When a loved one passes, it’s traditional in the United States to have a funeral or memorial service of some sort.
But, all over the world, people have many traditions of memorializing and honoring those that they love.
While it can be important to incorporate time for traditional mourning, it’s healthy to focus on ways to feel connected to our loved ones in ways that don’t necessarily include a full-black ensemble and cemetery.
Many people have begun to include a celebration of life for their loved ones, and these celebrations can carry the memory of the deceased beyond the funeral.
The Benefits of Celebrating Your Time With Loved Ones
It’s completely normal to be sad when you lose someone that you love. And it’s important to give yourself the time and outlets that allow you to grieve.
But think back to the time you spent with your loved ones over the years. More often than not, your memories involve laughter, fun, and kindness--all are things you can incorporate into memorializing someone after they’re gone.
Instead of focusing on life as it will be without your loved one, try to think of ways to memorialize the deceased that will help maintain their memory in a place of gratitude for their presence in your life, rather than sadness that they are no longer here in the physical form.
A great way to do this is to create a way to memorialize them as a celebration of life. How can you celebrate a person's life in a beautiful way? Let’s look at a few options.
11 Ideas for Memorializing Deceased Loved Ones
You’ve most likely seen plenty of lists when it comes to planning a wedding, but what about when it comes to memorializing your loved ones?
We know, it’s not traditional.
But grief isn’t a linear process and you deserve to do something that allows you to remember a loved one in a special and unique way, beyond the traditional funeral.
Below are 11 memorial ideas to incorporate into your life to honor someone's memory after death.
1. Turn their ashes into a cremation diamond.
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust” is a term you may be familiar with, either from biblical texts or any Hollywood feature with a funeral scene.
It’s no longer necessary to leave someone you love’s ashes sitting atop a mantelpiece in your living room.
People sometimes put a photo of their loved one inside of a locket as a memorial jewelry creation. Now, you can have fun honoring your loved one by taking a portion of their cremation ashes and turning them into a cremation diamond.
This presents a unique opportunity to get creative with the design and presentation of a piece of memorial jewelry.
- Did you mother love rings?
- Maybe your best friend always wore a chain around his neck.
- Were your partner’s bright blue eyes the most striking part of them?
You can honor your deceased loved one in a beautiful way by creating a piece of jewelry that will keep them close to your body and heart whenever the memento is worn.
2. Visit their final resting place.
A visit to a cemetery can happen outside a funeral. It can be nice to create a tradition around visiting your loved one’s final resting place.
- You can go weekly, monthly, or annually to visit the grave of a loved one.
- You can sit and remember your loved one; you can talk to them.
- Some people love to bring a floral arrangement or a small physical token to lay near the headstone, like a memorial photo or another memento.
And if your loved one is cremated, perhaps you can make a practice of going to one of their favorite places. Maybe they loved a particular nature trail or sidewalk cafe.
Some people invest in having a memorial bench or memory table erected in a special location with their name engraved and some sort of personalization, like a favorite quote.
Having a place you can associate with your loved one is a great way to memorialize them.
3. Do something they enjoyed or you did together.
Did your loved one enjoy doing something in particular?
Maybe a friend loved playing bocce ball in the park or perhaps your mom loved baking gingerbread cookies around the holidays. And you loved doing these things with them too!
These experiences don’t have to come to an end just because a person or pet isn’t here in the physical sense. Buy the ingredients to make gingerbread cookies (no matter the season!); look up a local bocce ball league. This way of memorializing someone is a unique way to remember the sound of your loved one’s laugh or the look of their smile while they did something with true joy.
4. Have a memorial release with balloons or butterflies.
We don’t know for certain what comes after a person's life, but many have found a memorial release of sorts to be healing and a great way to honor the memory of a deceased loved one.
There are wonderful ideas and options for what you can release; some people release balloons while others release butterflies or doves.
Another option is to set flowers in a river or a small raft with tea lights to float downstream or to blow bubbles up into the wind.
You may even decide to sprinkle some of the cremated remains inside a balloon or lantern that's released.
Whatever you decide to release during this memorial, it’s about far more than letting go of an object but also about releasing your grief. You may also think about opening yourself up to the freedom of joy again, which your loved one would want for you.
5. Listen to their favorite songs or watch their favorite movies.
- What was a song that you and your friend loved to listen to while singing at the top of your lungs on a weekend night?
- Is there a movie that you or your grandma loved to watch together when she visited?
Continuing to find entertainment in music, film, or art that your loved one enjoyed is a great way to keep their memory alive. Work with friends and family members to compile photos and the person's favorite songs to create a slideshow everyone can enjoy together.
Maybe you’ll recognize a lyric or a line that makes you consider a different memory of them altogether. Perhaps if they loved to read, grab a novel you know they were fond of and bookmark passages that remind you of them.
Art can act as a time capsule and help you preserve their memory in a wonderful way.
6. Look through old photos with friends and family.
Get a group of friends or family together to look through old photos or watch home videos together.
You could even create a DIY scrapbook as a group activity. If you're having trouble sourcing photos, you can reach out to folks on social media to ask if they have any photos or videos of the deceased to send your way. It can be a great reminder to see your loved one surrounded by you all, doing something that they enjoy.
“Here is my most favorite photo* of her and I dancing at our Grand Daughters wedding.
