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Will my friends family share the ashes with me?

The loss of a good friend can be overwhelming, especially if it is sudden and unexpected. It becomes too easy, almost second nature to get stuck in the details of their death. 

While it’s natural to question things, to try and rationalize something that is beyond our control, we may never find answers that satisfy us. Even if we did, it won’t change the fact that we are dealing with the death of a close friend.

One of the most healing things we can do after a loss is to mourn and remember the person who is no longer with us. Yes, the pain is intense and unbearable, but there is some comfort — however small — in remembering.

As cremation has become a more popular and practical choice, it also presents us with opportunities to remember lost friends. A lot of people find reassurance in having some of their friend’s ashes close by inside a necklace or some other form of jewelry.

Why Would You Want Some Of Your Close Friend's Ashes?

There are a variety of different reasons why you may want some of your best friend's ashes. Whether it's to keep the memory of them close, to have some sort of closure, or any other reason, it is individual to each person and relationship.

TO HAVE AS A KEEPSAKE FOR MEMORIES & HONOR

Sometimes, when all we have left from a treasured and long-time friendship are ashes, it becomes important to save even a small portion of it for ourselves. Our friend’s ashes can be a way to treasure the memories we have of them and to honor them. 

One of the reasons why their passing is painful is because there was a lot of love and good memories. Those memories and moments we shared with our friend are priceless and invaluable. They become even more so with their passing.

Keepsakes are rooted in happy memories and keepsakes ashes can help us revisit and cherish those memories. It is important in the grieving process to acknowledge the love and the friendship that was there. It is also essential to our healing that we mourn the loss of it properly.

A keepsake can be the perfect way to do those things. We will never forget the friend we lost and the path to healing cannot happen until we accept the magnitude of our loss.

TO HELP YOU GRIEVE THE LOSS OF YOUR DEAR FRIEND

We all deal with death and loss differently. Some of us turn to distraction, burying ourselves in work and commitments. Some of us shutter ourselves in and avoid people and activities altogether. 

Regardless of how we handle grief, anything that helps us get in touch with our emotions can be helpful. Some of us like to have something physical to remember our friend by and also to help us along with the grieving process. We may find comfort in having something tangible that we can hold onto as we take in the chasm that their passing has left us with. 

Death reminds us of our mortality and how easily and quickly our lives can change. Even if we have lost the person, it can be cathartic to hold on to a small piece of them and have it with us. It can help us feel connected to the physical body of the one we lost and make death feel less final, less absolute.

In grief, every one of us has a solitary and difficult road that we must travel, but it is often beneficial to have something that connects us to the person we lost. A piece of clothing, a photograph, an item they used to cherish, or some of their ashes can provide us with that sense of connection that we now miss. 

TO CREATE A CUSTOM PIECE OF JEWELRY MADE WITH ASHES

One of the things to do with ashes would be to have the ashes themselves made into beautiful memorial jewelry. Cremation jewelry for ashes or cremation jewelry for cremains is a great way to remember him or her and can be a tangible reminder of the special relationship you shared. 

If you know someone who has lost someone dear to them, you can also gift them with memorial jewelry as a touching and personal gesture.

Cremation Jewelry VS Cremation Jewelry With Ashes

Although the purpose of cremation jewelry and cremation jewelry for ashes is identical, the actual jewelry itself is quite different. Choosing one versus the other is a personal choice and it's important to understand the differences between them.

Cremation Jewelry

In cremation jewelry, the ashes are stored in a very tiny receptacle within the jewelry. Memorial jewelry, on the other hand, refers to jewelry where the ashes of your loved one are fused with one of its elements, usually porcelain or glass. Here is an example of a pendant where your keepsake showcases the ashes and your birthstone. 


Cremation Jewelry Made With Ashes

There is memorial jewelry made with ashes where the ash is mixed in with one of its elements while also having a place where you can insert the ashes. Memorial jewelry is more personalized and generally takes longer to craft. Depending on the type of jewelry you’ve selected, it can take anywhere from 5 to 7 days from when the ashes are received to create.

TO SCATTER THE ASHES IN A SPECIAL PLACE THAT YOU LOVED OR TRAVELED TO WITH YOUR FRIEND

If you have access to a larger portion of your friend’s ashes, you may find it more meaningful to scatter them in a special place. It could be a place that meant something special to the two of you, a place that the person loved, a place that you traveled to, or planned on traveling to together.

