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Death affects large families in unique ways. When multiple households have deep ties to the person who has passed, it can be difficult to decide who should hold onto the ashes or where they should be scattered. Many times this dilemma comes down to three options: your family could divide the ashes, establish an accessible memorial, or explore alternative ways to cope with the grieving process. This quick guide will provide a few suggestions for each.
An Urn for Everyone
Sharing urns are becoming more common than ever. Miniature urns are made to the same exacting quality as regular urns, often to a higher quality because the small sizes reduce the expenditure. Many families choose to invest in a full-size urn for the columbarium
If you want to share the ashes with somebody who had a very special connection to the family member who has passed, you could invest in a necklace that holds ashes so that he or she can keep those important memories close to their heart. Other popular options include memorial gems (ashes fused into diamonds under heat and pressure) and candle holders with ash compartments.
Whether buried in a vault, stored in a columbarium, or kept in the home, an urn serves as a tangible connection to a person who has passed away, much like a funeral plot. Much like choosing the location for a funeral plot, families separated by large distances may have trouble establishing a memorial that everyone can easily access. This can be resolved by splitting the ashes into one or more portion or by taking a creative approach that everyone can get involved with.
Scattering ceremonies are a great way to create an alternative monument – scattering into the wind means that you can find their memory in all wind, scattering into the ocean means that you can find their memory in all the world’s oceans. Other families look outside the box and plant a tree or a memory garden, cuttings from which can be mailed to every person in the family so they can start their own memorial from the same plants. The meaning is always more important than the physical monument.
Sometimes hurt feelings can be avoided with a personal touch. It helps to seek out the underlying cause of the disagreement; perhaps an estranged son has nothing else to remember his father by, or perhaps a previous spouse feels as if he has lost one more connection to his past life by losing the opportunity to remain close to the ashes. In these cases we suggest grief counseling, and a little creative thinking.
Shadow boxes are powerful. By placing old photographs, handwritten notes, and personal belongings into an archival quality hope chest, you are sharing an important part of the loved one passed, much more important than mortal remains. Making a copy of a CD or home movie featuring that person’s voice can be powerful. Sometimes giving up an heirloom is a reasonable compromise – but it all comes back to figuring out why the intended recipient’s heart is hurting in the first place.
If your family is having trouble working together to find a solution, you may find the negotiations easier to undertake once a small amount of the grief has subsided. Take some time to talk to your funeral director for personalized recommendations (disputes over ashes are relatively common) or seek the advice of a grief counselor. Sometimes finding a “perfect” solution is impossible but there is no harm in trying to seek harmony and balance.
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