Dear Mary: What about the Urn?

| Caregiving Expert

Share this:

Dear Mary: What about the Urn?Dear Mary,

My father-in-law died this week and he has just been cremated. What are we suppose to do with him now? My husband would like to bring the urn home and keep it forever. This idea drives me crazy. What should I do?



Dear Pat:

I suggest that you cut your husband some slack on this issue (at least temporarily). Tell your husband that you agree to let him bring home the urn for now, but that he needs to commit to a plan as to when and where he will move the ashes out of your house. For example: he may agree to scatter the ashes in a nearby river or plant a tree in a community park with your father-in-law’s name on a plaque. Part of his plan also needs to have a date when he will do this by. If you do not trust that he will keep to his plan, put it in writing.

Your husband needs to respect your rights not to have the urn in your home forever. While the urn is in your house, your husband could keep it somewhere not too visible, such as a closet.

Encourage your husband to decide carefully where to put the urn or the ashes. Many people have told me that they are sorry that they did not bury the urn under a tree for example, people often need a destination when grieving and releasing the ashes in a river often does not offer enough closure for many.

Help your husband on the day that the urn leaves your home. Make it a day of celebration. You will be celebrating:

-your father-in-law’s life

-the fact that your husband completed his plan

-the fact that the Urn is out of your house

It will be a great day of celebration for all!


Message from Mary Bart: I was my parents’ principal caregiver for ten years. I have first-hand experience in helping aging parents, dealing with family dynamics, protecting parents from elder abuse and working with public and private organizations. Do you have a question for me? Please email your questions to:

An important note: I love answering your questions, but I also encourage you to seek professional legal, financial, or medical assistance. Mary.


| Caregiving Expert

Mary Bart is the Chair of Caregiving Matters, a registered charity that offers education and support to family caregivers. She was her parents’ principal caregiver for ten years and first-hand experience in helping aging parents, dealing wit...