12 Special Ways to Remember a Family Member Who Died


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Remembering someone you love is easy. You’ve made great memories and got to spend special time with them. But you can also honor them by creating a unique tradition or memorial piece.

Marking a special place or doing an activity for them is an act of love. It can also help you heal. You might feel lonely without your loved one, especially during the holiday season. Inaction can make feelings of grief and loss even worse. Making special traditions can help lessen those feelings. It can also make you feel closer to your loved one.

Here are some special things you can do to remember and honor your loved one.  

1. Plant a Tree

What you'll need: Try buying a variety of tree saplings, like this variety pack of saplings. If you'd like, you may want to buy a small memorial rock (like this one) or engraved memorial plaque (or like this one) to place at the base of the tree.

Planting a tree is a great way to create a living memorial. This is a great idea if your loved one was passionate about the environment. Trees are crucial to maintaining a healthy, self-sufficient ecosystem.

They provide oxygen and anchor the topsoil. They also provide nutrients for the earth and shelter for smaller animals. And you can continue to visit them as they grow and mature. Their location may become a special place you visit and take time to remember your loved one and their impact on you. 

» MORE: Grief can be lonely. Create space for your community to share memories and tributes with a free online memorial from Cake.

2. Make a Memory Board

What you'll need: Photos of the deceased that you can print on photo paper, like this 4x6 glossy photo paper. You'll also need a poster board, glue sticks, and fun decorations.

You can make a memory board by collecting photos. Make copies if you think you have the original. You don’t want to damage the only photo from your grandma’s high school graduation. After you have your photos, think about how you want the board to look. Maybe you want it to be only photographs. Or, you can include other memorabilia like ticket stubs and letters.

You can glue the photographs down or purchase sticky photo edge holders. If you think you’ll need some of the photos later on choosing an alternative to glue is probably a good choice. Before you start sticking anything down, arrange your photos on the board to determine the layout.

Once finished, this memory board will be a loving reminder of someone special to you. You could display it year-round. Or bring it out only when you’re missing them — like on the anniversary of their death.

3. Write a Letter

What you'll need: A nice leatherbound journal and a special marker or calligraphy pen,

Writing a letter to someone who will never read it might feel a little strange. But it could help you manage your grief. If you aren’t sure where to start try spending a few minutes thinking about what you’d like to talk to them about. Maybe it’s small or silly things like your neighbor got a new puppy or your favorite shirt has a  hole in it. If it’s more serious that’s okay too.

Getting your feelings down on paper may help you feel better. It may be that you start writing letters regularly and this process helps you manage your grief. But even if you only write a single letter it may be just the thing you need to help you remember your loved one. 

Share your final wishes, just in case.

Create a free Cake end-of-life planning profile and instantly share your health, legal, funeral, and legacy decisions with a loved one.

4. Support a Cause

What you'll need: A set of stationery (we like this simple set from Amazon) and some stamps to send your check to the charity of your choice.

Championing a cause is a great way to make a difference. Think about what causes were important to your loved one. Maybe they were passionate about raising awareness of a particular type of cancer. Or maybe they loved the outdoors. You don’t have to organize an event on your own. You can participate in a pre-existing event in your area.

Find something that is significant to you. Use the time when you’re participating to think about your loved one. If possible, get a large group together to make an even bigger impact. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to participate in something this organized even a small gesture can be significant; giving rides or helping pay for treatment can be a generous use of your resources. 

5. Crafting

What you'll need: Amazon has a ton of inexpensive craft kits complete with tools, beads, paints, and other materials. We like this 1,960 piece jewelry making set, this DIY candle set, and this tie-dye kit with 24 dyes.

There is a wide range of crafting options. No matter how ‘crafty’ you are, the purpose is to make something tangible. That way, you have something physical to remind you of your loved one. If you love sewing, collect some of their old clothing. You can piece a memory quilt together out of different clothing items. Snuggling under this quilt will feel like your loved one has their arms around you. 

If you’re at a loss, try thinking outside the box. For instance, what if your loved one was into cars? You can finish rebuilding the car they were working on. Or maybe, they loved movies. Creating a display case for their movies would be a beautiful project to keep their memory alive. 

» MORE: Online obituary that is 100% free. Honor a loved one beyond a newspaper.

6. Start an Event

What you'll need: Somebody with great organizational skills or event planning experience and some customizable invitations (like these inexpensive invitations with envelopes.)

These events serve to memorialize and honor a loved one while bringing awareness to a particular issue. If you think it’s manageable you can create your own event. The issue can be based on someone’s interests, or is related to how they died.

You could create a foundation to honor someone killed in a drunk driving accident. Or start a fundraiser that focuses on finding a cure for the cancer your loved one had. 

If creating your own event is too much, there are other things you can do. You could participate in a march to raise awareness for the hospital that treated your loved one. Or join in a karaoke bar crawl to honor someone who loved to sing. There are a lot of events out there. It shouldn’t be difficult to find one that will help you honor your loved one.  

7. Create Memorial Jewelry

What you'll need: If you go the DIY route, we suggest snagging a jewelry kit for beginners, like this 1,960 piece set. If you're looking to get fine jewelry customized, Amazon has a ton of affordable, personalized memorial jewelry options.