This is a pretty big decision. Once you scatter your friend’s remains, there’s no getting them back. Take as much time as you need to think about it. If you are contemplating more than one place, list them down and weigh the pros and cons of each until, you are sure.

Click here to read our complete guide on scattering the ashes of your loved one.

Tools & Resources For Scattering Ashes

You may want to look into using a scattering urn, an urn designed specifically for scattering ashes. It makes it easier to accomplish the task while also lending dignity and a sense of occasion to one of your final acts for your friend.

If you would like to scatter the ashes over a larger area such as a coastline or an island, or have other special requirements, you can contact an ash scattering service who can do it for you or guide you as you do it. They can also help remind you about regulations concerning scattering ashes and ash scattering ceremonies.

Tips On How To Ask The Family For Some Ashes

Perhaps you’ve decided to keep some of your friend’s ashes to remember them by. Customarily, your friend’s immediate family will have access to them and will be the ones dividing ashes should they agree to it. As a friend of their family member who just passed away, you will want to approach the subject with compassion and sensitivity.

BE SENSITIVE TO THEIR GRIEF

Losing your friend is a personal loss, but it is not one that you bear alone. The family of your friend is suffering as well. It is important to give them space and bring up the subject at the right time and place.

Asking for ashes from family will of course be easier if you are well acquainted with the family and have a relationship with them although that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they will agree to your request. 

There is also a chance that you are virtually a stranger to your friend’s family which can happen. Your friend might have lived some distance away from them or did not see them very often. It could also have been that there simply wasn’t much opportunity for you to get to know them.

ENSURE TO PICK AN APPROPRIATE TIME TO ASK

Be sure to make your intentions known before the day of the cremation or before the immediate family makes a final decision on what to do with the remains. The earlier you can make your request, the less inconvenient it becomes for everyone.

Choose a time when there are fewer people around. The question you are about to ask them is a personal one and maybe a sensitive topic especially if they do not know you that well.

With fewer people around, they will be able to focus on what you have to say and there is a lower chance of interruptions. 

If they do not know you, it would be helpful to bring along photographs or anything that can help them form an association between you and their loved one.

CHOOSE WHOM TO SPEAK TO

Knowing who you should speak to would be easier if you knew the family of your friend well. Since that is not always the case, you may have to make a choice based on who appears to be in charge during the funeral.

You will usually notice this based on who is greeting the guests and making sure that everyone’s needs are met. It’s possible to speak directly to your friend’s spouse or one of the parents, but it is also possible that they might be too broken up from the loss to hear you out properly.

If that is the case, speak to a sibling or a son or daughter who is in charge who can relay your request to the grieving party more delicately than you can at the moment. If the person you approach is not in a position to decide, they can always direct you to the right person.

KNOW WHAT TO SAY

Just as important as picking the right time and place, it is equally important to plan what you should say when you ask for ashes as a keepsake. This is an emotional time for you as well as them so you should be able to articulate your request compassionately and tactfully. 

Think of how you would like to introduce yourself to the family member. You can mention how you met, your closeness to the person, and reiterate how much your friendship meant to you. You should also express your sympathies towards the family, acknowledge their pain, and how difficult this must be for them before requesting some of the cremains.

Keep in mind that you are not just there to have some of your friend’s ashes, but you are there because, like them, you are shaken by the loss of this person. These ashes are one of the last few physical remnants they have of your friend and it is normal for them to carefully safeguard it.

What you say must show respect for that fact. You can try making your request with statements like: “It would be an honor to have a small part of my friend,” or “If there is any way that you could share a small part of someone, I love so much…”

In most cases, it’s enough to generally mention what you plan to do with the ashes. The family will usually have enough on their mind without needing to get bogged down with further details. The most important thing you need them to understand is that you are making your request to honor someone who was very special to both of you and what you plan to do with the ashes reflects that.

BE RESPECTFUL WHEN THEY MAKE THEIR DECISION

Of course, they could say no. You need to be mentally and emotionally prepared for it if they refuse your request. You need to respect their decision and graciously accept it. Their decision does not reflect on you. It could just be something that is against their beliefs and preferences. Since they are the immediate family, they should be able to put their loved ones to rest the best way they know-how.

