Dividing a Loved One’s Ashes

Giving each family member a chance to say goodbye in a personal, meaningful way.

Close up of purple flower blooming in dirt to signify choosing an eco conscious funeral.

Sometimes people leave behind detailed instructions about how they’d like their bodies to be laid to rest. More commonly, though, those decisions fall to those left behind. The heightened emotions of grief can make it hard to decide on anything, much less something as important as how to say goodbye to a loved one’s remains. When multiple family members each have their own ideas and opinions about what’s appropriate, conflict and confusion can follow. to require someone doing the work of making sure they happen. And, more likely than not, that responsibility will land on someone you love.

This is one advantage to cremation. It solves the immediate concern – taking care of your loved one’s body – so you can take your time deciding what to do next. Once someone has been cremated, there is no rush to decide what to do with the ashes.

Another advantage to cremation is that you don’t have to choose a single resting place for the remains of your loved one. You can scatter most of the ashes while keeping a portion in a keepsake urn or pendant. You can scatter or bury ashes in multiple significant locations rather than choosing just one. Cremation ashes can also be divided among family members, allowing each person to choose what they want to do to honor their loved one’s memory.

How to divide cremated remains

After a loved one is cremated, you’ll receive their cremated remains in a temporary container unless you’ve already selected an urn. They will be kept sealed in a plastic bag inside the container or cremation urn. This makes transferring the ashes from one vessel to another quite simple as you can just remove the bag and place it in the new container. 

There are no laws limiting how ashes must be stored or divided. You are free to divide them among as many friends or family as necessary. However, dividing cremation remains can be an emotionally intense experience, and any accidents can be very upsetting. That’s why we recommend you bring your ashes back to the funeral home to divide them, or request for them to be divided as part of the cremation process, instead of attempting this yourself.

Considerations for families separated by distance 

If you are dividing ashes among family members, or arranging for them to be scattered in multiple locations, you may need to transport the ashes over some distance. 

Perhaps the simplest way to transport cremated remains is in a car. There are no laws limiting the transport of cremation ashes in your own vehicle. You will want to be sure the container is safely sealed and the container is placed somewhere that it’s unlikely to tip over or be damaged, especially if they’re already in a fragile urn. You can use a seatbelt to keep the urn in place, or place the urn with packing material inside a box on the floorboard for greater security. 

You can also travel by air with cremated remains in your carry-on luggage. You must transport them in a container that can be x-rayed, so avoid traveling with a metal urn. You will also need to provide a copy of the Certificate of Cremation from the funeral home. If traveling internationally, call ahead to ask if any additional considerations apply to your specific flight. 

Another option is to mail the cremains through the United States Postal Service. The USPS offers guidance on how to safely ship remains on its website. This is currently the only service for shipping human ashes. If you will be shipping remains, it’s a good idea to notify the recipient about when they’re expected to arrive and let them know what the package looks like, so they can emotionally prepare for opening them.

You don’t have to decide alone

There are no shortcuts through grief, and nothing can make losing a loved one easy. But the flexibility of cremation and divided ashes can help ease a difficult decision into something more bearable. It’s not a solution that works for every family, but it can provide powerful opportunities to create more personal goodbyes.

If you’ve recently lost a loved one and need help arranging their cremation, or if you have a loved one’s ashes and aren’t sure what to do with them, French Funerals & Cremations can help. Visit any of our Albuquerque funeral home locations or call 505-843-6333 with questions or to learn more about ways we can support you through this difficult time.

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