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Cremation Ashes - Trouble Sharing?


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Michael's daughter (my stepdaughter whom I'm VERY close to) has asked me for some of his ashes, to be put into a decorative urn for her.  I'm not proud of it, but I'm having trouble giving her some.  It's not that I don't want her to have any, it's the "splitting up him" that I'm having trouble with.  Right now, all of his ashes are in the urn and he is "whole".  The idea of taking some out, even if I wanted to fill something for myself, bothers me.  Like he's no longer going to be "whole".  

This is weird, right?  What do I do to get over this?  I don't want to deny her her request.  It is her father.  But, I can't shake this feeling of him being "broken up" and "separated", no longer whole.  It really upsets me.

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My dear, I'm sorry you find yourself in the position of considering a request that leaves you feeling so uncomfortable. Remember that your feelings matter just as much as those of your stepdaughter, even if you're not certain how you really feel about this. At the very least, you can tell your stepdaughter that you will consider her request, but before doing anything with your husband's ashes you need sufficient time to think about it. You can buy some time simply by saying that you're just not comfortable thinking about that right now. Of all the things you have to deal with in your grief and all the adjustments you are facing in the wake of your husband's death, this is not the most urgent matter ~ and it's a decision that can wait until you feel ready and able to make it.

This is a question that can be looked at from personal as well as moral, religious and legal perspectives, and if you don't feel able to decide what to do here all by yourself, I suggest that you look to someone you know and trust ~ such as a trusted relative, friend or clergy person, with whom you can discuss it thoroughly and who can help you sort through your own thoughts and feelings. Once you are clear in your own mind how you feel about this and why, you'll be in a better position to respond to your stepdaughter's request, one way or the other.

I did find an article for you that may be of some help as you as you ponder: Is It Okay to Divide Cremation Ashes?

[And just so you know, I've moved this thread to the Loss of a Spouse forum, where I hope you will receive more input from other members.]

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Mike's Girl,

I sort of see this from your stepdaughter's side -- sort of. Please bear with me here.

You see, I was Dana's boyfriend. We were a couple 33 and 34 years ago, but because of job and school and youth, we parted ways and had separate lives in states far apart, separate marriages and families. But both of those marriages ended in divorce in 2015, Last May we reconnected, and immediately fell in love again. But due to already-existing health issues coupled with long-term injuries from a fall last summer, I lost Dana at Christmastime. There were too many complications for us to have married yet, so I was left as an outsider -- essentially a non-entity. I had no say in the memorial or funeral arrangements, no say about her ashes and no rights whatsoever. Yet I know both from talks in the past year, and from things Dana said over 30 years ago, she wanted her ashes spread in the Pacific Ocean. She grew up in southern California, and was a surfer girl.

Her ex-husband and two sons, as is their right, handled everything. Although the elder son has been especially understanding and good to me, they will retain all her ashes. They indicate the boys will spread them in the Pacific themselves. I asked for a small portion, a handful, even a thimble-full, but will not get them. At least at this point. And you know, they are totally within their rights to keep their Mother's ashes until they can all be spread at once, if that's what they prefer.

Fortunately her best friend has been helping the boys and their Dad, cleaning her house, organizing her things, helping them deal. She has been a Godsend to them and to me. So here's what she did for me. For one thing, she has been able to send me some of Dana's poems, writings, paintings and drawings. Those are a big comfort, but she also pulled all the hair from Dana's brushes, and put it in an envelope and mailed it to me. Dana's essence is not just in her ashes, but in her works, and just as much in her hair as her ashes. You may be able to do that for your stepdaughter (if Mike had hair and wasn't bald or head-shaven like a lot of men). I just received the envelope two weeks ago, and I have bought two lockets to place some of the hair in, and keep. The rest I will take to the Pacific in August, and spread it in the ocean.

I don't know if this will help you at all, but perhaps it can. And Marty's advice to consult with a trusted relative, friend or clergy is spot-on. And maybe you can think of a small portion of his ashes as being like a lock of his hair. Some of which you could even place in a locket for yourself. I have been wearing one of my lockets every day since I got them. It's right over my heart.

