Grief can make us feel powerless. Honoring the life of a loved one we’ve lost can begin to ease the agony of their death by focusing on the gifts they shared with you and the broader world. Commemorating their loss can be a cathartic step in the mourning process.
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Jump ahead to these sections:
- Ideas to Honor a Deceased Parent or Grandparent
- Ideas to Honor a Sibling
- Ideas to Honor a Spouse or Partner That Died
- Ideas to Honor a Friend
Creative memorials can be a constructive way to reckon with your grief. Don’t restrict yourself to a narrow set of options for honoring your loved one’s life—in trying something different, you may find comfort and meaning in ways you never expected. It may be helpful to draw upon the arts, religious and faith traditions, literature, or music as a resource for thoughtful and healing memorialization.
Consider the ideas below or let them inspire something that captures the unique essence of your loved one. If you’re looking to reminisce about their life, also check out our ideas for things to do in memory of a loved one.
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Ideas to Honor a Deceased Parent or Grandparent
Our parents and grandparents can be instrumental in shaping who we are. Part of paying tribute to them may be to notice which of their qualities continue to live on in us.
They represent our history and contribute to our future. Whether carrying on a tradition of theirs or treasuring a family heirloom, we can honor their lives as essential precursors to our own.
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1. Create jewelry with their handwriting, ashes, or hair
The unique longhand script of your loved one can bring back memories. If you’d like to wear a one-of-a-kind reminder of their handwriting, consider memorial jewelry that features printed or engraved images of their actual written words.
If you're unable to find their handwriting, you can always create a memorial necklace made with their ashes or lock of hair. You can send in the deceased's remains to a specialized service, such as Eterneva, that'll produce a custom memorial diamond and guide you through the process.
2. Keep something of theirs with you
You can make a simple and meaningful tribute by wearing something that belonged to your loved one.
Whether it’s a hat, piece of jewelry, or article of clothing, you will have their memory close to you all day. Or perhaps their wristwatch or another item could be something you carry with you always.
3. Frame something they've written, like a poem or a recipe
There’s nothing like seeing something written by your loved one and then framed.
Consider putting a treasured letter or another handwritten item in a special frame and remember that special someone whenever you pass by it.
4. Live a life of worthiness
The legacy of our parents and grandparents also lives on in us as people. Think about what they valued in life and see how these lessons can inspire you today.
Whether it’s your education, ethics, or other life choices, remember what they would have wanted for you and let yourself be guided by the life they modeled for you.
5. Save them a seat
A respectful commemoration of the loss of your elder might include giving that person a “seat” at special gatherings and events for a period of time after their death.
Setting a place at the table at your holiday meal in their memory can be a reminder of their lasting presence in your family.
Ideas to Honor a Sibling
We also often know our siblings through many ages and phases of life, which gives us a special perspective into who they were. A heartfelt tribute to your sibling will help keep their memory alive and celebrate the richness of knowing them for much (or all) of their life.
6. Complete what they can’t
Finishing something that meant a lot to your sibling is a way to honor their contribution to the world and connect to their sense of purpose.
Whether completing a project or serving in a role that they no longer can, it’s an amazing gift to wrap up an unfinished task that mattered to them.
7. Mark a spot in their honor
You could sponsor a bench or brick at one of their favorite places—or plant a tree in their memory. These can be a beautiful marker of your sibling’s life and make a lasting place to honor their legacy.
8. Butterfly release
Many people see beauty and symbolism in a butterfly release, so consider honoring your sibling with an eco-friendly (and colorful) ceremony of freeing these gorgeous creatures.
This can also be part of a longer service or celebration-of-life ceremony.
9. Make a scrapbook of their life
Their friends, colleagues, and children will appreciate this window into their early years.
10. Connect to what they cared about
Living the values that were important to your sibling keeps their legacy alive. Volunteering is a great way to carry on their memory.
If they died of a terminal disease, help raise funds for a cure. Or commit acts of generosity or kindness in honor of your sibling.
Ideas to Honor a Partner or Spouse That Died
Whether you’ve loved your partner for decades or met more recently, you shared a closeness that makes their loss especially painful. Honoring their life in a creative way can be a helpful act for your own healing while also sharing their legacy, and ultimately making a positive impact.
11. Dedicate an event to their memory
Choose something that they loved to do and make it happen every year. An annual or one-time event in honor of your spouse may be a wonderful way to pay tribute to their life and inspire others to remember them.
The occasion could even be a fundraiser for a cause that they cared about.
12. Hold a service, celebration of life ceremony, or vigil
In addition to (or instead of) a traditional funeral, you may wish to organize a memorial service commemorating your spouse or partner shortly after their death, or on the anniversary of their death.
Holding a vigil can be another heartfelt way to remember your partner and also provide attention to a cause they championed. These types of memorials can be a bit more freeform and can be held on any meaningful date aside from the abovementioned.
13. Send someone to college
Establishing an educational scholarship in honor of your partner or spouse at their alma mater or for local students is a loving memorial with benefits that go beyond your family.
An annual fundraiser could help support the program if you can’t fund it entirely yourself. This creates a lasting impact on the community and future generations by making a difference to students in need.
14. Keep their unique style intact
Consider the one-of-a-kind flourishes that made your spouse who they were. Can you preserve these unique expressions of their personality?
For example, you can have their handwriting turned into an electronic font and use it to bring their flair to stories and gifts.
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15. Compose a song
Use your (or someone else’s) musical talent to create a memorial song celebrating the life of your spouse.
Music can allow us to express things we might otherwise keep inside. If you wish, you may choose to record the song to share later with children or those who are far away.
Ideas to Honor a Friend
Honoring a friend publicly is an opportunity to provide a window into the life of the deceased. Or you may prefer to choose a private tribute. However you choose to mark your friend’s passing, doing so can bolster your connection and help you maintain that closeness despite the loss.
16. Curate an online memorial
Use an online memorial site to create a multimedia tribute in honor of your friend. Most support uploading photos, videos, and documents—whatever digital items you have that can tell the story of your friend’s life.
17. Let them inspire you
Attempt their bucket list. Visit places that were special to them. Read a book they loved. Try out a favorite hobby of theirs, even if you might not have dared to otherwise.
You’ll spend the time feeling connected to their unique spirit and come away knowing them better than ever.
18. Get permanently inked
Consider perhaps getting a tattoo of their name, dates of birth and death, with an image such as angel wings or a symbol that meant something to you and your friend.
The tattoo could be serious or lighthearted, whatever feels appropriate for you. Another option would be to consider getting a quote written in their handwriting. It’s a commitment to their memory that won’t fade with time.
19. Bring them on the road
Design a custom decal with your friend’s name and dates of birth and death. Alternatively, you could use a quote or simple image in the decal.
You and others who wish to commemorate your friend’s life can have a mobile tribute that goes wherever you do.
20. Adopt a park, landmark, or section of highway in their name
Some public places allow groups to maintain and beautify a section of park or roadway the they “adopt.”
Consider sponsoring a public space in honor of your friend and having signage marking that the space is maintained in honor of them.
Always Alive in Your Heart and Mind
Acts of remembrance are an expression of our gratitude, respect, or admiration—and can come in many forms. Whether through a poem, ritual, or event in their honor, these tributes show the world who your loved one was and what they meant to you.
Honoring a loved one doesn't have to be an elaborate event. It's an opportunity for you to remember that unique person and celebrate the love you will always have for them. Together, those who loved the deceased can keep their memory alive and celebrate how your life was enriched by knowing them.
Post-planning tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, finding ways to memorialize them won't be the only thing you have to consider. Handling their unfinished business can be overwhelming without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.