ashes
  • Personal beliefs that the essence of the loved one is gone, so the ashes have little personal significance
  • A resistance to making further plans coupled with a strong desire to keep the cremains nearby because the survivors are not ready for a more final step

Sometimes, the delay stems from being overwhelmed by the fact that there are countless ways to care for cremation ashes. But what happens when months, years or even generations go by, and the ashes remain in the closet? This isn’t helpful to you or your loved one. It could also potentially cause more stress and grief.

Learning about how others have dealt with (or avoided dealing with) the disposition of cremains can help lessen the sense of frustration and overwhelming emotions. Find connection in these tales from real people, guidance from spiritual experts on understanding energy and options for creating your own sense of peace through the gift of time that cremation can offer.

A Tale of Two Closets: Feeling Energy Connected to Cremation Ashes at Home

If you’re wondering, is keeping ashes in the home demonic, that will depend on what you believe. In an unusual example, psychic medium Lisa Guttierez-Haley relates her story on Lisa was contacted by an exasperated family. They had been experiencing strange paranormal activity in their home: images of people walking by, a strong sense of aggression and feelings of bad energy in the house.

You may be asking: Is there energy in cremated ashes? Perhaps. Lisa reported that a pervasive, overwhelming meanness was coming from an elderly female spirit, dominating an elderly male spirit. This energy was strongest by the closet. When the family opened the door, they found two boxes of ashes on a shelf containing cremains of the wife’s great grandparents. Lisa advised removing the ashes from the house right away. The husband did so and immediately felt that the air had lifted.

However, Lisa felt more spirits in the house. In another closet, they found two more boxes of cremains, those of the wife’s grandparents, who evoked a gentler presence of love. Lisa deemed it was okay to leave these boxes in the closet because the spirits were not causing negativity for the surviving family.

Basement vs. Altar: Waiting Too Long to Make a Decision

When Gail and Arthur were making repairs in the basement of their family’s beloved summer home, they found an old coffee can tucked away on a back shelf. Expecting to find an assortment of nails, nuts and bolts, they opened it only to realize it contained cremains sealed in a plastic bag. Running through a mental list of deceased grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, the couple sadly had no idea whose remains they might be.

In another story, this blog’s author came upon a small locked door on the back of the free-standing altar in her church. Behind the door were several containers of cremains. This area was not a columbarium but rather an unofficial holding spot intended to allow families time to decide what they wanted to do with the cremains of loved ones.

One box had been there 12 years, another for eight. The most recent had been there two weeks, with plans for burial in the church’s memorial garden the following month. Some cremains had been there for so long that no one knew who the remaining family members of the deceased were or how to contact them.

These stories illustrate that while cremation offers time to grieve, a decision must be made eventually to honor the memory contained in cremains. If you’re wondering, is it bad luck to keep ashes at home, that depends on how you view the situation. In both of these scenarios, nothing “bad” happened, but someone’s loved ones were tucked away and forgotten.

Does Cremation Sever Your Connection to Your Loved One?

This question is a relevant one for anyone considering cremation as an option, and you might also be wondering: Can spirits follow their ashes? Jaime Licauco is a Pilipino expert on mysticism and the paranormal who has been researching, teaching and writing on esoteric knowledge for 35 years. He has written numerous books and articles on our connection with a higher consciousness and responded to questions like this in his article on the Lifestyles page. Here is what Licauco says:

When a person dies, their psychic connection with loved ones is not immediately severed. It can remain for a long time. Because of this, their energy can still be felt by the living. In truth, the dead never leave us but are in another dimension of existence. There’s nothing wrong with keeping a loved one’s ashes in the house.


Options for Respectfully Dealing with Cremation Ashes

If you have a loved one’s ashes in a closet, what can be done with them? Here are some options for remaining respectful to both your memories and your family’s diverse needs, especially if family members want to keep the ashes at home.

  • Traditional options: Memorial urns designed for display are an excellent aesthetic option for holding ashes in the house. They come in a variety of designs made from ceramic, glass, marble, stone, metal and wood. Smaller keepsake urns and jewelry pendant urns that hold a nominal amount of ashes are also satisfying choices for sharing cremains among family members.
  • Scattering solutions: A garden, a forest and a body of water are meaningful places for scattering ashes. Although not always necessary, scattering urns are available to use during a ceremony before releasing the remains into nature. It is perfectly acceptable to keep a portion of ashes separately in a keepsake urn or ash pendant. Simply remove that portion before scattering the rest.