In any event, it's your decision. If nothing else, ask her to give you some time. Please know we here share your pain.

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Thank you Marty and Dave for your input and kind words.  You both have made some great points and have given me lots to think about!   It's also nice to know that I don't have to jump with a response right now.  I will be sure to talk with my pastor on this, as well as a trusted family friend.  

This is an emotional situation for me and I've been beating myself up pretty good about it.  Example thoughts have been:  "Why are denying her request?  Are you being selfish? She's more connected to him than you are, being she's an actual part of him and you're not." "It's silly to think that it matters.  It's just ashes, not him".  Maddening...

Since she is grieving for the loss of her father, I don't want to deny her request, but I love the idea of sharing other things of his that was part of him instead of ashes. That's brilliant Dave and just may be the solution I'm looking for. There are a few items that Michael did state to me that he wanted his kids to have when he passed.  Maybe she will be happy with those and won't need some ashes.

Next week, she will be down here for his Celebration of Life memorial.  I'll talk to her then about it more.

Thank you again!  It's wonderful to come here and ask questions without judgement.

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MG - I have Billy's ashes in a special wooden urn with a tree engraved and a verse.  When all this is happening, our minds are really not in a good place.  We all handle things different and sometimes we don't know why we did things.  They kept out a small cylinder for necklaces with his ashes for daughter and granddaughter.  My son was with me and they hit us at a time we could not think clearly.  Yes, putting his thumbprint on pendant was so special.  So now we all have a piece of him and none of us can wear them.  We just cannot.  Strange human nature.  I found a note he had left me one time going fishing.  "I love you.  Will be back before noon."  I stuck it on front of urn.  Gave my son a startle moment.

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I just don't think I'm ready for this yet.  I'm going to tell her that I'm really not comfortable with splitting his ashes at this time and we can revisit it later in the year. (She is supposed to come visit me at Christmas)  It's only been 7 weeks (tomorrow) since he's passed and I haven't done anything with any of his belongings yet.  His clothes are still in the closet and in his dresser, his shoes are still by the door, his glasses are still on the nightstand, etc.  I'm not ready to give up anything yet.  

I like the idea of offering hair from his brush to her or maybe a shirt from his closet, but his ashes are just too sensitive of a subject for me now.

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"Perhaps one day"..  

Might be good words for now. Seven weeks is so soon to even make such a decision I'm thinking.  Take it from someone who split up his wife's ashes to please his in laws. I knew it was wrong but I knew what they felt.  Luckily for me they gave them back to me saying they knew it was wrong to split them. Had they not done that I would have regretted the decision forever.  In time you will know what is right.

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Mike's Girl,

I'm of Christian belief and believe "the dead in Christ shall rise" and I think it's nothing to God to gather up all the ashes from different spots and put them back together if that is necessary.  However, since it also teaches we'll get a new body, I don't worry so much about the old body.  The whole burial or ashes spreading seems more figurative to me, it's his discarded body that used to be functional but now it gave out and he's unable to use it.  I honor and cherish his ashes because they were part of him, but the him I know is spirit form now and continues.  

Marty, 

Perfect article, thanks!

(I posted this yesterday but it's gone somehow.)

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Thanks KayC.  I'm of Christian believe too and believe that his spirit lives on and the ashes in his urn are just that, ashes of his old shell.  That's why I'm finding it silly that I feel this way about his ashes.  I've been praying over it and I feel that the Lord is telling me that I don't have to make a decision now.  It's ok to wait.

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I went through a vaguely similar experience.

Jo's brother, who's now moved to Australia, wanted a tiny amount of Jo's ashes to always carry around with him in his wallet. When he first asked me I thought it was a bit morbid and weird, and I told him I wasn't sure. And I didn't want to part with any of Jo. But a few weeks later some of us travelled some distance to scatter half of Jo's ashes in the place she requested [a garden by the hospital she spent much of her childhood]. Her request was to scatter all the ashes but we weren't really supposed to be doing it, and we were told there was a warden about, so we only took up around half of them in a dish rather than the whole urn, and we were able to scatter that.