If they say yes, show them your gratitude. Keep your promise and do what you mentioned you planned to do with the cremains. If you feel close enough to them, you can even share a picture of the jewelry with the ashes.

Reasons Why The Family May Decline To Share The Ashes With You

It would be disappointing, but there are many reasons why your friend’s family may not want to share the ashes with you.

YOU ARE NOT FAMILY

This is purely subjective. You and your friend might have treated each other like family, but the immediate family may not know that. They might also have more traditional concepts of who family is. 

This is something that you cannot force. If the immediate family doesn't see you as one of them, don't push it. Be content with the close ties you shared with your departed friend, even without the ashes. The viewing and wake are not for you to get what you want.

What’s more important than your friend’s ashes is that everyone gets to say their goodbyes to your friend. It is not the time for arguments or misunderstandings.

YOU ARE NOT A CLOSE ENOUGH FRIEND

This too is subjective. Their definition of “close friend” is beyond your control. When this is the reason why the ashes can't be shared with you, the best thing to do is to let them go. You don’t have to prove your friendship with anybody. If they are not convinced that what you and your friend had was special enough, this is not the place and time to try and prove it.

SOMEONE IN THE FAMILY DOESN'T LIKE YOU

Perhaps you have a strained relationship with someone in the family and this person is making it difficult for you to have a small share of the ashes. Though grudges and misunderstandings with family members should ideally not affect this decision, it can be a factor that can lead to your request being declined. Like the two previous reasons, this is not the time to cause more conflict. It is a stressful enough time even without it.

THE FAMILY CANNOT DECIDE AMONGST THEMSELVES

This can be an internal battle within the family where they cannot decide for themselves. This is beyond your control because they have to decide as a unit and if no decision can be made, then it is better to let it rest and not push the matter.

Some who know you might support your intentions but others may not. Division among the family is the last thing you need and want. If the family cannot unanimously decide on whether or not to share the ashes, step back and don't insist on your request.

Working Through Feelings Of Loss & Grief When You Don't Have Any Ashes

Being declined your friend’s ashes can be an additional heartache. You may feel rejected, hurt, and possibly even angry. This is normal, but it is important to try to have a healthy perspective, to know that what made your friendship special can’t be found in those ashes.

This is also a good time to get some guidance and support from people you trust. Perhaps there are resources you have on hand that you can turn to. 

SEEK HELP FROM A GRIEF COUNSELOR

If you find yourself overly upset by being refused the ashes of your friend, there could be underlying reasons for it. A grief counselor can help you work through those feelings as you are grieving over the loss of close friend.


TALK WITH A PASTOR OR MEMBER OF THE RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY

Many people turn to their spiritual beliefs when they are overcome by changes in their lives. It can be very helpful to see loss and the fact that you were refused ashes from a spiritual perspective. 

Spiritual beliefs can be a source of reassurance that death and ashes are not the ends of us. They can help us see the bigger picture as we struggle with it.


TALK WITH A MEMBER OF YOUR FRIEND'S FAMILY

Talk with one of your deceased friend’s family members — provided of course that you are close to them and have a good relationship with them. Sometimes the only people who can understand the depth of your loss are the people who also knew the person. You don’t have to keep talking about your friend’s death, but the fact that you both shared a strong connection with the same person can be a pretty powerful thing.

Even if the family declined your request for ashes, this isn’t reason enough to burn bridges with them and sever relationships. When the time is right, you could perhaps share your feelings of hurt when they refused you. You should do this when the heightened emotions taper off and you are both less upset by the loss. After all, you are both grieving for something much more important than ashes.


FIND A SUPPORT GROUP

Getting strength from other people who have gone through the same ordeal can work wonders. You don’t have to actively participate and share all your details, but it helps to know that you are not alone. Eventually, like them, you will get through this.


BECOME A VOLUNTEER FOR AN ORGANIZATION YOUR FRIEND LOVED

This can be a meaningful and thoughtful way of honoring your lost friend. Supporting an organization that helps people is one of the most beautiful ways to deal with friend grief. 

You would not only be perpetuating your friend’s legacy, but you may well be creating your own.


