Posted by: chlost | November 7, 2011


If you’ve read this blog for long, you will know that my sister died suddenly nearly two years ago, on the day before her 50th birthday. It still seems unreal. Many times I think to myself  “I should call Kathleen-I haven’t talked to her in a while”. Of course, I then remember why.

Since her death, there have been many difficult issues that have come up with my brother-in-law. The hardest, however, has been that my sister’s ashes are still at the funeral home. For whatever reason, my brother-in-law has not done anything with them. He has talked at different times about spreading her ashes in various places, but has not made any plans for it.  He hasn’t even brought her ashes home.

I cannot begin to describe how hard it has been for my mom, my other sister, my brother and I to know that. We were all very close. To think of her ashes sitting in a storeroom somewhere,  and abandoned, hurts almost more than her death. Even though I am not particularly religious, it seems disrespectful. For the rest of my family, who are more religious, it has been even more difficult.

No one felt comfortable bringing up the issue with my brother-in-law. He has made it very clear that he is moving on with his life. In fact, he was dating within several weeks of my sister’s death, and has been “purging” the house of her belongings from the day of the memorial service.

Today he called me to let me know that he and my nephew would not be visiting here over the holidays. He asked me about many of my sister’s belongings and whether I wanted any of them. He is getting rid of family photos, old family furniture, Christmas decorations and china.

I took a deep breath and plowed in. I told him that I wondered what he was doing about her ashes. He admitted that they were still at the funeral home. I explained to him that my mother in particular needed to have some closure, and I was trying to find out his plans.  We had a relatively pleasant discussion, and in the end, he agreed to check with the funeral home about sending her ashes to me. I think he may divide them in some way (I don’t even want to know). But I told him we would bury them in the plot where my grandparents and an infant brother was buried, as well as where my mother will be buried.

It was one of the hardest conversations that I have ever had. But hopefully, this will mean that we can finally put her to rest. We would just like to know that her remains are someplace that we can pay our respects. To ensure that those who love her have not forgotten her.

Some closure.



  1. First of all, let me say that I am sorry for the loss of your sister, I cannot imagine. I pray you will find closure, and peace, in caring for her remains together – remembering, cherishing, and honoring her life. Bless you.

    • Thank you. This will be a way to go on, I hope.

  2. I’m so sorry for the loss of your sister. Yes, she needs to be with her family, and you need some peace about this.

    • Thank you. I could use a little peace.

  3. I’m so sorry to hear this. It has to be very difficult. Watching my wifes family grieve and.. as of yet there her fathers ashes have yet to be disposed of, but there is plan to take them to Hawai’i and put them in the ocean. He had a house there and it would mean a lot.
    But still… one thing I’ve learned from this and the three weeks between his passing and the funeral.. THere is some wisdom in the Jewish tradition of burial the next day and prescribed mourning rituals for 7 days, another set for 30 days and yet another for the first year. I’ve found comofort in these “guard rails”, and that we’ve been able to deal with things, intensily mind you, but it’s done now. It’s the smack me once and painfully or lightly over and over again for a year or two.
    Good luck and I hope you all able to find resolution.

    • Thank you. I agree that your traditions seem very sensible. That could be so comforting in situations when nothing else makes much sense. My reaction to your comment is that I am sure you are grieving his death as well. It sounds as though he was a great guy. Good luck to all of you, too.

  4. Wow! My heart goes out to you…in many ways.

    • You are very kind.

  5. I agree with the previous comments. Your family needs closure by your family being able to put your sister’s ashes to rest in a respectful and loving manner. I’m glad you brought this up with your BIL. Obviously, he is not seeing the impact that this delay has had on you all. I hope he does turn over the ashes so that ya’ll can have some closure. Sorry again about the loss of your Sister. I hope this all gets resolved quickly for you.

    • I have been trying to give my bil the benefit of the doubt. I do not understand what is happening with him at all. It makes no sense to me. But I know that my sister would not want her remains to be on a shelf of a funeral home. That was the main motivation for me. Thanks for your support.

  6. I am so sorry. I understand and am still mourning my brother’s death after all this time. It’s so hard.

    My stepfather still has half my brother’s ashes – ten years after the fact and he still hasn’t decided what he wants to do with them. I hate that.

    • The grief for a sibling is so surprising to me. I had considered that I would lose my parents, and possibly my spouse, and had even realized the horrible possibility of losing a child. But I never really thought about losing a sibling. The grief is overwhelming at times. I am so sorry that your family has had to deal with this as well. It makes no sense.

  7. “…one of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had…” seems a generous understatement. It’s one thing to be unfeeling for oneself, but it’s another thing to extend that lack of emotion to others. What I mean is this: the BIL may not hang much on symbolism, and maybe the only way he can cope is to move on, pronto; however, his higher-order thinking should understand the meaning that your sister’s final resting place has for everyone who loved her long before he came along.

    I have INFINITE respect for the conversation you had today. You did it for everyone.

  8. As hard as that conversation was, it was important that someone have it with BIL. It sounds like he’s in denial … and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, when others are impacted as well, and especially for so long, perhaps the kindest thing is for someone to point it out. I admire your strength in having that conversation. I hope BIL follows through, and soon. *hugs*

    • Unfortunately, I think my BIL is beyond denial. He seems to have no ability to acknowledge any emotions. He is retired military. He also lost his father at an early age. I am trying to give him the benefit of the doubt in assuming that he has lost his ability to recognize his emotions as a coping tool in his life. I guess it has worked for him up until now. I am imagining it may crumble at some time in the future-or not.

  9. I agree with Jocelyn and dragonfae. I’m sorry for your loss. I’ve never lost a sibling but losing my shared past would be very difficult, to be sure. The politics and division that can come with death can be brutal. It sounds like the conversation didn’t go too horribly. Best of luck moving forward.

    • The conversation went much better than I had anticipated. It didn’t seem to be as hard on him as it was on me. Thanks for your kind comments!

  10. I can see why this was one of the hardest conversations you ever had. Losing a sibling must be one of the toughest losses to bear – your siblings are there with you the longest time in life, sharing the ups and downs, far longer than your parents, spouse or children normally do. I’m so sorry you lost your sister and I hope her ashes will soon be with those who love her so much. *hugs*

    • Thank you. You are right about siblings having a special bond. I think even those that don’t get along have the shared history which makes it a unique relationship.

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