Keeping ashes in the house
After a cremation, you may need to decide what to do with the ashes. This guide will talk you through your options for keeping ashes, as well as the practical elements of handling, storing, and moving them.
Some people find it comforting to keep ashes close by. You might keep them in an urn or box, have them made into jewellery, or bury them along with trees or flowers in the garden.
Sometimes it’s requested in the will
It’s common for people to make requests about their ashes in their will. They might request that their ashes stay in their family home, or ask for a certain person to keep them. If they haven’t made any requests about their ashes, their closest family member will decide what happens to them.
You can collect ashes shortly after a cremation
After the cremation process is complete, the ashes go to a treatment area within the crematorium. Here, the crematorium technician removes any metals (like dental fillings or prosthetics), and places them into a strong plastic bag. They then place them into a secure container or ‘temporary urn’.
If you’re the ‘executor of the will’ or the nearest surviving relative, you’ll decide what happens with the ashes. The executor is the person in charge of administering the estate. This means giving out any money, property or assets that belonged to the person who's died based on what they wrote in their will.
If there is no will, or the person who’s died didn’t name an executor, the nearest surviving relative will decide what to do with the ashes. If you are the executor or the nearest relative, you can collect the ashes yourself and then decide what to do with them.
You don’t have to collect the ashes if you don’t want to
You don’t have to take the ashes home, or scatter them yourself. You can choose for the crematorium scatter or bury them for you on their grounds.
Many people keep ashes in urns
Designers, companies, and artists make decorative urns in which people keep their loved one’s ashes. Urns often look like large rounded vases with lids used to keep the ashes secure. They can come in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles.
You can choose a style that suits you or the person who’s died. You might choose a very beautiful and ornate urn, or a simple and understated one. You might choose one in the favourite colour or material of the person who’s died.
The use of urns dates back thousands of years
Different cultures all over the world use them to hold ashes. Historically, makers of urns have used pottery, marble, ceramic, bronze, wood, and glass. You can now find urns made of biodegradable material.
Urns are not the only thing you can store ashes in
The container you use to store ashes is completely up to you. If you’re keeping them at home, you can place them in a simple, sealable box or container. You can have them sealed into a sculpture or piece of art. You can even put them in a plant pot or directly into the soil when you plant flowers, shrubs, or trees.
Ashes have no expiry date
There’s no rush on moving or transferring them. You can keep them in the container from the crematorium for as long as you need. You might keep them in your home forever, or you might decide to scatter or bury them at a later date.
There are lots of different ways you can store or scatter ashes
There are a few ways you can make transferring ashes easier
You could keep the ashes within the plastic bag the crematorium gives you them in. In this case, you can simply move the bag to another container.
If you’d prefer to pour the ashes, there are a few things you can do to make it easier:
Make sure your container is big enough to hold the ashes ahead of time. An adult’s ashes usually weigh between 2 to 4 kilograms.
Because of the weight, you might like to have someone on hand to help you transfer the ashes, or hold the container steady.
Place your chosen container on a flat, stable surface.
Cut a small hole in the corner of the bag. This will help you to pour them carefully into their new container.
If the neck of your container or urn is narrow, it’s okay to use a funnel to help you pour them in accurately.
You might choose to place ashes into multiple containers
You can divide ashes between several family members or close friends.
If you’re filling multiple urns or containers with ashes, make sure you seal one before moving onto the next to prevent any knocks or spills. You might also like to lay down some newspaper or a plastic sheet. This way, if you spill any ashes, you can easily recover them.
Where you place the ashes in your house depends on what feels right
You might like to keep the ashes somewhere you can always see them. This could be:
On the mantelpiece
On a shelf or bookcase
In a prominent place in your kitchen or dining room.
Some people prefer to put them away somewhere. You might keep them:
In a cupboard or wardrobe
In a favourite place of the person who’s died, like their bedroom, study, or potting shed
In a private place away from guests, like your bedroom.
Wherever you choose, it’s a good idea to keep ashes somewhere high up, out of reach of children, pets, and the risk of being knocked over.
There are some superstitions about keeping ashes in the home
When we think about death and the afterlife, it’s natural to have some superstitious thoughts. Some people worry it’s bad luck to keep ashes in their house, or it might mean the spirit or ghost of the person will stay in the house.
Whatever your beliefs, there is no right or wrong when it comes to handling the ashes of a person who’s died. No one knows what happens after we die, but the best thing you can do is to handle the ashes respectfully and in a way that feels right for you.
If you’re arranging a funeral, we may be able to help
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