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How to Divide Ashes After Cremation - Step by Step Guide | Eirene Urns

After a family receives the cremation ashes of a loved one, it can sometimes be challenging to agree on what to do with them, so dividing ashes may be necessary. This article provides guidance on how to do that.

Why divide ashes?

Did you know Eirene provides cremation services to families?

One of the main reasons for dividing ashes after cremation is that the family that receives them can't agree on what will happen to them. Will they be buried, placed in a niche, scattered, or kept in an urn

The decision may be difficult, especially in a larger family. Similarly, a family may agree on the type of memorial to hold but has trouble narrowing it down to when or where. Moreover, the deceased person may have wanted their ashes to be handled in a certain way, and the family wants to follow their wishes and memorialize the deceased in their own way.

Dividing ashes is a great way to resolve these problems as it allows each party to conduct the memorial they choose.

Another reason for dividing ashes would be that multiple people in a family want to keep a portion of the remains. This is especially true for larger families or family members living in different parts of the country or world. A person may want to keep ashes with them or have them nearby or place them in a piece of keepsake jewelry, create a memorial diamond or a parting stone.

Regardless of the reason, dividing ashes allows everyone the freedom to do what they wish with their loved one's cremated remains.   

How much ashes are produced during cremation?

After the cremation process, the amount of ashes leftover varies from person to person. However, there is a general guideline you can follow to determine this. 

Before cremation, each pound (or half a kilogram) of body weight equals approximately one cubic inch (16.3 cubic cm) of ashes. If someone were 175 lbs (79.4 kg) before cremation, they would need an urn with a capacity of at least 175 cubic inches (2868 cubic cm). See more on calculating ash quantity.

This guideline can help give you a general idea of the quantity of ashes you can expect and how much each person will receive when they are divided.

However, it is important to note that this varies depending on the type of cremation chosen. The guideline above applies more directly to flame cremation. Aquamation (water cremation) produces about 20 to 30 per cent more ashes on average. Therefore, you may need to adjust the amount accordingly when dividing the remains. 

Who will divide the ashes? 

Anyone can take on dividing the ashes, but it may be helpful for families to ask the funeral provider to divide the remains for them. This is something that providers and crematoriums are usually willing to do. Similarly, they are likely to have the necessary equipment and facility to divide them easily. Nonetheless, if families are unsure of what to do with the ashes, it is best to keep them in the urn or temporary container provided until they decide. 

If the funeral provider does not divide the remains, it can be done by anyone willing to take on the task. 

How to divide cremated remains  

Most crematoriums return the ashes in a plastic bag, placed in a "temporary urn" made often from cardboard. This will work fine to divide ashes. 

If the funeral provider is dividing for you, you would ask them beforehand and provide the urns or containers you have selected. Often a family will choose several keepsake urns that will contain the divided ashes.

How to divide ashes, step by step

If families choose to divide the ashes themselves, below is a step-by-step guide to help guide you in the tasks. 

  1. Prepare a clear and flat surface for transfer. Find a work area with a lot of space, such as a desk or table. It is vital that this area is not near a window or subjected to wind or a draft. Do not divide ashes outside as a gust of wind may blow some of the ashes around or away.
  2. Next, cover the work area with something disposable such as a newspaper or a tablecloth that can be discarded afterward. 
  3. Get the necessary tools and equipment. The tools you need to transfer depend mainly on how you are moving the ashes. However, common tools include a cup/scooper, plastic bags or containers, gloves (easier cleanup), and a funnel.
  4. If you are transferring ashes into plastic bags or containers, a cup may suffice for dividing. However, if you are transferring into urns or other smaller containers, a funnel will be helpful.
  5. Open the temporary urn and plastic bag.
  6. The ashes are usually within a plastic bag, placed in a temporary urn. First, remove the bag and open it. For a more effortless transfer, cut a corner of the bag to make it easier to pour. Or open it all the way to make it easier to scoop the ashes. 
  7. Transfer the ashes carefully. If you cut a small corner of the bag, you can pour the ashes directly into another bag or container. It may be helpful to get someone to help you with this if you are funneling the ashes into a container or urn. Have someone hold the funnel over the opening and scoop or pour the ashes into the funnel.
  8. When transferring ashes, you can also weigh the containers to ensure the amount is even (if desired). 
  9. Seal or secure the containers, bags, or urns so there is no worry about spilling their contents and putting them in a safe place.
  10. Next, clean up the area by removing and discarding table coverings. Throw out gloves, and clean or discard items used for the transfer.

What to do after dividing ashes?

There are many things you can do with ashes. Common ones include scattering, burying, and interring them in a niche or columbarium. However, there are many things you can do with cremated remains, from shooting them into space to turning them into a tree.    

We have several articles that can help you decide what to do. Below are a few examples:


If you have a question about handling or dividing ashes or choosing an urn or want more information about our cremation services, email us at support@eirene.ca. To make cremation or aquamation arrangements with Eirene, click here.

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