Can Cremation Jewelry Help You Through Grief?

November 30, 2019

Can Cremation Jewelry Help You Through Grief?

It may be unpleasant to think about, but all of us will experience grief at some point in our lives. It is a pain like no other, and you may think you’re never going to feel okay again, but try your best to believe you will! 

When you are able to begin processing your grief, a good first step is to try to understand your grief in a rational way. What is grief - and how does it affects your mind and body?

What is Grief?

There is no single definition of grief that covers it all. Like you, your grief is unique.

Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of a loved one, or someone close to you. It is a natural, strong, and sometimes overwhelming waterfall of emotions. The emotional response to loss is what we think of first when we talk about grief, but there are also physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, cultural, spiritual, and philosophical dimensions to grief.

You may find yourself feeling numb, removed from your daily life, and unable to carry on. There is no time limit to grief, but generally, the pain will temper as time passes and you adapt to life without your loved one. You won’t have control over your grief but experts suggest that it’s good to prepare yourself for multiple stages as being aware of these will help you to deal with them.

The 5 Stages of Grief

People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of them.

1. Denial and isolation

“This isn’t happening, this can’t be happening” would be the best way to describe this stage.

This phase acts as a defense mechanism to buffer the shockwave that is felt immediately after a great loss. Your mind is trying to numb your emotions, to block out the words and to hide from the facts. Following this, you may start losing sight of life’s meaning and questioning its value, but it is important to remember that these thoughts are temporary.

2. Anger 

Now reality hits. You’re not ready to accept what has happened, so your mind takes the intensity of all your emotions and turns them into anger, something you may temporarily be more comfortable with. It can be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or family.

In some cases, your anger may be directed at your dying or deceased loved one. On one hand, you might resent them for leaving you with this pain. On the other, you know they are obviously not to blame. Doctors or health professionals may easily become a target for your anger, but going down this path won’t help you feel better. While they may not show it, doctors are not immune to losing patients and grieve in their own way.

3. Bargaining

You may try to regain control with “what if” statements. Don’t torture yourself. Instead, remind yourself that it is not your fault. Guilt often accompanies bargaining. You may start to believe there was something you could have done differently that would have saved your loved one. Talking to others can help you be more objective and see why these thoughts are irrational.

4. Depression

Once your initial reaction and emotions have started to calm down, you will slowly start to look at the reality of the present situation. You will abundantly feel loss, sadness, and regret. You might consider some of the more practical implications as a result of the loss. People often worry about costs, or that they have spent less time with others that depend on them. You might also feel less sociable and not want to talk to others about what you’re going through. The best way to overcome this stage is to surround yourself with people you love and trust. 

5. Acceptance

At this phase, you will likely still experience sadness and maybe regret, but your survival tactics of denial, bargaining, and anger are beginning to feel less present. It’s not a happy time, but you’re not resisting the reality or trying to make it something different. 

Coping with a loss is ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience. Nobody can make it easier or understand all the emotions you’re going through, but others can be there for you and help comfort you through this process. The best thing you can do is allow yourself to feel the grief as it comes over you. Process it. Be patient with it - and yourself. Resisting it will only prolong the natural process of healing.

How Cremation Jewelry Can Help With Grief

There is no closer place you can hold your deceased loved one than right next to your heart. 

Cremation jewelry has been around for centuries, dating as far back as the pre-Egyptian period. It can play an important part in the grieving journey.

The origin of cremation jewelry

The need to commemorate the deceased is present throughout history, dating back to before the Egyptians.

chau-ga-ta ancient memorial necklace


Tribal people of the Andaman Islands (between India and Myanmar) wore chau-ga-ta necklaces as a memorial to the deceased. Chau-ga-ta necklaces were also worn as a charm to ward off sickness or by those suffering from an illness. The necklace was tied tightly around the part of the body that was in pain.

16th century cremation jewelry

In the 16th century mourning jewelry was referred to as “memento mori” (remember you must die). At that time, memorial jewelry wasn’t created in memory of a specific individual but instead, to help encourage people to pray for the dead and reflect on their own mortality. 

The jewelry often had motifs of skulls and skeletons.

17th century cremation jewelry

The death of Charles I, whose final words were “remember me”, was a catalyst for change. 

memorial ring of King Charles I

Locks of the King's hair were treasured and many rings with his portrait on the bezel were created. These traditional rings were meant to be worn everyday as a reminder of our own loved ones and how they have influenced our lives in countless ways, but now they were being created in memory of a specific individual. 

