Mailing cremated remains with USPS

As the direct cremation rate continues to soar and more families opt for a simple, no fuss, low cost direct cremation at the place of death, the shipping of cremated remains is also a growing activity.

shipping-cremated-remainsWe have written a few articles aimed at helping families understand how to safely ship their loved one’s ashes either across the country or overseas.  For some reason, that I am still not really clear about, only the United States Postal Service will transport cremated remains.  None of the courier services will ship cremated remains.

USPS recently introduced label 139 to improve their service in identifying cremated remains in transit.  Cremated remains can ONLY be shipped using Priority Mail Express and Registered Mail.  This means that the receiver has to sign to acknowledge receipt of the shipment and helps to give families peace of mind.  USPS clearly states that a shipment of cremated ashes should be marked on the exterior of the packaging.  Label 139 was introduced to ensure it was easier for families and postal workers to identify these valuable shipments that need sensitive handling.

So how can shipping cremated remains go wrong?

I read stories every so often of cremated remains gone astray in the USPS system.  It is heart-rending for the family, who has already lost a loved one once, and then has to experience a further sense of loss.  In most cases I have read about the loss of a cremated remains parcel, it is most often down to an inadequately packaged parcel.

This story that hit the news today is an example of how a straight-forward trans-continental shipment of cremated remains can go wrong.  Neptune Society in California sent a shipment of cremated remains to family in New York – which has ‘disappeared’.

Neptune Society shipped the remains in a box from Valley Village, California to New York City, on second day Priority Mail on November 13th.

According to the family the USPS website shows it went in and went out the same day and the tracking information goes dead after the package was received by the Postal Service on November 13th.

We all know that things DO go missing in the postal system.  With the volume of parcels being shipped, it is inevitable that some get damaged and/or lost, but it is so much more heart-breaking when this happens to someone’s final remains.

What do you need to do to ship cremated remains safely and securely?

The message is clear – if you intend to ship a cremation urn within the U.S, do make sure that you very carefully package the container.  Put contact details inside with the urn, and mark the outside of the package clearly stating ‘containing cremated human remains’.  Use label 139 – made available from USPS.  Ensure you DO ship the cremated remains using Priority Mail Express or Registered Mail, and DO ensure you make the postal clerk aware that this is what the package contains.