In a previous post, I talked about the value of disposing of your person’s ashes as part of the funeral ceremonies.  This post will explore what happens when we keep our person’s ashes, rather than returning them to the elements.

If you have someone’s ashes in your house, I’m guessing it’s for one of three reasons.

First, you may be holding onto ashes because it’s the right thing for you to do. You recognize their spiritual significance, and you’re keeping them in the place that feels best. As in all things death-related, each person is the expert on what they need, and for any number of good reasons, keeping the ashes may be the best choice for you.

Option #1 is the simplest, and we know we’re there because things feel “right”. Options #2 and #3 are a bit more nuanced, and we know we’re in one of them if things feel unsettled or “not yet right”.

The second option has two parts. You’ve been meaning to do something with the ashes for ages, but a) can’t figure out what to do, or b) can’t get around to doing it. In these cases, you’ve made peace with the spiritual significance of the ashes and the death, but haven’t taken the next steps to complete the process.

If you can’t figure out what to do with the ashes, or if there are issues that need to be worked out before you can do it, I’d suggest reaching out for help. Sometimes not being able to dispose of ashes is an indicator of a subtle emotional or energetic entanglement in the field. Designing and conducting the right ritual can be a powerful healing action, one that brings freedom and relief to both the living and the dead.

If you know what you’re going to do with the ashes, but it keeps falling off the bottom of your list, I’d suggest exploring why you aren’t doing it (maybe there’s more to it than you think.) Then make a plan to do it. The energy required to make it happen is likely far less than the weight of putting it off. Ashes matter.

Finally, the third option. You may still have your loved one’s ashes because more healing and resolution is needed before your soul is ready to return them to the earth. Again, ashes matter. They matter a lot. But ashes are not the same as our person. Letting go of ashes does not mean we’re letting go of connection to our person. If the death is still painful or difficult for our soul to integrate, we can mix those things up.

If you’re holding your person’s ashes and you feel tangled up about it, please reach out for support. A therapist, clergy person, or other skilled practitioner can provide the emotional and spiritual help you need to find healing around the death. From there, you may still end up holding the ashes, but you’ll be doing it from a more peaceful place.

Deep and painful grief is too much to carry alone. The grief doesn’t go away but, with support, we can find ways to diminish the pain, integrate what’s happened, and reconnect with life. If the ashes are a focal point for your grief, let them also be a path to healing.