​5 things to know about a memorial necklace

by Andrew Smith

Losing loved ones, whether family, pets or friends, is one of life’s greatest challenges. We are never ready to say goodbye. For some people, receiving the ashes of their loved one offers them a degree of comfort during the heartache. One wonderful way to keep a part of your special person close to you is through a memorial necklace, and in just a few minutes of reading, find out 5 things you should know about it before you invest.

1. What is a memorial necklace?

A memorial necklace forms part of cremation jewellery, which is designed and created from the ashes of your loved one. It is also often referred to as ‘remembrance jewellery.’ Besides a necklace, one can request memorial jewellery in any shape and size from a company that offers the service. Despite this, many opt for a necklace so as to keep the remains of their loved one close to their heart.

Memorial jewellery was first established and requested between the 17th and 18th century. During this period, families who had lost loved ones sought out ‘mourning rings,’ which were detailed with the lost one’s name, date of birth and passing. A few decades later, soldiers began to leave locks of their hair behind before leaving for war in case they did not come home, and families would then use their hair to create memorial jewellery.

2. Why do people opt to turn ashes into a necklace and jewellery?

As opposed to scattering, burying or keeping ashes in a safe place, using loved ones’ remains in a necklace, for example, allows you to feel the warmth of their presence even though they are no longer around. It is a way to keep them close to you in your everyday activities and maintaining a connection with them. For some, this concept may cause fear or discomfort. The process is very much a personal one, as there is no right or wrong way to deal with loss and your loved one’s remains.

3. How do ashes get turned into a necklace or other types of jewellery?

Most of the time, a memorial necklace is the result of a combination of ashes and glass. The glass materials are heated to over 1000 degrees Celsius until it becomes a liquid, whereupon it is mixed with the ashes. You may wonder how the dull colour of ashes may look when mixed with the other materials. Interestingly, the high temperature causes the ashes to burn and transform to a sparkling white appearance.

After this lengthy process, the resulting mixture is moulded into whichever jewellery or type of necklace you desire. This is not the only way to create and wear a memorial necklace. Some people opt to wear miniature urns in different shapes in the form of a necklace, which quite literally house a portion of their loved one’s ashes without being mixed or heated. Usually, this type of necklace looks like a locket of sorts.

4. You can turn the ashes into a diamond or diamond necklace

While extremely costly, some people choose to have a portion of their deceased’s remains turned into a diamond if it is within their means. This elegant option is popular all over the world and it is no surprise as to why. The process is quite lengthy and can be explained in several steps:

• Firstly, the ashes are usually heated in a ceramic or metal container in temperatures of over 2700 degrees Celsius. This part of the process continues until all the elements, except the carbon, have oxidized, which means that they have been chemically combined with oxygen.

• Heating is continued until the carbon becomes graphite, a crystalline form of carbon. This can take a few weeks.

• Afterwards, the graphite is placed with diamond seed (tiny bits of diamond) which quite literally “seed” the creation and growth of larger diamonds. Because natural diamonds are created by humongous pressures and profound temperature underground, diamonds that are created by “hand” are synthetic and require smaller bits to be forged.

• The resulting material is placed in a diamond press, with phenomenally high temperatures and enormous pressure, which also takes a few weeks.

• Once the former processes have been completed, the graphite used will have turned into crystal, and then be cut by a jeweller to your desired shape to become your special diamond.

The amount of ashes needed to make a diamond varies depending on the size of your piece. Usually, a body produces around 2kg in ashes when cremated, and usually only around 400g is needed to create a diamond. Hair of your loved one can also be used in this process.

5. What is an urn necklace?

As briefly mentioned before, an urn necklace is quite literally a small urn worn on a chain or string around your neck as a necklace. This type of necklace is created with the sole intention of housing your loved one’s remains, whether they be a small amount of ashes, a lock of hair, or burial soil – to name a few. Sometimes these pieces of jewellery look like a typical necklace to the unsuspecting eye – but they are more than your usual locket. An urn necklace consists of a small chamber within the pendant that holds the remains securely.

While you are at liberty to fill your urn necklace on your own with a funnel, this process is difficult for some. Outsourcing the process to the company from which you purchase your urn necklace should be able to assist with a small fee or none at all.

