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October 23, 2019 Brigitte Ganger

Where Should I Put My Urn?

Creating space in your life for your loved one's cremains

Where Should I Put My Urn?
If you plan on keeping your loved one's urn, make space in your life for it in a place where in makes sense. (Getty Images)

I never thought I'd be the type of person to display an urn in my living room. Yet, here I am. 


Before death touched my life, the idea of cremating a human body was repulsive. Yet every time the topic of death came up, my mother made it clear that this was her wish. When she died, my sister and I each kept a small keepsake urn containing a small portion of her remains.


For some, displaying a loved one's urn is the natural thing to do. 


For me, it wasn't such an intuitive choice. 


Of course it should have a special place in my home, but do I want it out in the open for everyone to see? Should it be in my bedroom? Or tucked away in a cupboard out of sight, so I can move on with my life? How close is too close, for an urn? 


Here are some thoughts to help you find the right home for your loved one's urn.


It doesn't have to stay in the same place.


Nor should it. Like all belongings, urns are subject to moves, renovations, changes in circumstances and your mood. Unlike most belongings, urns carry heavy emotional baggage, making them seem like much more than an object. 


That's why most people stress over finding the 'perfect' place for an urn. Putting pressure on yourself to decide — once and for all — where such a unique and special artefact should go is indicative of your grief. Realize that it's normal to feel weird about the urn, especially in the beginning. 


Put your urn where it makes sense.


Though it's difficult, try to separate your feelings about the urn long enough to consider where it would go if it didn't contain a loved one's cremains. Based on its size, color, and your home's aesthetic, there's probably an obvious place for your urn in your home.


Set you emotions aside long enough to decide — where in my home does this object belong? (Getty Images)


Depending on the size of your urn, you could place it on a side table, ledge, window sill, mantle, shelf. There's no rules about what room an urn should go either. I've known people to display urn their urn in their bedroom, coat room, living room, dining room and even in the bathroom. There's no rules!


An urn does not need to be displayed in order to be meaningful. 


Incorporating an urn into your home decor may not be for you. It's okay to not want a reminder of a death in your space. 


Stow the urn away somewhere safe: a spare cupboard, or in a safe storage container (I suggest something water- and fire-resistant) should be fine. With the urn stored somewhere where it is out of sight and protected, you may visit your loved one's remains when you are ready. 


You can still get rid of it if you want to.


Even if you've decided to store your loved one's remains in an urn, you don't need to leave them there forever. Give it some time. Your urn might grow on you. If it doesn't, maybe keeping an urn isn't right for you.


If you've tried out a few locations in your home and find the urn's presence doesn't feel right, there's no rule saying you can't change your mind. Spread your loved one's ashes in a meaningful natural location, or give it to a loved one who would appreciate it. A clean, empty urn can be donated or sold. 


Accept your mixed feelings.


It's natural to feel there is no place respectful enough to house your loved one's cremains. Because an urn can represent so much, it can feel like a big decision. 


In reality, you have more flexibility and choice than may realize. There's no shame in any decision you make with regards to storing or displaying your urn. Especially in the weeks following this death, some people find storing an urn out of sight to be an act of self-preservation. Others need it close by. Choose your own way, and remember this decision isn't a permanent one.


Finding the right place


My urn didn't find a permanent place in my home immediately. In fact it took several moves and furniture shuffles before I made a place for it on my living room windowsill. 


A shelf, mantle, windowsill or other available ledge could be the perfect place for your loved one's urn. Put it wherever feels right. (Getty Images)


It's an odd presence to have while moving through grief. There are times when you want it nearby; others when it has to be out of sight. William Worden said that the final task to accomplish in grief is to "Find a way to maintain a connection to the person who died while embarking on your own life." Keeping your loved one's urn in your home may very well be a way to establish this enduring connection, during periods of grief and beyond.


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