18th century cremation jewelry

In the mid 18th century memorial jewelry was influenced by a lighter rococo style. Many pieces included pearls which represented tears. This reflected a shift in attitudes towards death. Instead of the greater concept of mortality, it put a greater focus on sentiment and the deep well of emotion involved in mourning the loss of a loved one.

cremation jewelry influenced by a rococo style with pearl

19th century cremation jewelry

In the Victorian age, when someone in the family died it was common to have a family portrait taken also known as a “death photo”. Eventually, memorial jewelry began to take the place of the death photo. 

In western culture, Queen Victoria is well known for popularizing mourning jewelry. She was shattered by the loss of her husband Prince Albert (1861). She went into an extended period of mourning which lasted four decades and resigned herself to wearing exclusively black mourning clothes and black jewelry. 

Queen Victoria in black mourning clothes and black jewelry

She mandated that only black mourning jewelry be worn in court. Mourning jewelry became fashionable and the wealthy classes began using lockets, bracelets, necklaces, and rings to memorialize their loved ones. Queen Victoria wore her husband's mourning ring for the rest of her life.

Common materials included jet, onyx, pearls, dark tortoise shell, black enamel, bog oak, vulcanite, and gutta percha, a natural rubber made from the southeast Asian tree. White enamel was reserved for unmarried women and children.

Memorial jewelry was also popular outside of royalty. Europe was in an almost constant state of war. Soldiers would often leave behind locks of hair for their families to use in case they died on the battlefield.

Diseases like cholera, typhoid, smallpox, and scarlet fever were also common and deadly. Simply put, death was a constant companion in the Victorian era. Mourning jewelry brought some small solace to the survivors who had to cope with frequent losses. 

Jewelry that contained a lock of a loved one’s hair was popular. The Victorians believed hair contained some of the essence of the person and was sacred. Also, because it lasts forever, it symbolized immortality. 

Jewelry containing a lock of a loved one’s hair  

Today’s cremation jewelry

Today, cremation has almost replaced traditional burials. Cremation art can take many forms including tattoos, paintings, and cremation pendants holding the ashes of a loved one. Memorial objects like these can help people dealing with grief, making them feel more connected to lost loved ones. 

How is Cremation Jewelry Made?

Cremation jewelry can be complementary to other ways of honoring a loved one’s memory. Often times, families will keep a small amount of cremated remains after burying or scattering the rest of the ashes. Instead of creating a memorial pendant out of the ashes, some people will use a lock of hair, dried flowers from the funeral, a small amount of the sacred ground, or a small piece of cloth. Generally, the pendant will hold about a quarter of a teaspoon of ashes. The pendants can then be engraved with a meaningful quote, initials or a date.

Tips When Buying Cremation Jewelry

When buying cremation jewelry, opt to have the ashes laser soldered into the pendant. Laser soldering ensures a permanent seal so you don’t run the risk of moisture getting inside, or the contents leaking out.

Also, it’s recommended to use solid gold or silver as opposed to plated metals as the latter can easily wear off to reveal the cheaper metals underneath. Fine jewelry tends to be more expensive but it lasts for generations and provides peace of mind. 

Personalization is another important factor. Look for companies that offer a variety of customizable options from selecting the metal, the designs, the length of the chain and having the option for engraving.

Cremation Jewelry as Part of the Grieving Process

Everyone deals with loss and grief in their own way. Cremation jewelry can bring people a sense of closure and comfort. They promote emotional healing as they are a gentle and ever-present reminder of good memories and experiences. For children, a physical memento provides a tangible reminder of their loved one that they can touch or hold on to. Children connect with things that they can see and feel. 

Some people have reported a feeling of a comforting presence. Others enjoy it as a conversation piece, and as an invitation to share memories and stories.

How Will People Be Grieving in the Future?

Artwork can prove to be a great way to capture the essence of an individual’s life. People have always held on to special objects to help heal grief or feel more connected to their passed loved ones. Capturing carbon energy at its essence will always be a part of the human grief process.

The one you lost was beautiful and extraordinary, what you choose to do to honor their memory and to help you through your grieving journey is your own personal decision.

How do you think people will be grieving in the future?