Honouring a Lost Loved One: How the Nation Uses Their Loved One's Cremation Ashes

The death of a loved one is always hard to comprehend, no matter the circumstances. Whether an untimely death or not, being truly prepared for such a significant loss is a luxury few will experience, as we all process grief at different speeds. There is a certain finality in a burial; a knowledge that the deceased’s story has drawn to a close as the coffin is lowered into the grave. Cremation, on the other hand, provides a world of opportunity in continuing to honour the loss. The versatility of cremation ashes offers a virtually endless stream of creative commemoration; prolonging the legacy of the deceased and potentially assisting in the grieving process of the bereaved, too.  

Some of the most popular ways to utilise the cremation ashes of a lost loved one are to scatter them in a special location or to simply keep them, in pride of place, on the mantelpiece. Despite how traditional these choices may be, however, many will feel they don’t align with what their loved one would have wanted, assuming they didn’t leave specific instructions. There are so many options that can keep you connected to the deceased and help with your own grieving process. To identify the most suitable method of remembrance, we at Hand on Heart have investigated the most popular application of cremation ashes. 

When grief strikes, especially when it’s unexpected, your life will understandably be thrown into disarray. Sadly, this chaos and confusion will often result in regular healthy habits and routines being overlooked. Sudden changes to such things as diet and nutrition, exercise and sleep can be especially harmful as your emotional pain will soon be coupled with a downward spike in your physical health; one only making the other more difficult to endure. Your grief will naturally dominate your focus, but it’s essential to not let it completely eradicate your foundation of self-care. You simply can’t grieve well if you can’t take care of yourself.

Despite there being no one correct way to experience grief, many will be sure to ask themselves, ‘Is it supposed to take this long?’. When questioning this, it can be all too easy to start comparing your grief to the experience of others, often those who will be perceived to have had an easier time with their grief. This is an entirely natural impulse. As social creatures, we crave the knowledge that our experiences are shared, rather than completely outside the norm. The act of comparing our grief to that of others in order to develop a pre-conceived notion of what is or isn’t normal, however, is not helpful in the slightest. In the age of social media, and with countless people currently experiencing grief for the same reason, this can be difficult to avoid.

Grief will inevitably lessen with time, but how quickly and to what extent is near-impossible to predict. Even when the superficial details look similar - a loss caused by COVID-19, for example - everyone’s life and circumstances are unique, making any individual grieving process impossible to compare with another. Doing so will only help to invalidate your grief, making the process longer and harder.

Many have found that certain methods of remembrance can make the grieving process easier, ultimately allowing them to focus on their own health, both mental and physical, and to reach the stage of acceptance with minimal distress. One such method is to carry or wear a linking object - a keepsake that symbolically reminds you of your loss. These objects often utilise the ashes of a loved one following their cremation and can take many creative forms, such as being used in the ink of a tattoo or planted with a sapling that will grow into a tree and solidify their memory for years to come. The most popular form of linking object, however, is jewellery, which can hold anything from cremation ashes to handwriting, fingerprints and even soundwaves. This method of grief is ideal in gradually and healthily accepting the finality of the loss and adjusting to a life in which the person is absent.

As a process that largely unfolds on it’s own, grief shouldn’t be forced, nor should it be run from. The healthy middle ground is to approach it from a place of acceptance and gentleness. Always remember that there’s more to grief than sadness and if you experience an unexpected change in your grief, you’re probably on the right track.


Data was collected from the following sources:


To identify the most popular way to store ashes following your loved one’s cremation, we analysed the top 15 Google search engine results – when Googling ‘what to do with ashes after cremation’. The data set we created is based on the reoccurring ways to store/use cremation ashes across the 15 different sites, with the data sourced as of September 2021.   

We created a tally of the number of times each remembrance method was mentioned, resulting in an overall ranking system. For each time each method was mentioned, it would be awarded 1 point and was eventually scored out of 15 (due to there being 15 websites). These points were then converted into a percentage, with jewellery's 14 out of 15 equating to roughly 93% out of 100%, for example.