DONATE TO AN ORGANIZATION YOUR FRIEND LOVED

This is another significant way of remembering your close friend and helping people and society at the same time. 

If you can't find the time or energy to volunteer, another option is to support an organization with a monetary donation. Although it can be less rewarding on a personal level, you can help many causes with your financial support. Almost all organizations can use money and you can donate in your friend’s name.

Suggested Memorial Alternatives Without The Ashes

Maybe you were refused your friend’s ashes. There are other ways to memorialize your friend. You may think that ashes are special, but if you were denied them, there are other ways to feel physically connected to the person you lost. 

Go through this list we’ve prepared for you. Ashes are special, but the following items are also wonderful ways to remember a person.

FINGERPRINT JEWELRY

Fingerprint jewelry or thumbprint jewelry is almost as good as using the ashes of your departed friend. After all, what could be more unique than a person’s fingerprint? It is still a very personal memento, but since it doesn’t entail giving you anything physical, your friend’s family might be more willing to grant you this request.

Having more information on how fingerprint or thumbprint jewelry can be produced or procured can give you added confidence when explaining to the immediate family. You can even show a photo of the necklace concept that you are planning to adapt.

Just like the cremains, you’ll need to find a good time to talk to one of the family members for permission to do this. If they say yes, you should arrange for a copy of the fingerprint to be sent to your jeweler.

You have a few options on how to do this:

Ask the funeral home.  Most funeral homes have a copy of the fingerprints of the deceased. You can try talking to them to get a copy for your jeweler.

Ask a jeweler.  If you already have a jeweler in mind, you can request a fingerprint collection kit.

Look online. There are also instructions online on how to do it using everyday items which can commonly be found at home.

Don’t forget that the quality of the image on your fingerprint jewelry will be affected by the quality of the fingerprint image that you provide. 

There are many types of fingerprint jewelry nowadays. You can have them made as a dog tag, ring, pendant, or even as a keychain. You can look at some examples from our thumbprint and fingerprint Jewelry 2021 Collection for some ideas.

PHOTO ENGRAVED JEWELRY

Photo engraved jewelry is thankfully not as emotionally heavy or intimidating as carrying ashes or getting a fingerprint, but it’s still a wonderful way to honor someone’s memory.

Depending on how you want to carry your keepsake around, you can have your friend’s photo made into a pendant or a key chain. You may even want to use a photo where you and your friend are together. With modern technology and techniques, engraved images are well-detailed and can even be reproduced in color. 

If you decide to go this way, there are many designs and finishes of photo engraved jewelry to choose from. There are styles that appeal more to men, for people constantly on the go and even styles that are more appropriate for children.

Have questions? Find out more about photo engraved jewelry here.

If you’re interested, you can visit our site’s collection of photo engraved jewelry 2021 to see some options.

MEMORIAL BLANKETS

Another way that you can hold something of your friends close to you is through memorial blankets. You can have some of your friend’s best-loved clothes turned into a warm blanket that you can use.

If you are having a hard time getting clothes that belonged to your friend, but like the idea of a memorial blanket, you can have one made without them. They can be customized to have your friend’s name or picture added to it. You can also add a poignant quote to make it more meaningful for you.

The advantage of this option is that you can choose what materials you want it to be made from. You can ask for thicker or thinner materials depending on the climate in your area.

SCRAPBOOKING/COLLAGE

Scrapbooking and collages never get old. The process of going through old pictures, re-reading old letters, and looking at souvenirs you’ve collected can be a shattering yet therapeutic experience.

This takes more effort from you, but it can also be cathartic to remember the special moments, trips, adventures, and even misadventures you had together. You can also add special creative touches like adding in your friend’s favorite quotes and affirmations.

STORING OTHER MEMENTOS IN CREMATION JEWELRY

If you’re committed to the idea of using cremation jewelry, but don’t have access to the ashes, you can always substitute cremains with trace amounts of other materials that are just as precious and meaningful.

Some options might be:

  • Sand from a favorite beach that you went to with them
  • Ashes from a copy of a favorite photo of the two of you
  • If you have some of their hair, you can put some inside a memorial locket

Choose cremation jewelry such as cylinders, glass keepsakes or even cremation jewelry that is rectangle or square shaped. These keepsakes in particular allow for easy loading of your selected remembrance.