There are many memorial jewelry options. From cremation jewelry to hair art, this is a sentimental way to keep your loved ones close. Mourning jewelry began in Victorian times. It was started by Queen Victoria after the death of her husband. She wore a brooch containing a lock of his hair for three years after his death.  A small bit of your loved one’s hair could be kept in a locket or similar piece of jewelry can be a nice memento. 

If you don’t have a lock of someone’s hair, there are still other commemorative options, like cremation jewelry. Tiny brooches are made to hold cremated ashes. You can use these pieces to hold photos too. Resin jewelry is also gaining popularity. There are some small businesses that will create a unique piece of jewelry for you. They will include whatever you send to them. A dried flower from a wedding bouquet or sand from a special trip would make a unique piece. 

Or maybe you want to create a piece from something you already own. Some people will melt their wedding bands down and cast a new piece out of it. You don’t have to make a ring. A necklace is also a lovely choice. It may comfort you to have something of your loved one sitting so close to your heart.  

If you don't want to go the DIY route, you can send your deceased loved one's ashes or a lock of hair in to be turned into a memorial diamond. After a consultation and a few months of waiting for the diamond to grow, you'll have a custom diamond that you can get set on a ring, necklace, or other jewelry.

Some companies, like Eterneva, create lab-grown diamonds and allow you to pick from several cuts and colors for your gemstone. 

8. Adopt a Highway

What you'll need: Somebody to coordinate with the Adopt a Highway, as well as some trash grabbers, like these 32-inch trash grabbers, and lots of trash bags.

You can adopt a highway in someone’s name. This can honor them and keep their names alive. If that’s important to you, this project is easy to start. Many parts of the United States and Canada sponsor these programs through the government. They might be called "Adopt-a-Highway" or "Sponsor-a-Highway" in your area. 

If you do choose to adopt a road, try to keep it litter-free. Maybe you and some friends can get together once every few months and go to pick-up trash along the roadside. You can use the time to reminisce about your loved one while helping the planet.

9. Plant Forget-Me-Nots

What you'll need: Some forget-me-not seeds, like this pack of 20 specifically made for memorials, and a set of pretty pots, like these colorful pots with drainage holes from Amazon.

Planting trees is a great idea. But what if you don’t have space? If you live in a small apartment you can’t plant a tree. Forget-me-nots might be a better option. They’re also pretty easy to take care of.

You can find a packet of seeds at your local supermarket. If they’re not in season, then try online or your local nursery. You can plant them inside, but make sure you keep them on a sunny windowsill. These flowers are a great option to remember someone you love. If you're not into forget-me-notes, check out our guide to flower meanings for more inspiration.

» MORE: An online memorial is a perfect ending to honor and celebrate someone's life. Create one for free.

10. Celebrate Their Birthday

What you'll need: Birthday decorations, of course! You can find a ton of different sets and themes on Amazon, so choose wisely. 

The time around a deceased relative’s birthday can be difficult. Birthdays are traditionally for celebrating life. What are you supposed to do when your loved one has passed on? You can still celebrate. You can celebrate the time you had with them, the memories you made, and the person they were.

This is a great excuse for a family reunion, too. Rather than spending the day alone, make it a birthday party. Ask your friends and family to attend. If you don’t feel up to  hosting, consider meeting somewhere for dinner.

Try to include something to honor the deceased, even if it’s not the focus of the event. Maybe everyone can share a favorite memory of the deceased. If that feels too emotional, a picture of your loved one on the table can remind everyone of what brought you together. 

If you're looking for more ideas, read our guide on how to say "happy birthday in heaven" to a deceased loved one.

11. Make a Memorial Video

What you'll need: You can try using a free video editing software on your phone, tablet, or personal computer.

Going through photo albums is fun. But these days, many people don’t have physical photographs. They have electronic folders filled with digital memories. That might not lend itself to family browsing. But it can be a fun way to reminisce over someone.

If you love learning how to use new technology, try making a video. From candid shots to fun videos, you can put them all together and make a memorial video. Even if it’s not professional-quality, it’s still something fun to share with friends and family. You could also display this during a memorial service, as a loving tribute to the deceased. 

12. Visit Favorite Places

What you'll need: Bring a few 35mm disposable cameras (these are pretty fun and nostalgic) to make the trip extra memorable. Get the photos printed, then send them off to family and friends of the deceased with a special note.

You may have a lot of memories of your loved one in different places. From national parks to that cute coffee shop around the corner, they all mean something to you. But now, it feels different. Should you avoid these places? At first, it might seem too painful to consider.

As time passes, though, consider revisiting them. Reliving memories and making new ones is a great way to work through your grief. Moving from loss to memory is a slow process. But it’s still worth it. 

Remembering a Loved One

Memories are sometimes painful. This is especially true if the loss is fresh. Consciously remembering someone’s role in your life might feel like more pain than it’s worth. But that isn’t true. 

Memories are a way to continue loving someone, even after they’re gone. And taking the time to create a tradition that honors them can help you move through your grief. 

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