Remembering your loved one in a special way after they have died can help honor them and keep their memory alive. Most of us don't like to think about what our life would be like without our loved ones around. Sometimes we take for granted that they'll always be there. When we're faced with a sudden loss of someone we love and hold dear, we often feel as if our world is collapsing around us.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Rituals or Traditions for Remembering Loved Ones
- Remembering Loved Ones By Preserving Their Legacy
- Gifts to Help You Remember Loved Ones
Even when their death is anticipated, we still feel a deep sense of loss as we struggle to adapt without them. When choosing to remember someone after they've died, you accept that it may be painful for you, but it also helps you heal and grow from that loss.
Below are some things to do in memory of a loved one when you are in need of some inspiration.
Rituals or Traditions for Remembering Loved Ones
There are many rituals and traditions in place for remembering loved ones. They vary from culture to culture throughout the world. Depending on your culture, religious, and spiritual beliefs you can find ways to honor the memory of your loved ones after they have died by participating in some of the death rituals and traditions found within your own cultural background.
These rituals help you heal as you unite with others who share in your loss to give each other comfort and support. Some common rituals to remember a family member that are still practiced today below.
When you're faced with the death of a loved one during a pandemic, the way you're able to mourn for them has drastically changed. With the fear of spreading disease, you may be unable to participate in traditional mourning rituals such as memorial services and funerals.
But there are still some options where you can honor your loved ones such as dressing in black as an outward expression of sorrow, lighting memorial candles, and observing the customary days of mourning, if any, according to your religion.
The Catholic tradition of having a wake in remembrance of a loved one is a way of keeping vigil over the deceased's body until the burial takes place. It includes reciting prayers for the dead and offering words of comfort and condolence to the family of the deceased.
Sometimes instead of a traditional wake, a time for visitation of the deceased is held at a funeral chapel. Visitation is typically held a day or two before the body is buried allowing mourners to pay their last respects.
3. Funeral procession
Different types of funeral processions are held all over the world, and they’re an important part of paying final respects to those who have died.
This is symbolic of the last journey you will take with your loved one who has died as they are ushered into their final resting place. Traditionally the procession is held on foot with pallbearers carrying the casket from the chapel to the burial grounds. In modern times, mourners follow a hearse to the cemetery or other place of internment in their vehicles.
If your loved one was cremated there are still plenty of ways to remember them, such as a scattering ceremony at a special location or a memorial service with a custom urn that honors something they were passionate about (we like Foreverence).
4. 21 gun salute
At a military funeral, it's traditional to have a salute in honor of the deceased veteran. If your loved one served in active military duty and retired or was honorably discharged, they may be entitled to an honor-guard send-off in the tradition of a 21 gun salute.
Although it's not exactly a 21 gun salute (which is reserved for the president, ex-president, or president-elect), it’s instead three volleys of shots fired by a color guard in honor of the deceased, it's still an honor to receive.
Before the flag is presented to the family, the honor guard will place three shell casings into the folded flag each representing one volley.
5. Photo wreath
Remembering loved ones during the holidays can be especially difficult since it’s a time of celebration and family gathering. You will undoubtedly feel the void left by your loved one's death more so during the holidays. By preparing ahead, you may be able to fend off some especially trying emotions.
You may consider pre-ordering gifts of remembrance to give to your guests and loved ones such as memorial glass or crystal ornaments commemorating the death of your loved one. You can also gather the family around the tree or fireplace to put together a photo wreath of all of your favorite pictures of your loved one.
This can turn into a yearly tradition that brings the family together at holiday time.
6. Plant a tree
A special way to remember your loved one is to plant a tree in their honor. Consider celebrating National Tree Planting Day on March 24, of each year by handing out saplings wrapped in paper printed with your loved one's name and dates of birth and death.
You may want to hand out these memorial saplings to friends and family that knew your loved one well and ask them to plant it in their honor.
7. Memorial stones
A unique way to remember your loved one is to gather handmade memorial stones with words of condolences written on each.
You can ask guests to take a stone and write a few words of remembrance in honor of your loved one and drop them in a jar. The stones can later be pulled from the jar when you need a special pick-me-up, or to hand out to your loved ones who are grieving.
8. Locket with a favorite photo
A traditional way of remembering your loved one after they've died is to wear a locket around your neck that holds a special photograph of them.
These lockets can be purchased online and you can request to have them inscribed with your loved one's name and dates of birth and death. Some lockets can accommodate cremated remains or a lock of your loved one's hair.
9. Memorial or sympathy jewelry
If you have your deceased loved one's lock of hair or cremated remains, you can send them 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.
Remembering Loved Ones By Preserving Their Legacy
Preserving your loved one’s legacy means finding ways to stay connected to them. You do this by remembering them, sharing their story with others, and preserving their memory for future generations. A written legacy helps others to learn about their life, the contributions they made while alive, and the highlights of their career, among other things.