Having done that, and felt reasonably pleased that we'd adhered to Jo's wishes as much as we could, I eventually [it still took a while] warmed to the idea of her brother having some of the ashes that were left, and invited him round to take some before I changed my mind! He did so and all was fine. I didn't regret it and still don't. He knew Jo for far longer than me and loved her just as much. It was very difficult at first to come around to that way of thinking though. It just needed time

 

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20 hours ago, kayc said:

The whole burial or ashes spreading seems more figurative to me, it's his discarded body that used to be functional but now it gave out and he's unable to use it.  

That's how I see it too, Kay.  The ashes I have were  Steve, but realistically?  They are a minimation of his body.  We never had plans for ashes so, just cremation was our wishes.   I know it is a very symbolic thing for some and honor that.  Feeling as I do, tho, when I was asked by the place that did it if I wanted them returned, I should have declined.  It was a UPS delivery that was odd and I didn't know what to with.  I have them in a place I rarely see them unless looking for something else. I offered his brother some long ago and he declined.   

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On 4/21/2017 at 6:45 AM, Mike's Girl said:

Thanks KayC.  I'm of Christian believe too and believe that his spirit lives on and the ashes in his urn are just that, ashes of his old shell.  That's why I'm finding it silly that I feel this way about his ashes.  I've been praying over it and I feel that the Lord is telling me that I don't have to make a decision now.  It's ok to wait.

Our feelings are just that, feelings, and grief has odd  affect on us sometimes.  I hope she understands and will wait.  Maybe in a couple of years you'll feel differently.  I realize they'd bring her comfort now, but this is your decision for now.

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She completely surprised me and said that she was fine with my decision to wait.  She did admit to being a little hurt about having to wait, but she said that as long as it isn't NO for ever, then she can wait.  I said it isn't NO forever, just NOT NOW.  She's amazing.  :-)

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I am so very sorry for your recent loss. Grief is an awful thing, and no one can really understand it until they've experienced it up close and personal. You've found an excellent group to come to and hang out at (no, I'm not on Marty's payroll!). There's alot of compassion and wisdom to take advantage of here.

Your question about your husband's ashes I don't think has a definitive answer. It's like religion or politics. It's just what feels right for you. Like you, I had my wife cremated. She is with me now in a little shrine area here at home, along with 8 of our 4-legged "kids" that we had cremated when it was time to give them up. My wife had 2 very special friends that I shared a small amount of my wife's ashes with last January.  I knew that my wife would be okay with that small amount of sharing. But since then, I've become very stingy. When I get my opportunity to be reunited with my wife in that wonderful "forever" way (God decides that, I don't) I too will be cremated, arrangements have already been made for all the ashes to be mixed together, and we will be returned from whence we cometh in the Gulf of Mexico. That was always me wife's wishes, and so it shall be.  My advice (add a few dollars to it and it might buy you a small cup of coffee somewhere) is to do what feels right in your heart. I'm glad your daughter is being so understanding.

One foot in front of the other...

Darrel

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1 hour ago, Mike's Girl said:

She completely surprised me and said that she was fine with my decision to wait.

Oh, I just felt sure she would understand.  Honestly, sometimes death brings out the worse in people but sometimes love overcomes this.  My daughter and I were at each other's throats just before his death, her the nurse, me the wife, but when I blew my top at her taking things, even though she had given them to him, she was meek as a lamb and I felt so bad.  Love wins out.  We may have lost the person, but love is forever.

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  • 5 months later...

I completely understand where you are coming from. I lost my mother in law in November 2016, and she was cremated.  My husband and I were actually approached at the memorial service with the request of "we want some of Mom."  Not exactly the time nor place to bring it up, nor to actually do it there. My husband became distraught immediately. He agreed that they would each receive some of Mom but it would not be that day. I like you had an issue with dividing her ashes, but when the time came it was me that had to do it. I cried like a baby the entire time, felt like my heart was being pulled out. I completely understand the desire to have a loved one close by, so I was torn because it was their Mom, but at the same time she should be whole. I was torn by this for quite awhile, but then I realize one day, Mom loved everyone, and would want everyone happy. So if this made them happy to have a piece of mom's ashes who was I to stand in the way. 

