Doubling Up: How Buying Multiple Urns Can Help Grieving Families

Article by Brigitte Ganger, Beyond the Dash

Knowing where to store or spread a loved one's ashes is not always a clear-cut decision. Many people are now embracing the practice of dividing a loved one's ashes among those closest to the deceased.

Separating cremated remains into two or more urns means those who were closest to the deceased can keep them near at a time when they feel so far away.

Dividing cremated remains

Cremation is the most popular final disposition, with 50% of Americans opting for this when they pass away. For many of these people, it's not automatically clear if they can — or should — separate ashes.

It may be underlying religious guilt that can give families pause. Both Catholic and Jewish religions generally oppose cremation. But even people who do not belong to a cremation-opposed religion may feel uneasy about dividing cremated remains. Religions like Hinduism and Buddhism allow or encourage cremation, and there are no objections to dividing ashes. Ultimately, it is a personal and family decision that should take into account the deceased person's preferences, if known.

Benefits of using multiple urns 

While many funeral traditions of the past are still alive and well, many funeral practices are changing to meet the needs of modern mourners. There are many reasons and advantages to using multiple urns to store cremated remains: 

  • To keep some ashes, while spreading the rest

Spreading ashes is a wonderful way to return a deceased loved one to nature. The chosen location can be the place to visit and remember as the years go by. It's not uncommon for families to spread the majority portion of cremated remains, and then divide the rest into keepsake urns for those who knew and loved the deceased best.

  • To accommodate loved ones living in different cities

Today, many families don't live for generations in a single town. Multiple urns means more than one person can grieve with the remains of the deceased nearby. 

  • To make deciding easier

Death can create discord among even the most loving of families. Choosing the final place of rest for a loved one can feel like a huge, overwhelming decision. When no one can agree on where the urn should go to, separate urns take pressure off.

  • To save some cremated remains for cremation jewelry

Cremation jewelry, or other wearable urns, are gaining popularity in recent years. Keeping a portion of cremated remains aside in a small urn will help when the time comes to incorporate them into jewelry.

  • To ensure a personal grief experience.

Keeping cremated remains is a personal and emotional decision for many people. Many appreciate being able to 'visit' with their deceased loved one in private whenever they need.

  • To ensure peace of mind 

While all cremated remains should be kept in a safe and secure place, accidents do happen. If a fire, flood, or other disaster happened to destroy an urn, it's comforting to know that all is not lost.

Should the urns be part of a matching set?

Whether to use a matching urn set is an entirely personal decision. There is nothing wrong with using mismatched urns based on the preferences of each person who receives one. However, a matching set can create a sense of unity among the family, even as a loved one's cremated remains are being divided.  

Who divides the ashes?

Cremated remains are usually placed into urns by the funeral director. Those who purchase a custom urn may not receive it in time for the funeral. In cases like this, the family can request the funeral director to redistribute the cremated remains when the urn arrives for an additional fee. Many simply transfer the cremated remains themselves.  

The takeaway

If there is a question of who will keep a loved one's cremated remains, consider a set of smaller urns as an alternative to a single urn. This form of memorialization allows the whole family to be included, while honoring the individual grieving styles of everyone.

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