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When Families Don't Pick Up Urns After Cremation

What happens when families decide to use the method of cremation for their loved ones, but then leave the remaining ashes unclaimed at the funeral parlor or cemetery? How do funeral parlors handle this and what do they do with the cremated remains?

As cremation is gaining more and more popularity for financial reasons as well as other personal reasons people may have, the rate of unclaimed urns filled with these ashes is steadily climbing as well. Families are abandoning the urns, whether on purpose or by accident at staggering rates.

WBZ reported what Anne Roan, the funeral director at the Conley Funeral Home in Brockton, one of the state's 500 funeral homes holding hundreds of unclaimed cremated remains had to say, "This is where we've been keeping the urns." Roan then pointed to boxes there were sitting on a shelf. As Roan showed a small box, she continued, "This is the smallest of the boxes that we have up above. This was a stillborn baby boy that mum chose to have him cremated and, as of yet, has not come back to pick him up. It makes me sad. I mean these people each lived a life. It should be a life that should be remembered by somebody. Sometimes I just think we're a very disposable society."

Roan's funeral parlor not the only funeral home to collect unclaimed cremated remains. Funeral parlors everywhere are dealing with this issue.

Sean O'Regan, Vice President of operations at Mount Auburn keeps unclaimed cremated remains in underground bunkers, called "receiving tombs". O'Regan stated in reference to the increase in the number of people who have a loved one cremated and then left at the funeral home, "It's definitely increasing, and as an industry we just need to make everybody aware that the cremation itself is not the final disposition. You can do scattering. You can do an in-ground burial, above-ground scattering, columbarium niche, bring the urn home and put it on your shelf."

To help this issue of cremation remains being left at funeral parlors, the state of Massachusetts passed a law two years ago. The law allows cemeteries and funeral homes to bury or scatter cremated remains which go unclaimed for one year. Roan stated that if families do not claim cremated remains at her parlor after one year's time, "Our decision was to purchase a single grave here in the city-run cemetery in the city of Brockton and to place all these unclaimed remains in a vault."