When the dead are not present in body

I’m planning out what my next blog writing projects are: this prospectus has to do with a kind of pastoral liturgical resource one sees little of.

What do you do when someone dies and there are no human remains?

This has to be traumatic for the survivors, but hardly a new situation considering the unrecovered bodies of mariners, explorers, and soldiers.

I’ll be gathering and writing some resources in the next few weeks. Leave a comment if you have a special request.

This is the eight hundredth entry for this blog.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. Good call, Scott. One of the greatest needs in the resolution of grief is to fully (psychologically) accept the death. (This has little to do with the “Denial” malarky of Kubler Ross) Viewing a body–at a wake, or privately, or an open-casket funeral–is hardly macabre and helps facilitate this process.

    Bereavement comes from the root word that means to have something taken from you. Someone who has lost someone and has no body to mourn is doubly bereaved–their love has been taken from them, and the loss of a body feels like a double theft.

    Something else to think about with cremations or other means of disposing the body: people who want their ashes spread to the wind need to leave something behind. People have remarked that going to a “memorial stone” (rather than a tombstone) can seem empty. This is not to criticize the process of cremation, just to bring attention to one of its repercussions.

    I like your thinking.

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