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What to do with his ashes

What to do with his ashes | After the Heartbreak
What to do with his ashes
Scattering Norbert's ashes into the ocean

I couldn’t have imagined ever having to consider this. When Norbert died, it was like I entered into a strange alternative universe, having to make decisions like what he would wear in the coffin. And then I was asked “What would you like to do with his ashes?”

Seriously? I mean…whoever thinks about this! What a gut-wrenching decision! There is one right answer though, and discussing this sad subject with others has helped me to realise what that right answer is.

The thing is….the right answer is the one that is RIGHT FOR YOU. It is not something others can judge you on, as it is not their decision. If it feels right for you, then it IS right.

I can tell you what was right for me, and after asking the question on my Facebook Page, I can also share what has been the right decision for many others.

My initial decision was to not make a decision

Funeral Home

In my case, the right decision was to not think about it for a year.

After Norbert was cremated I simply left the urn with the Funeral Directors….and the reason for that (which I didn’t identify at the time) was FEAR. I couldn’t bear the thought of even holding the pitiful remains of my much-loved husband in my hands. [shudders]

So yes, I put off collecting them…and put it off…and put it off. Just before the first anniversary of his death (what I call my Memory Day) I decided that he needed to come home. Truthfully, I was starting to imagine the Funeral Home staff having to dust the container regularly! 🙂

Dusting the urn

So on the morning of that first Memory Day, I scattered Norbert’s ashes into the ocean. Like many things we fear, the reality wasn’t nearly as bad as my imaginings, and in fact it was quite beautiful.

What about other people?

But that’s me, and that was my ‘right decision’. Here are some thoughts and decisions of others:

“I still have my 21yr old son’s ashes and my Mum’s and Dad’s ashes on my wall unit. I say Hi when I pass by.” [Tina]

“We were travelling. Suddenly he was in hospital for several weeks before he passed. I brought his ashes home on the plane. I have moved them from the living room to my bedroom. That is all.” [Norma]

My Mum keeps Dad’s ashes to talk to, and when I am at her place I talk to him too.” [Linda]

“I still have my husband’s ashes in the box they came in from the funeral home. He is sitting atop the bookcase, looking out at the view we loved.” [Lib]

“With the passing of two people whom I came to love, I felt compelled to breathe in some of their ash, so that they would remain a part of me.” [Ron]

“I have my son’s ashes in a pretty urn in front of a picture of him in our sitting room. I also have an urn charm on a necklace that I wear.” [Mary]

“I spread some of my husband’s ashes in Ireland. I have the rest with me and when I die, our ashes will be spread together in the Atlantic.” [Melanie]

You can leave the decision for when you are ready

One thing that is abundantly clear to me is that the decision you make can change over time, and that is perfectly OK. My decision was to leave Norbert at the Funeral Home, but then after a year I changed that decision.

It’s the same for many others.

“For me it was more than a year. I gave part of Tracey’s ashes to the winds off Dead Horse Point State Park [and another] part of her to the Snake River where we loved to kayak.” [Roy]

Both my parents died suddenly and unexpectedly. We kept the ashes until we could treat them with the ceremony we needed to move on. My Dad we buried in the woods, my Mom we scattered at sea.” [April]

“After my husband passed away I held his ashes for several months till I went on a cruise. In Italy, on the day of his birthday, I went to the Ponte Vecchio bridge and scattered his ashes.” [Andrea]

My parents have not been faced with this decision

For some people, burial in a grave means that a decision is not required however increasingly this is no longer an option due to cost and availability of cemetery sites…..and a thousand other reasons.

My father is buried in a cemetery and there is a plot next to his, which will be where we will lay my mother when her time comes. (She’s not ready yet though!)

Like many of that generation, this was their own decision and my father arranged (and paid for) the cemetery plots quite a while before he occupied one.

What else can you do?

The comments above touch on what are some of the common decisions about what to do with a loved one’s ashes, but the internet is full of other suggestions. I must admit I quite like the idea of becoming part the Great Barrier Reef which is just off the coast where I live. 😀

“Cremated remains are mixed into concrete ‘reef balls’ which are then laid to rest on the sea bed. The sustainable round-shaped reef balls are part of a global drive to help create healthy environments that allow sea life to thrive.”

17 Creative Cremation Ashes Ideas

I have a friend who has her son’s name as a tattoo on her arm, and I have since heard that a skilled tattooist can actually add ashes into the ink. Another friend scattered her husband’s ashes from a small plane….so that he would ‘fly free’. You can have them turned into jewellery, or place them next to a specially planted tree.

All lovely ideas. And every, single one of them is the right idea. There are no rules, and there is no way you can ‘do it wrong’.

What about you?

What have you done….or what would you like to do? Please drop a comment below and tell me about it. If there is one thing that IS wrong, it is not talking about this important subject. Sharing helps. 🥰

Marlene is an Australian widow who has written about all the good, bad and ugly stuff that happened after her husband Norbert died tragically. Marlene responds to all comments.

  • Margaret says:

    About a year after my husband’s death we held a small ceremony atop a hill on our rural property. We poured my husband’s ashes into a large pottery bowl he’d made. Using a small bowl he’d also made, each family member took turns scooping out some ashes, speaking to him or to us if they felt like it, and scattering the ashes in the wind. Now I put my daily vitamins in the small bowl and I like to imagine that microscopic amounts of him enter me every day, to help me along in my journey without him.

    • Marlene says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your story Margaret. I am constantly amazed at the variety of ‘right answers’ there are, and yours is so beautiful. We’ll all keep taking steps forward, in the knowledge that we are not alone. Thanks for reaching out….it means a lot.

      • Margaret says:

        Thank you, Marlene, for initiating this particular conversation — and for your courage in starting this blog!

  • Jo Murray says:

    Had NO IDEA you had lost Norbert, what’s shock to read this beautiful blog! Thanks for the generosity of sharing such personal stories.

    • Marlene says:

      Thanks Jo…he was only 60 so I thought we had many more years together. Alas it wasn’t to be so I’m hoping that if I share my feelings and experiences, it might help someone else.

  • Leanne Sear says:

    I lost my father end of March this year, his wishes are I have to keep them until my Mother passes. Then their wishes was to be scattered together at sea. But where to do this is one of the hardest decisions we have to make, as I wish I asked the question of where?

    • Marlene says:

      Hi Leanne,
      You care deeply for your parents and want to do the right thing….and this is what you will do regardless of your decision. You can’t get it wrong because wherever you scatter the ashes, it will be with love. I didn’t know either so just took a ‘best guess’. It’s all you can do and our loved ones will know and understand we did the best we could. [hugs] Marlene

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