Unclaimed Cremains: A Growing Concern

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010
The concern of unclaimed cremains begs for answers...

The concern of unclaimed cremains begs for answers...

We’ve told you about the many things you can do with cremated remains, from the traditional to the truly amazing. Sadly, though, news outlets across the United States are reporting on a growing problem in the funeral industry: More and more cremated human remains go unclaimed for years, decades, sometimes forever.

This is a serious problem for funeral directors. They do research to find next of kin, send numerous registered letters, and use their own space to store cremains. Some use their own funds to bury long-unclaimed ashes in group graves. Laws vary from state to state about how long unclaimed remains must be kept before they are scattered or buried. Massachusetts allows funeral homes to dispose of cremains after keeping them for eight months, Washington after 90 days. Laws are under debate and likely to change soon in Florida. Most funeral homes keep cremains for years or decades longer than legally required. Why? They fear that long-lost relatives may turn up some day and, horrified that the ashes are gone forever, will file a lawsuit. Largely, though, it’s because a careers in the funeral industry attract people who have an extra dose of compassion. They’ll keep unclaimed ashes forever because they care about these people and respect their memories, even if those who loved them in life are nowhere to be found.

It’s difficult to imagine why a person’s earthly remains could go unclaimed, but our increasingly disconnected society is making it more and more common. People move often today, and lose touch with their families and friends. Many of our elderly die in nursing homes, far from family, sometimes without any living relatives. Some unclaimed ashes belong to people whose family and friends do know that they’ve died, have paid for the cremation and even held a memorial service, but just can’t bring themselves to take the final step of collecting the ashes. Dean Smith of Seattle’s Washington Memorial Cemetery explains, “As long as the cremated remains are here, then it’s not really over, you know? Some people don’t want to have an end.”

At Une Belle Vie, we know that it helps to have that end, a final resting place, not just for the dignity of our lost loved one, but also to help the living to grieve and to focus their precious memories. We offer hundreds of memorial urns, from the classic to the modern. Our biodegradable urns are perfect for those who want to return a loved one’s remains to nature in a dignified, gentle way. If you don’t see just the thing in our inventory, remember that our artists can also create custom urns, memorials, and works of art. There are so many decisions to make when you’re lost a loved one. Let us help you create the final resting place that fits who they were, and how you’ll remember them.

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