This is the one day as sick as she was that she enjoyed herself. I will remember this time the most,” says Glen about his late wife in an email to Eterneva. “People I tell about your company have never heard of such a thing and are waiting to see the finished diamond. Thank you for doing what you do to help a person like me to immortalize a lost love one.”
*The photo is held back here as a sign of respect for Glen and his family’s privacy.
There are even ways to do this online, collecting stories and memories instead of condolences in a digital space shared among those who have lost a loved one.
7. Plant a tree, shrub, or flowers and visit it.
Your loved one may be gone, but what if you could give back to the Earth in their memory? Plantlife is a great way to pay tribute to your loved one.
You have the option to plant a tree sapling or shrub, a flower bed, or even create an entire community garden with your loved one in mind.
Some people place memorial stones around the garden or memorial trees they plant. Not only will the new plant life help to conserve energy and protect the environment, but planting new life has shown to have fantastic mental health benefits as well!
Denise Gray has done just about every memorial option out there for her son, Austin. And with every single one, she shares updates on Facebook, keeping her connected to the community who loved her son and support her so much.
8. Create a memorial website or facebook page.
Often times, there are far more than a couple of memories to share when it comes to memorializing someone you love. Creating a websiteor Facebook page, allows loved ones to share stories of the deceased from different parts of their lives in a sort of ongoing live guestbook.
Don't be intimidated by getting things set up--many organizations make it easy to DIY your memorial site.
Having a specific place online for folks to go when they’re missing a loved one and want to celebrate their memory, is a great way to bring a community of people together to share in the remembrance and life celebration.
“One of Tracey’s greatest fears and anxieties around her terminal illness was that she was dying before she got to leave her legacy. As someone who always had a big vision and lofty goals in life, she felt like she was falling short of it all, and therefore might not be remembered,” says Adelle Archer, co-founder of Eterneva, about her late friend who sparked the idea for Eterneva.
“When she told her Aunt Teresa this, Teresa went on Facebook and created a group: The Tracey Kaufman Fan Club. She then went and found everyone that knew Tracey from all walks of life. From elementary school to high school to graduate school and beyond, and asked for people to share stories they remembered about Tracey, and how she had impacted their life.”
9. Donate to their favorite charity.
Many of our loved ones were passionate about causes close to their hearts during the time we knew them. After they pass, a unique way to memorialize their memory is to continue giving towards a cause or organization they felt strongly about.
Maybe this means donating the same amount of money each year or asking everyone to give the amount of the age they were when they passed (e.g. $52 for fifty-two years old).
Many charities and organizations make it easy to set up a recurring donation in someone's name and memory. You can also choose to give back by donating your time as a volunteer if you can’t make the financial investment towards the cause--it’s just as meaningful!
“To prepare for the seven [breast cancer awareness] walks I am undertaking this year, I have been training every day since I lost Karen. That’s the easy part frankly,” says Stephen about his late wife who passed from breast cancer, and who participated in breast cancer awareness walk for 14 years. “The hard part is raising the money needed to participate in the walks. Each walker is required to raise $2300 per walk. That means I’m personally required to raise $16,100 to participate in the seven walks.”
10. Eat or cook their favorite food.
Food brings people together and that can be true when there’s one less seat at the table, too. Many of us have memories that pop into our minds when we see or smell a specific food.
My Uncle loves carrot cake and to this day, I can’t see it anywhere without thinking about him!
Take an opportunity to share a meal with loved ones that reminds you of the deceased. Maybe it’s a potluck affair, where every guest brings a different recipe of their favorite food, or maybe you watch a movie while eating their favorite dessert with a toast before the film begins.
Take the opportunity to tie the taste of food with your loved one’s memory. It’ll be as if they are there in the moment with you!
“There was this pizza place next to his house. He always ordered always a medium size mushroom pizza and a two liter of Coke. His girlfriend didn’t even eat pizza! So, he’d guilt me into finishing it off with him,” says Natalia about her late father. “That was our thing –– eating and laughing.”
11. Write them a letter, poem, or song.
Humans have been using art as an expressive outlet for thousands of years. Often times at a funeral, a eulogy is given when paying respect to the deceased, but there are ways to use words to honor a loved one beyond the funeral service.
To memorialize a loved one, try writing them a letter. You can store the letter in a journal, put it in a keepsake box, or burn it (for safety: do so over the kitchen sink).
If you’d like to put your words in another format, you can try writing a poem inspired by a characteristic of their personality or your favorite memory; if you’re musically inclined, you can turn your thoughts into a song.
If you'd like to share what you've created with others, you can do so on social media or on one of the celebration of life websites mentioned above. Regardless of whether or not you share what you’ve created with others, to create with the memory of your dear one in mind is a true sign of recognition of their meaning to you in your life.
“I journal every night, and I write a letter to him every night,” says Phil about his late husband Alan. “And I still tell him those three things I used to tell him every night before we went to sleep: ‘I love you with all my heart and soul, you're my world and I'm very, very proud of you.’ I still tell him that every night.”
Remembering a loved one doesn’t necessarily need to end at the funeral home or memorial service.
There are several ways beyond a funeral service you can incorporate memorializing a loved one in your daily life in a wonderful way.
Whether it’s wearing their memory in a piece of jewelry, singing a few of their favorite songs, DIY creating a scrapbook of memorial photos, or recreating their favorite culinary dishes, we hope you find a fun way to pay tribute to the memory of your loved one!