Dividing Ashes After Cremation: How & Why This is Done

Dividing ashes after cremation... this is probably one of many things you never thought about before. But now that a loved one has gone and either you, your loved one, or your family has chosen cremation, it's something that you have to think about.

What do you do with the ashes?

There are many, many things you can do with cremated remains. Here's a popular article that details twenty-seven things you can do with ashes. Plus we did our own similar article with 36 creative ideas for ashes, including many urn "alternatives."

And people are coming up with more ideas all the time!

You can keep the ashes at home in a cremation urn, or bury them at the local cemetery. Perhaps your loved one wanted to be scattered at sea or from a helicopter. Anything is - at least potentially - on the table.

But what if several family members have different ideas about where the remains should go? What if each person would like to have the ashes at their house. What do you do?

The answer to this conundrum is one of many reasons why people choose cremation.

It's simple: Just divide the ashes.

Dividing Ashes After Cremation

Because the cremated remains (a.k.a, "ashes") are a coarse, dusty material, just like sand or gravel they can be divided after cremation.

This means that you are not limited to just one disposition option.

Instead, you can divide the remains and:

  • Keep the larger portion at home and scatter some at a favorite location
  • Bury the larger portion at the cemetery and keep some in a small "keepsake" urn
  • Scatter some, give some to family, and keep some in a cremation necklace near your heart
  • Share the remains equally between two, three, four, or more family members

The options are nearly limitless.

How to Divide Ashes After Cremation

The remains will come to you from the crematorium in a plastic bag, which is inside of a plastic or cardboard box. This box is called a "temporary urn."

Side note: The reason they call it a "temporary urn" is to subtly encourage you to purchase a "permanent" or "real" urn. But you don't have to if you don't want to! That box, though simple, works just as well as any other box.

To divide the ashes, you can go one of two ways. You can either ask the funeral director to do it for you, or do it yourself.

If you're the DIY type, here's how to divide the ashes.

  1. Prepare a few plastic bags and a clean, flat area to do the transfer. We would suggest a table with a simple disposable tablecloth, plus some brand-name Ziploc bags or any other thick plastic bag that seals.
  2. Open the temporary urn and remove the plastic bag of remains.
  3. Open the plastic bag either get someone to assist you with pouring out the ashes into the other plastic bags, or use a plastic scoop such as a garden spade or measuring cup.
  4. You can weigh each container to make sure they are exactly even, or just use your judgement. Often some family members only want a tiny bit while others would like as much as possible.
  5. Seal each plastic bag, then double-bag to be safe. You can also place each bag into a container such as a coffee tin or a cardboard box.

Why Divide the Ashes After Cremation?

Now, why would someone want to divide a loved one's cremated remains? We've already mentioned one of the main reasons for dividing ashes after cremation: Because each family member wants something different.

There are plenty more reasons. Here are a few:

  • The decedent stated how they would like their ashes divided in their will or last wishes
  • Each person would like to have the remains, or a portion of the remains
  • The remains will be buried or scattered, but a spouse, parent, or child would like to keep some of the remains
  • Family members do not agree on what to do with the ashes
  • One or more family members would like to create a special tribute, such as a painting that incorporates the ashes into the paint
  • The family decides to each have a matching locket or ring that holds as small portion of the remains

As you can see, dividing ashes after cremation is actually a fairly common practice. It can be a way to help each family member grieve, remember, and honor their loved one in a special way. It can help avoid conflict or settle disagreements. And it can simply be what the departed loved one wanted.

Now that you know, here are some beautiful urns for ashes that can help you do what you want to do.

Here are a few favorites.

Floating Shelf Urn

Pacific Crest Display Shelf Cremation Urn

Made in the USA from your choice of Walnut, Alder with a Walnut Stain, Maple, or Mahogany. The Pacific Crest Floating Shelf Urn is a classy and very subtly presented urn memorial.

Memorial Plaque Urns

We also have an entire collection of Memorial Plaque Urns which, just like the Floating Shelf Urn, offer you a very discreet way to keep your loved one's remains close at hand without making it too obvious that it is a cremation urn.

These plaques are handcrafted in our Oregon shop with your choice of over 20 designs, with personalization of your loved one's details included.

See more of our most popular urns here.