There are more than one type of an urn necklace, including but not limited to:

• Wood necklace

• Sterling silver necklace

• Stainless steel necklace

• Stone necklace

• Glass or crystal necklace

• Solid gold necklace.

About grief

Grief is not always restricted to a loved one passing. Sometimes the loss of a relationship, job or serious injury can result in experience grief. Contrary to popular belief, grief can show up in your body in more ways than simply emotional, and studies have shown how grief increases inflammation in the body as well as weaken the immune system. Grief also has ties with stress, which in high levels may result in chronic stress and unstable blood pressure.

There are 5 stages of grief that those who suffer from it often experience during the process. Although grief is very much subjective and varies from person to person, the following are the universally accepted stages to look out for and keep in mind during the process:

1. Denial

After suffering a huge loss, it is completely normal to feel as if the situation is not real or has not really occurred. Feelings of shock or numbness accompany this stage, and this is the mind’s temporary manner in dealing with an overwhelming flow of emotion and can be described as a defence mechanism.

2. Anger

Anger may set in once the realisation sets in. You are now face to face with your loss, and you may experience feelings of helplessness or frustration, which are often translated into anger. This anger is often directed at oneself, a higher power, one’s companions and sometimes even the loved one who has departed.

3. Bargaining

Many therapists consider guilt to be a behaviour instead of a feeling, but this is hard to reconcile or acknowledge in the thick of grief. The bargaining stage in grief often leaves us with questions of “what could I have done differently?”; “If only I had done this”; “is this my fault?” Asking yourself these questions can become quite obsessive and extremely painful and often leads to intense feelings of guilt and self-doubt.

4. Depression

Depression is a very common illness developed during grief, and is not considered to be the same as sadness. While feelings of sadness come along with the realisation and understanding of the loss and what it means for your life, depression brings another element into the mix, and needs to be treated accordingly. Some signs include sleeplessness, decreased appetite, loss of motivation, feelings of worthlessness (in a prolonged sense.)

5. Acceptance

While this is the final stage of grief, it does not mean that the process is nearly over. There is no specific timeframe appropriate for grief and mourning. Acceptance, however, refers to one accepting that the loss is a reality and that nothing can be changed. At this point, one usually begins to think about how to move on with life and find new ways to cope.

Ways to deal with grief on your own

While it is always recommended to visit a grief counsellor or psychologist during these times, it is not always within everyone’s means to do so. There are a few ways to try to deal with grief on your own terms:

- Turn to others for help

Sometimes it feels easier to curl in on yourself and shut the world out during times of grief. This may not be the best method, especially in the long run. You may be the type of person who takes pride and comfort in the fact that you are, under normal circumstances, self-sufficient when it comes to emotional turmoil. However, this can be highly detrimental.

It is of the utmost importance to express how you are feeling, especially to those who love you and offer you a shoulder to cry on. Now is the time to lean on other people and draw strength from them. Rather than feeling ashamed, consider “Would I do the same for them?” If your answer is yes, then do not hesitate to reach out.

If you feel as if your circle does not offer you the support you need, you should consider seeking qualified help in the form of a grief counsellor or therapist in order to assist you with your journey.

- Look after yourself

It easy to forget the basic parts of self-care when in a deep state of grief. Activities such as showering, stepping outside, eating and changing clothes may feel like an insurmountable chore. However, maintaining these habits is profoundly important. Your body is already taking a huge deal of physical damage from your grief, and you need to take care of it as you usually would in order to prevent further symptoms and prolonged suffering.

- Attempt to maintain interests

This may not be possible for some time after the loss of your loved one. After a certain period however you should try to partake in your habitual hobbies, whether they be watching Netflix, growing plants or simply going for a walk. These activities form part of who you are, and although it may seem impossible, continuing them is a very effective form of healing.

Do you need professional help?

Dealing with grief on your own terms does not work for everyone, and that is no surprise, as we all deal with the process in unique ways and experience different sentiments. Oftentimes grief does not ease up, and professionals often call this “complicated grief.” If you experience any of the following, you are strongly advised to seek professional help:

• Thoughts about self-harm or that life is not worth living

• Incessant self-blame

• Depression

• The inability to keep up with your normal routine after time, such as cleaning the house, eating regularly or going to work.

• Incessant intrusive images and thoughts of your loved one

• Prolonged anger and bitterness