When you lose someone, one of the scariest things about it is the idea that you might forget them. Or that the memory of losing them will overshadow the happier times you spent together. The good news is this: you won’t forget them, ever. We promise. And there are ways of remembering someone who has died that can help you celebrate all the great things about them. Here are some suggestions…
9 special things to do to remember someone who has died
Not sure how to remember someone who has died? We hope you’ll find some inspiration here.
Start a tradition for their birthday
Find something that helps you feel close to them, and do it each year. For example, you could:
- Do something your loved one liked to do
- Take a trip to a place that meant something to you both
- Have a big family dinner and raise a toast – and invite their close friends
- Light a candle for them in the evening
Build on what you know about them. Take a class in something they knew well. Go on their favourite dog walk. Take the day off and make all their favourite foods.
“My sister and I go to a 40s event on Mum’s birthday each year,” explains Rachel, a funeral arranger at our Aylesbury branch. “She was a child of the 40s, and it helps us remember how life would have been for her growing up.”
Talk to them
We all have things we wish we could tell people who are no longer with us. Why not just give it a try? You could wait until you have a quiet moment alone to say what you want to say aloud. Or visit their grave or scattering place to speak to them.
While this might feel a little odd at first, a lot of people find comfort in these talks. After the 2011 tsunami in Japan, one bereaved relative set up a disconnected ‘wind telephone’ in his garden so that he could talk to the family he lost. Since then, people from all over the area have come to talk to their loved ones.
Take a trip
Go somewhere your loved one always wanted to go, do something they always wanted to do. A once-in-a-lifetime trip can be a fantastic way for a family to heal together after a rough year.
Keep something of theirs close by
This could be something as simple as wearing their jewellery or watch every day. Or clothing: a favourite shirt could be worn, turned into a cushion, or framed to make art. Believe it or not, there is also a company that turns the clothing of people who have died into teddy bears.
Another (slightly more unusual) way of remembering someone special who has died is to get their ashes made into jewellery. Specialist craftspeople can suspend the ashes in glass or resin beads and place them in pendants, earrings, bracelets or rings.
Go big with a firework display
A memorial fireworks display can be a lovely way to remember someone special. Team it with plenty of friends and family, some of your loved one’s favourite music, and some toasty hot drinks for a unique and cosy celebration of life.
The important thing here is safety. Always buy your fireworks from a registered seller or licenced shop and check that they are suitable for home use. Make sure bystanders are standing back as far as is recommended for that firework. You can find more safety advice here.
What about balloon, lantern, butterfly and dove launches? Here, it’s important to do your research to minimise the impact on local wildlife and pets. Always use biodegradable materials.
Get something dedicated to them
Not sure if the traditional park bench is the best way of remembering someone who has died? There are all kinds of alternatives…
- For lovers of the performing arts, you can dedicate theatre, opera, or concert hall seats
- Football ground seats are a great way to remember fans of the beautiful game
- For music lovers, you can call in to your local radio station and dedicate their favourite song to them on their birthday
- You can get a rose named in memory of someone special, and give cuttings to family and friends
- Or dedicate a tree (or an acre of woodland) to them with the Woodland Trust
Write to them
When you’re struggling with something – anything – writing can be very therapeutic. So, writing a letter to a loved one who has died can be a lovely way to feel connected to them and work through your grief. Letters can be kept or ‘posted’ by burying them at the grave or scattering site. Other ideas are placing them in a fire or even sending them down a river in boat form.
Not much of a letter writer? You’re not alone. When writer Rax King tweeted about the emails she sent her dad after he died, thousands of other people came forward to say that they did the same. Or sent texts, or g-chat messages. While it’s best not to actually press ‘send’ on these (numbers can be reallocated to other people, email accounts closed) just the act of writing can bring comfort.
Support a cause that mattered to them
Is there a cause your loved one cared deeply about that you could support? Or would you like to raise money for a charity that fights their final illness, or supports families like yours?
One of the best ways to remember someone who has died is to build something positive with their legacy. You could…
- Set up an online crowdfunding obituary that asks friends and family to donate
- Organise a fundraiser or do a charity run to raise money
- Sign up to donate a small amount each month in their memory
- Set up a scholarship or endowment at their old school, college or uni
- Launch a charitable trust or foundation of your own to lobby for a cause
- Sponsor a child (or even an animal) through a charity
Visit their grave or scattering place
Your loved one’s grave, or the place where their ashes were scattered, can feel very meaningful. There’s comfort to be had in just giving yourself some time to sit with them there.
If you like, you can also bring a wreath, bouquet or (land owner permitting) something to plant. In Victorian times, people would often use flowers to send messages: each one had a special meaning. This old mourning custom is still a lovely way to express how you feel. E.g. rosemary for remembrance, white periwinkle for happy memories, an oak-leaved geranium for true friendship or marigolds for grief.
Then again, a bouquet of your loved one’s favourites is an equally thoughtful gesture. At natural burial grounds, where planting rules are strict, a scattering of native wildflowers can also be a beautiful way to remember someone who has died.
Share your favourite ways to remember someone who has died
How do you remember the special people you’ve lost? Share your suggestions with other bereaved families in the comment section below. We’d love to hear your stories.