10. Online memorial
One popular way of preserving your loved one’s memory is to create an online memorial where friends and family can go to express words of condolences, share their stories, and post photographs of the deceased.
These online memorials are usually posted through Facebook or similar social media sites. Most are free to put up and manage, and you have complete control over who can view or access the information shared online.
11. Repurpose favorite clothing into a pillow
If you’re hanging on to an old favorite shirt or other pieces of your loved one’s clothing, you can turn the fabric into a comforting pillow.
It can be a source of comfort that you can hug tightly when you need to feel your loved one near.
12. Talk about them
When you talk about your loved one who has died with others, you’re telling those you know that you haven’t forgotten about your loved one.
Talking about them helps you work through your grief and sorrow quicker than if you held in all of your emotions, thoughts, and feelings.
13. Wedding memorial
At special gatherings such as the celebration of a marriage, it’s traditional in some cultures to have a wedding memorial to include deceased relatives in the celebration.
These memorials can be as simple as including a small picture of your loved one in the bride’s bouquet or groom’s boutonniere, or having a special table filled with your departed loved one’s photos on it with a card or sign saying “Wish you were here.”
14. Create a family tree
Preserving your loved one’s legacy can include creating a family tree to trace back ancestors. This gives future generations insight into their roots and family lineage.
You can start your research by using websites such as ancestry.com or other similar sites.
15. Establish a small scholarship
One way of remembering your loved one and preserving their legacy is through charitable gifting or through the establishment of an educational scholarship in a field that your loved one expressed interest in.
You can set up scholarships through what is known as “legacy gifting.” Consider working with a financial adviser to get more information on setting this up.
16. Donate a bench
Consider donating a park bench with an inscription of your loved one’s name on a plaque. Memorial benches can be found at parks and other public spaces throughout your area.
The department of parks and recreation usually has information on the costs of donating a new bench or adopting an existing one.
17. Releasing of doves
A beautiful way to remember your loved one is by releasing doves in their honor on the anniversary of their death.
You can release the doves at their graveside or another place of significance to your loved one. This tradition symbolizes the Catholic icon of the Holy Spirit, alongside other emotions like love, peace, and hope.
Gifts to Help You Remember Loved Ones
Finding the perfect remembrance, sympathy, or memorial gift will help someone you love suffering through loss feel cared for and remembered during this challenging time. When it's hard to find the right words to say, heartfelt sympathy gifts make a wonderful memorial keepsake. The most special types of offerings are those that are custom, handmade, and unique. Here are some remembrance gift ideas to consider.
18. Name a star
Naming a star after someone who's died helps memorialize them for eternity. Websites like cosmonova.org make it easy for you to pick and name a star for your loved one. They can walk you through the steps of selecting a star by location and brightness. Basic star naming packages include:
- Registration in the database of International Star Register
- Star registration certificate
- Star map with the location of your named star
- Instant downloadable star registration certificate and map
19. Personalized bird feeder
When you don’t know what type of memorial gift to consider, a personalized bird feeder brings both functionality and a source of comfort for yourself or a loved one.
Hanging a bird feeder near a sitting room or kitchen window brings the comforting signs of nature home. Bird watching can encourage the healthy processing of grief, and a bird feeder provides a beautiful way to do that.
20. Engraved wind chimes
Personalized wind chimes bring lovely sounds and rhythms to a memorial garden or just about any place you hang them.
This unique gift is customizable to the sounds and colors of your choosing to add a personalized touch or heartfelt message to comfort your grieving loved one. Consider hanging an engraved chime with the name of the deceased.
21. Personalized blanket
Blankets provide warmth and support to the bereaved. A personalized throw will bring years of comfort to someone who’s grieving the loss of a loved one. You can hand-stitch unique pieces of cloth from the deceased’s favorite clothing items along with their name and dates of birth and death in a hidden corner. Consider including a special cedar box for your loved one to store it in.
22. Memorial stone
Hand-painted memorial stones make beautiful and inexpensive gifts for someone’s garden or walkway. There are lots of ways to create lovely stones to commemorate the life of a loved one. Try your local arts and crafts store to see what options they might have for your creative project.
23. Memorial keepsake box
These boxes are the ultimate in handmade condolence gift ideas. Making them even more remarkable is when you add inside items, photos, or mementos to remind the recipient of special moments shared with the deceased. This gift idea helps add to the legacy of their loved one from your unique perspective.
24. Printed photo book
Taking the time to gather photos of the deceased from friends and family and combining them into a printed photo book is a fantastic gift for someone facing the loss of a loved one. Many online retailers offer print-on-demand photo books that make ordering multiple copies to provide friends and loved ones convenient.
Remembering Your Loved Ones After Death
Most of us would love to hold on to the memories of our departed loved ones for as long as we can, but sometimes our memories start to fade. When we memorialize our loved one’s life and death, we ensure that the details of their legacy live on for generations to come.