While the loss of a loved one is something that is difficult and can take a long time to process, there can be positive things you can do afterward. With things like the death positive movement taking the taboo out of death and creating safe spaces to celebrate the lives of those we have lost, there are more ways than ever to honour the life of your loved ones.
A neuroscientist, David Eagleman, once said that we have three deaths. The moment we no longer breathe, the moment we are buried or cremated (the funeral), and the last time someone speaks our name.
As the people who are left behind, it becomes our role to make sure that their name is spoken by as many people as possible. And hopefully, one-day people will do the same for us.
This reason is part of why it is so important to keep the memory of the people we love alive—and that looks different for everyone. As time passes and the pain eases, you might find that you know exactly how you want to celebrate their life. However, since there are so many joy-filled options—it can be hard to choose.
Here are some of the tips for keeping a loved one’s memory alive…
It might be a strange thing for some, but for others, it’s the perfect time to celebrate. You might not want to do this with other people—or you might want to have a party! It’s such a personal choice, and there is no single way to do it.
But, typically, the birthday is a day for celebration. You can write them a letter or a card and still wish them a happy birthday. And, if you choose to, you can even have a cake for them.
Writing is one of the most important ways that we have as humans to tell stories. You can write about the life of the person, or you might want to write about your memories with them. You might choose to navigate your grief through writing—and that might take many different forms.
Writing is incredibly therapeutic, but what is great about writing is that you can share the memories with younger members of the family—keeping the name and the person alive for a little bit longer.
Some cultures will have special alters in their homes that are designed to honour their elders and ancestors that they have lost. It is a sacred space that serves as a daily reminder that those people were in our lives. A memorial doesn’t have any set rules; you might choose to have a few personal items of theirs, photos, cards that they have sent you—anything that means something to you.
A small space that you can use to be reminded of the love and life that was shared between you.
Often when people die, there are a few pieces of jewellery that get left behind. Wedding rings, necklaces with lockets on, and so on. Most of the time, they will be left to specific family members, and maybe even used again as wedding rings.
Even if there is no jewellery left behind, something that can be made from the ashes of loved ones. Cremation necklaces, rings, pandora-style beads, earrings, and even paperweights are popular options. Cremation jewellery and other items are becoming one of the most popular ways to keep the person with you every day. They come in many different styles, so you can always find something that suits your personal style.
Unfortunately for many of us, the person we love may have died from a disease or illness. While it is a heartbreaking situation, you might be moved to try to make a difference for other families and people who are going through the same thing.
Fundraising is something that can be incredibly beneficial and can be done in the name of the person you have lost. You might decide that if there is any money left by the person, they would want it to be donated directly to the charity. The great thing about charitable donations is that they don’t need to be huge; they can be small amounts of money because every little bit does make a difference.
Sometimes the people we lose just know how to do things. They might’ve been great at DIY, or they have an amazing soup or bread recipe. Maybe they used to knit some of the coziest blankets you’ve ever had. Take their skill as inspiration for you to learn how to do it too.
Or perhaps the person who died was from a different country, and they have a different mother tongue— one that you have never mastered. Perhaps you want to explore those roots a little more and learn the language.
You might be surprised to realize that some of the time that you spent with your loved ones, you had created your own little traditions. Only using the good china, or watching sports on the TV together.
All of those little rituals might feel strange at first, but carrying on big and small traditions, and handing them down through the generations of your family can keep the memory alive.
Photos are one of the fastest ways to open up conversations and to start telling stories about the people we love. The older the generation, the less likely you are to have a lot of photos. Creating a photo album might be a joint effort between you and other family members.
The great news is that once it is done, you can share it or make a digital copy so people who don’t live nearby can get a copy too.
Photo albums might start off with a few photos, but over time you might add things like written stories about the person, recipes they left behind, and other things that can build a whole picture of the person.
Keeping the memory of loved ones alive can help you through the grieving process in a more gentle way too.