HAVE A MEMORIAL STONE MADE FOR YOUR GARDEN

You can have a memorial stone with your friend’s favorite quote or a poem engraved on it. This gives you a physical space in your garden where you can remember your friend.

Memorial stones can have simple designs etched on them and can come in different shapes such as a heart or an angel’s wing.

Will They Share The Ashes Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the more commonly asked questions when individuals are looking to have a small amount of their best friend's ashes.

Who is entitled to someone's ashes?

There have been many family disputes related to this question.   The surviving relatives, specifically the immediate family or an executor, are entitled to have custody over a deceased person's ashes. However, this doesn't imply that these parties own the ashes and that the ashes should be kept exclusively by this person.

A person's ashes can be distributed as long as there is consent from the immediate family. It becomes less stressful for the family if the deceased person left a will, and the document stipulates who has custody over the person’s ashes.

Is it respectful to divide someone's ashes among people outside the family? 

Sharing the ashes between people who loved and cared for the deceased whether they are family or not is entirely acceptable. As long as the ashes are handled with consideration, respect, and love, there is nothing wrong or disrespectful about it.

Some people who receive a portion of the ash choose to use it for memorial keepsakes while others keep it in miniature urns and place it somewhere in their homes. Of course, the bigger question is whether the family would be willing to divide it in the first place.

Is it bad luck to have someone's ashes in the house?

It all depends on your personal beliefs, and what your culture dictates. Most people don’t believe that keeping someone's ashes in their home will bring them bad luck. There has been no concrete proof that keeping cremains will attract negative energy or cause tragedies and misfortunes.

What do I do if the family won't share any of the cremains with me?

Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do. You can try to persuade them or appeal to them by reiterating your intentions and why you want some of the ashes, but if they decide not to share your friend’s ashes with you, it is best to respect their decision.

You may or may not understand their decision, but at the end of the day, it’s a good idea to let the matter rest and find other ways to remember your friend.

If I get some cremains from the family, can I share a small amount with a close friend?

You can, but out of courtesy and respect for your friend and your friend’s immediate family, it is better if you don't. However, if you've shared your intention of sharing the ashes with another person to the family, and they are okay with it then by all means do so.

If you are acting on your own, then the decent thing to do would be to keep the cremains you asked for to yourself. Ashes are not something that you share with everyone. The possibility of the ashes being spread around to people the family doesn’t know is one of the reasons why immediate families are hesitant to share their loved one's ashes.

Do I have to tell the family what I plan to do with the ashes once I have them?

You are not obliged to, but it may help convince them to share some with you if they knew that the ashes would be used respectfully. Telling them your plans will also give the family peace of mind. It can help reinforce the idea that you are well-intentioned and that sharing the ashes with you was the right thing to do.

You should normally inform the family of what you are planning to do when you ask for the ashes. It would be highly inappropriate to ask for it and not tell them why you want it and what you plan to do with it.

What if the family asks for the ashes back after giving them to me?

This is the reason why sharing what you are planning to do with the ashes is extremely important. If for whatever reason, the family wants it back and you still have the ashes, then you can try to dissuade them. If they insist on having it back though, you should honor their wishes and just return it.

But what if it’s too late and you already had it made into cremation jewelry? The right thing to do would be to offer it back to the family as it is and leave them with the decision of taking it back if they still want it.

If you’ve scattered the ashes, then there isn’t much that anyone can do. If you have photos or a video from that day, you might want to share it with them if you think it will provide some form of consolation.

Sharing The Love: Remembering A Close Friend With Cremated Ashes

Having a small portion of your friend’s ashes is a wonderful way to have something from them. It provides you with many options to remember them by. You can turn it into cremation jewelry, scatter the ashes, or keep them in a small urn in your house.

If your request was refused, there are still many avenues for you to honor the memory of your friend. You can have fingerprint jewelry made, get something with photoengraving, order a memorial blanket, or put a scrapbook together.

This is understandably a difficult time for you so if having something tangible to hold onto gets you through the next couple of weeks, then you should do it.

Further reading:

Grieving and coping after the loss of an ex spouse

A complete guide to wake and funeral etiquette

Coping with grief & loss in a virtual world

Updated April 29, 2021 by Jeri K. Augustus