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I can understand your feelings, but think you did the right think by complying...no one child has a hold on ALL of the ashes (although my brother did).  Death/funerals/and beyond can be a very emotional time with people feeling very sensitive and sometimes rubbing wrong.  You are to be commended for being there for your MIL throughout her illness and your husband and you throughout her life.  I'm sure she holds great love and appreciation for both of you, even in the beyond.

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thanks Kayc for the encouragement. Funny you mention her love and appreciation for me, because she actually called me the night before she died just to tell me that She always felt like I was her daughter not in law, but in love, and she expressed her love for me, and that she would always love me and be there for me no matter what. She passed away at 5 am the next morning. I honestly felt like she knew she wasn't going to be here much longer and wanted me to know that I mattered to her and her life. I think about that conversation alot, and still cry everytime. 

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clj21849,

That must have been very special to you.  I know how much I miss my MIL, she was the mom I'd always wanted, and we were very close, but then she was just a very special person.  Her son and I ended up divorced after 23 years, but I know had she been alive, she would have kept me as her DIL, her husband did, I visited him in his assisted living every Friday night until he died.  He referred to me as his daughters, and the CNAs there would call me if he needed something.

Sometimes some of the best relationships we have are the ones we form rather than are born with, although I must say I lucked out with my sisters.

I just said in another thread and want to repeat it here, it's not our grief that binds us, but our love.  You and your MIL, you share a love that goes both ways and it continues still.  (((hugs)))

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You all probably know me to be an eccentric old lady, and I admit to it.  They hit my son and me with the option of also having pendants with Billy's ashes in them.  This was the funeral home where we were making the plans.  Of course we ordered them, mine in a purple "fob" with his thumb print on back.  I have as yet to face or think about the implications of what I had done to his body, just know we both chose that for our last, and no funeral.  We have a plot in the old big, beautiful cemetery and our box will be buried mixed together behind my mom and dad's, next to my uncle and aunt's and at the corner of my grandparents.  I still have to get a stone, but have purchased the insurance Billy and I both mistakenly thought was life insurance, but it was only accident  insurance that we paid for many years, taken out of our checks.  So, in this case, only this, it is best Billy went first, he was covered with life insurance.  But, I digress from the subject.

I carry everything they gave me of Billy's when he passed.  They are in a special section of my purse.  His billfold with the $1 bill.  His little socks.  And, I kept the pendant in a box.  Pretty box.  My daughter wanted to order her own.  He was my granddaughter's "Dade", the only one she had ever known.  She told me yesterday she had nothing of his.  She wears his old shirts lovingly, and his jackets.  I gave her the purple "stone" necklace on the black cord, held in a pretty wooden box with a glass front.  She won't wear it, but she has a part of her "Dade" now, and that meant something to her.  My son could not wear his either, but keeps it safe.   

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I still have to pick up two pendants ....Half the Ashes will be distributed in the Cemetery her Parents are in....the rest will find their way to my "Distribution " site....and that is still a few years down the road...(I hope)

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Marg, the stone necklace with a cord, is it a bolo tie?  I had a dear friend that passed away just a few months ago that always wore them, don't recall ever seeing him without one on!  I'm glad your granddaughter now has something tangible of her "dade's", sometimes it helps to have something of theirs we can cherish.  I have nothing of my mom's and it leaves me feeling empty, can't put into words adequately.

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5 hours ago, kayc said:

Marg, the stone necklace with a cord, is it a bolo tie? 

No Kay, it is on a long black cord, as a necklace, but it will fit over your head.  My granddaughter is like the rest of us though, she feels honored to have a part of him, but it seems too sacred to wear.  I have often thought of the Native Americans wearing the leather around their neck that has a sack holding their sacred things.  

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