When it comes to wondering what to do with a loved ones ashes, for those interested in less traditional ways of honoring a loved one’s memory, think-outside-the-cremation-urn options abound:

  • Having ashes blown into glass, such as a vase, paperweight or distinctive glass cremation keepsakes, offers a beautiful alternative to a somber urn.
  • Scattering ashes at the edge of space allows both children and adults to feel their loved one always watching over them.
  • Incorporating ash into a diamond gemstone provides a very personal piece of jewelry as a daily reminder of your loved one.
  • Mixing ash with paint for a portrait of the deceased can yield immense comfort.

Cremation offers the benefit of time. There is usually no urgency to decide what to do with the ashes. This allows families time to make plans and to grieve in whatever way suits them. Cremation is an option that offers that space. Keeping ashes in the home can be a comforting and meaningful way to still feel connected to a loved one for many people. The key point to remember is that you decide what feels right for you; there is no right or wrong way to grieve.

Maggie Shopen Thompson, MFA, is a freelance writer and writing workshop facilitator in Montpelier, Vermont. She is a contributing author/artist in Healing Art & Writing – using creativity to meet illness, curated and edited by Patricia Fontaine, published in August 2016.


My husband of 6 months…yes, 6 short months, unexpectedly passed away 3 weeks ago while sitting at his desk at work. I am totally devastated. His wishes were to be cremated. I picked up his ashes and went home and placed them with the “shrine” I made with our picture, his work backpack, wallet and all of the love notes he had written to me. The next evening, I was leaving to go to my daughter’s house for dinner. I walk onto the porch and turn to lock the door, and the porch light started strobing. It was magnificent! I stood and watched the scatter of blinking and took a video. I told him that I love him and always will. It became brighter and faster. I welcome the interaction. His display of love was once again in Ben fashion. Bring on the “Ben winks”!

We had 5 children 3 boys and 2 girls. The middle boy died 3 years ago .. he was 28 yrs old . We kept his ashes in the living room. One day my wife was sitting in the exact spot in our guest room where our son passed . She told me our son was talking to her from a night light answering yes and no questions , I thought she was loosing it. After a couple of days I thought I will check this light .. the receptacle

was fine .. the bulb was screwed in tight .. I checked the switch all was normal . As I sat there in the exact spot we had found him .. I asked are you here son … Immediately the light came on .. I got goosebumps … This cannot be real I thought. .. so I said son if it is you turn the light off and it did right away …. I was shaking and sobbing uncontrollably .. I went to the living room to where my better half was watching tv .. as soon as she saw me … She said … See I told you so !! Feel a lot of comfort now in that guest room.

My autistic son died recently and very suddenly of lymphoma.
We have his ashes back home with us and it does comfort me.
He died in September 2021 and the tears just haven’t stopped.
He was only 40years old and feel like we borrowed him for a short while .
I try and watch for any sign of him in the evenings and pray for him to be kept safe and loved.

My wonderful husband soulmate passed 10th October 21. I am grieving and can’t bear life without him. Yesterday I collected his ashes and for the first night since he passed I did not cry myself to sleep. I feel happier because I feel he is back home with me where he belongs. I dread the day when I have to scatter his ashes as promised in the special place of his choice probably in the spring. I am praying life will get easier. All my love be with you forever darling. One day I hope we will meet up again in heaven.

My only child my son Matthew forever 25 💔 passed away very unexpected, my son was married and I have a beautiful granddaughter Giavanah, she is now 6 years old. My son’s ashes are in my corner curio top shelf on top of his urn I put his favorite hat/baseball cap and I talk to him every day since I kissed him goodbye, and lately I catch something out of corner of my eye.
But yet I’m torn. Matthew passed on April 29 2016, my daughter in law Samantha received 1/2 of ashes, she has spread hers over areas he loved, in maybe spread 2tbsp …I feel him sometimes like he’s sitting right next to me, I’m scared of I spread ashes or bury him with his mamma ( my mom ) he LOVED her and she passed mother’s day of 2019 COVID….will he stay visiting me or will he finally walk through into the light and no more feeling him …omg what should I do

My daughter died 25/9/2021 covid I’m so lost without her her children are besides themselves I’m just hoping when it’s my time to go she’ll be waiting for me hopefully she’s with her dad

I picked p my moms ashes today it’s almost been a year this Thursday . I have felt relaxed and peaceful all day . She hated being alone maybe she’s with me in spirit I feel her energy she can now Rest In Peace 💜

Love And Prayers to each one of you. 💜🙏,All of us here have experienced loss of loved ones. God’s sacrifice insures we will all be with them again,in God’s perfect timing. Love And Peace to all,Stay strong in love and memories. Until The Circles Unbroken Forever.

