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Memorial Urn & Site Options

by Beth E. Zwecher, MSW, LICSW

Memorial urns honor and display the legacy of a loved one. They often bring comfort, healing, and relief.

Within the past year, I shared in the grieving and memorialization experiences of 15 families. It was an honor to witness each one who departed releasing a final last breath. Each life-altering experience provided insight to the sensitive nature of choosing an appropriate memorial site or urn.

We may be guided by the wishes of our loved one, or we may be entrusted to make a decision on behalf of family. Perhaps you are searching for a tribute that reflects the unique feelings that bound you and your loved one. Reflecting on the person’s life can help create a vision of the memorial urn or site that will bear lasting significance.

Choosing a Memorial Urn

Determining the end use of an urn for ashes helps the selection process. When you begin your search for a memorial urn, you might consider:

  • Purpose
  • Permanence
  • Goal

Personal taste and budget are other important considerations. Below are ways to think through your options as you choose an urn for ashes or a memorial site.

Location Site of a Memorial Urn

When choosing a location, you might begin with the question, “What is the relationship of the site to the deceased, to you or the family?”

Not too long ago, I visited a memorial site atop a hill. A decorative urn was tastefully fastened above a bronze plaque commemorating the deceased’s service to our country. A stone bench, carved with her favorite Emily Dickenson quote, was positioned in front. I immediately felt the thoughtfulness that went into each detail of the memorial urn site. Unfortunately, the semi-crushed stone path that included four steps, posed a serious problem of access for the physically challenged individuals who came to pay tribute.

Considerations when choosing a memorial urn site include:

  • Upkeep. What are the financial and caretaking responsibilities?
  • Who will perform the required maintenance?
  • Perpetual care. Who will assume responsibility long term?
  • Access to the memorial urn. If it is in a public area, will the site be easily accessible? Will it be difficult for anyone with physical challenges to visit?

Take time to consider the consequences of your choices, as well as the short and long-term responsibilities. Think about those who might visit the site even after you are gone.

The Memorial Urn as a Resting Place

Memorial urns, keepsake urns, and jewelry urns offer a way of anchoring your feelings and memories. Recognition of your loved one’s death may be visceral, but the reality of your loss may be distant. In sorting through your choices to make a decision, you may ask yourself:

  • Can I envision spending time at a memorial site?
  • Do I anticipate placing tokens, flowers or plants at the site?
  • Will I want to sit and engage in conversation with my loved one who has passed?
  • Do I prefer to have the ashes in an urn that I wear as a necklace urn? Or on my mantel in a ceramic urn?

It is often difficult to grasp the permanent absence of loved ones. Remember that as time passes, there will be a never-ending cycle of holidays and anniversaries. Think about how or if you plan on spending time with your loved one’s ashes and memory - at a location away from home, in your home, or perhaps not at all. Purchasing a memorial urn for permanent display is not a choice that suits everyone’s needs. Other urn options exist with different purposes, such as biodegradable urns and urns for scattering. Biodegradable urns are non-permanent urns. Scattering urns are used as a temporary container when the intention is to scatter the cremation ashes at a specific place and time.

All of us are forced to grapple with the realities of death. Consider your loved one’s resting place as a peaceful and loving way to honor her.

What is a Keepsake Urn?

A keepsake urn holds a portion of ashes. Family members describe a lessening sense of grief due to a physical connection to their departed with a keepsake urn. Others describe it as simply a way to maintain closeness.

One spouse spoke eloquently of the urn itself acting as a container for her grief. She described it as a place to hold her sadness so that she no longer carried it every waking moment. Knowing the keepsake urn was available when she wanted, gave her the option to hold it close or to put it away.

Keepsake and Memorial Urns

Below is a list of keepsake and memorial urn options. Examples of the urns can be viewed via our home page.

Individual Urns for Display: Often used to hold cremated remains prominently in your home.

Cremation Necklace: Cremation jewelry holds a tiny portion of cremated remains. Necklace urns can also be used to store a piece of the deceased’s hair, or petal from a favorite flower. It is considered a keepsake that can be passed from family member to family member.

Sharing Urns: Small urns are available for families or friends who wish to share the cremated remains. Also, those unable to attend a memorial service find comfort in receiving this cremation keepsake.

Companion Urns for Ashes: Couples may share their final resting place together in companion urns, created to hold the cremated remains of two adults.

Infant Urns: Smaller urns designed to hold the ashes of a small child are available.

Photo Urns: These memorial urns are designed with a frame to hold a favorite photograph of the deceased. The photo urn has a hidden chamber inside to hold the cremated remains.  

Pet Urns: Memorial urns are available to hold the remains of family pets.

Themed Urns: These urns are designed to reflect the interests and hobbies of the deceased, such as fishing, painting, and music. Religious themed urns are available, as are military themed urns.

Memorial sites and urns, along with keepsake urns, provide a way to reflect and honor the life of your loved one.