When I brought home my husband’s ashes, I put them on his favorite chair in the den. One of our dogs, a true daddy’s girl, immediately jumped up on the chair and started licking the box containing the ashes. She then settled down and snuggled up to the box and stayed there for several hours. There was an unmistakable look of profound sadness on her face.

My grandma died recently after a year of battling cancer and we cremated her. She was the most important person in my life so I stashed inside a glass vial some of her ashes and carry them around with me all they even at night. Is it super abnormal or do you know how long it will be until I don’t feel like crumbling without them?

My Father passed on May 28,2021
I’m holding his ashes and keep them in the entrance table with flowers and water. I also turn a candle when I pray.
I speak to him and say a prayer.
I have started seeing my light bowls go on a d off lately.
My husband told me he saw a shadow go from one room to another. I’m not scared because I feel peaceful and calm. I still miss him and help to cry. It is the hardest thing to accept he is not here anymore.

I have been reading your comments and they àre spot on , I have my wife’s cremains in a wooden casket in my sideboard and I live with my special needs daughter, one day I was chastising her in her bedroom and then went in kitchen in to wash dishes and my wife knocked on the wall next to me and I felt calm and unsurprised and just said I know I will have a quiet word with her in a minute. I feel her presence all the time and when I’m on my own I talk to her it’s really comforting but I’m having her ashes buried in a family grave on July 17, I just wonder if she will still be with me in spirit

My kitten that we just got last week have been sleeping,and sitting by a clock that has a loved ones ashes in it. What does that mean?

I had two cherished pets, a Jack Russell named Dixie and a younger Westhighland Terrier named Viktor. They were great buddies and they always stayed close to each other and us. When Dixie passed away at about 14 years of age I had her cremated. Not only were we sad and heartbroken to lose her, but Viktor was also noticeably sad and even depressed for several weeks and months. He kept going from room to room, looking out the windows and wondering the backyard, often he just sat and stared out the glass doors to the backyard, or he’d poke his head out the pet door looking for her. I kept Dixie on the mantel next to a photograph of her. When Viktor passed away at about age 15, I took him and Dixie’s ashes and buried them together on the morning sunshine of a Tennessee hill. I dream that they run and bark together in whatever place they dwell in God’s Kingdom.

Kathleen…My mom passed recently as my father and I keep her ashes in the house, next to grandkids pictures. I imagine others feel removing ashes will help you move on. It is my opinion that it is not up to them to decide as it is your choice what you do with your sons ashes. I will keep my mothers and when my father passes, I will take them both to Tennessee with me to rest within nature as they both wanted to be together. I believe we owe it to the ones we love to give them peace in the afterlife and keep the love they passed on to move on but never forget. Best of luck, apologies for your loss.

My son died when he was 34 years old, which was about 6 years ago. I have held on to his ashes since then. I have informed my family that when I die I want them to scatter his ashes with mine at the same time.

Hi! My name is Andrea Hoffman, my husband recently passed away as of 2 days before Thanksgiving of last year. He was already an old man when we got married. So, we had a 2 and half year marriage. Anyway, my way of grieving is by talking to his ashes. He’s been creamated. He died of congested ❤ and ❤ failure. Prior to his death ….my husband had open heart surgery back in February of last year. Maybe his heart did not heal properly.

My brother died many years back and we have had it in his ashes sitting on a shelf in the living room and very recently unexplained things have started happening loud noises at night like something fell off the shelf and seeing things like shapes that go away instantly and I cannot figure out why

When a person dies their spirit goes to one of two places , Heaven or hell. There are spirits called “familiar spirits” they can come in voices like a loved one & when they continually harass you it’s most likely a demon & needs dealt with ASAP.

Trina I am so sorry your story mad me so sad and at the same time understand that I am not the only one that is feeling all of those things. My husband hung himself out back in the woods of my house my daughter and I were at the house at the time. It is a horrible feeling all around.

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