One of the hardest things about getting a little older is having to deal with losing the people you love. At times, it can feel like longevity is a blessing and a curse. Yes, you get to enjoy more of what this wonderful world has to offer, but you also have to deal with the pain of seeing your friends and family leave this life before you.
When we first lose someone, the pain can be overwhelming. In fact, losing a loved one may be so traumatic that we find it difficult to be around things that remind us of them. But eventually, time does its work and what was once a sharp pain becomes more of a dull ache.
When this happens, we are finally able to begin the healing process. Then, we may even be ready to take proactive steps to remember our loved one.
Remembering a loved one is a deeply personal experience. At the same time, one of the things that is special about our community is that we can talk about difficult topics. So, today, I want to offer 13 ways to remember someone that you have lost – plus 9 more bonus ones. I hope you find them helpful.
Did you know that our sense of smell is unique among all of our senses? It is the only sense that bypasses the thalamus and connects directly to the forebrain. In other words, your sense of smell isn’t “filtered” in the same way that your other senses are.
This is one of the reasons that memories associated with our sense of smell are so powerful! You can use this fact to your advantage by cooking your loved one’s favorite dishes.
Did your loved one bake a mean apple pie? Did she have a special meatloaf recipe that was to die for? Why not bring her back into your life for an evening by cooking her favorite dish?
Sometimes, when we lose someone unexpectedly, we feel like we still have things that we wanted to tell them. Or perhaps we just miss their advice and guidance.
Writing a letter to your loved one can be a great way to keep them in your heart. It doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it. Your loved one doesn’t care about your spelling or punctuation! What matters is that you use your writing as a way to sort through your feelings and to strengthen your connection with your loved one.
Don’t like to write? Why not consider recording a short video? You don’t need to post it anywhere. You can even delete it after you record it. The important thing is to get your words, ideas and feelings out into the open.
Like many of the items on this list, this option won’t be for everyone!
The idea here is to put your loved one’s body to good use after they pass away. For example, Bio Urns offer urns that turn your loved one’s ashes into a beautiful tree.
Imagine being able to plant a beautiful maple, oak or redwood, knowing that it will gain its power to grow from the energy provided by your loved one’s ashes.
Personally, I love the idea of sitting under a tree that has a physical connection to someone that I have lost. It would make my thoughts and prayers all the more powerful.
Do you believe that your loved one is still able to watch you from the afterlife? If so, why not keep them in your prayers. You could even write a special prayer just for them.
We may never know what happens to our loved ones after they die. But through prayer we can keep them in our hearts for as long as we live.
Our loved ones imprint on our minds. As a result, when we close our eyes, we can almost hear their voice, full of meaning and life.
In addition, because we know our loved ones so well, we have a pretty good idea of what they would tell us to do in certain situations. So, why not ask them?
The next time you have a difficult decision to make, ask your loved one what they think you should do. Even if they can’t influence you directly, the pattern that they have left in your mind will give you valuable insights and may just help you to make a good decision.
Many people I know keep a small picture of their loved one in their wallet or purse. Others pin a small picture to their fridge or to a mirror somewhere in their house. This helps them to remember their loved one as they are going about their day.
Life is busy. As a result, it sometimes makes sense to choose special occasions when you will go out of your way to remember your loved one. For example, you could celebrate their birthday. Or you could remember them on their wedding anniversary. If you want to keep your celebration private, that’s totally fine. Or you could take a page from Celine Dion’s book and post a tribute to your loved one on social media.
The sad truth is that many of our family heirlooms end up sitting in boxes in our basements or garages. If you are lucky enough to inherit something truly useful or beautiful, put it out on display.
But even if most of the items that you received are not usable in their current form, why not consider upcycling?
Upcycling is the process or creatively reusing items that have lost their utility. For example, you might make a necklace from polished stones that your mum collected. Or you might attach a new band to your dad’s old watch.
Keeping something physical to remind you or your loved one is a great way to keep their memory alive.
Did your loved one always want to go to Spain, Italy or France? How about the Grand Canyon? Why not take an item of special significance to your loved one on a trip to a location on their bucket list? It doesn’t matter whether they can see you. What matters is that, through your actions, their dreams will ripple through time. Along the way, you may get to know them a little better as you follow one of their dreams.
Did you know that Facebook gives users the option of memorializing their loved one’s page after he or she passes away?
It’s true! In fact, depending on your privacy settings, you can even allow people to continue to post to their wall after they are no longer alive.
If you are a “legacy contact,” you can even post a final message from your loved one. So, it’s not a bad idea to set this up. You can find out more about being a “legacy contact” for a Facebook page here.
One of the things that I hope to do, should I see my own end coming, is to create plenty of letters and videos for my grandkids. I find it extremely comforting to know that they would have a special message from me on every birthday.
Even if your loved one didn’t plan for their passing, chances are they left plenty of documents behind. Take the time to read their letters. As you do, try to read them in the voice of your loved one. You may be surprised how real their words sound when you use your imagination.
Is there a special place that you always liked to go with your loved one? Did they take you fishing? Was there a particular hiking trail that you liked to take together? Did you have a favorite coffee shop?
If so, why not strengthen your memories by visiting one of the memory-rich places that you enjoyed with your loved one. I know that it sounds strange, but you may even be able to feel their presence, even if you know that they are not really there.
Not everyone can afford to set up a foundation with millions of dollars behind it, but each of us can give back in our own way.
Did your loved one have a passion for giving back? If so, why not continue their good work?
You might want to consider setting aside a percentage of any inheritance that you receive to fund their charitable priorities. You don’t need a lot of money to get started.
For example, let’s say that your loved one loved his or her college basketball team. You could set up a small scholarship, offering as little as a few thousand dollars a year, for promising athletes.
Or, if they loved walking in their local park, you could sponsor a bench or flower patch.
There are so many ways to build your loved one’s legacy if you take the time to look for them!
Jane Duncan Rogers, one of our bloggers and author of Before I Go: The Essential Guide to Creating a Good End of Life Plan,has some unique ideas to help remember your loved ones.
This way you get to cuddle something comforting while you think about your loved one.
Another way to use clothing items is to create a patchwork quilt. Use some of their favorite clothes and stitch them together, then cover yourself on those chilly days with the memories of your loved one.
A memorial area doesn’t have to contain the traditional gravestone or even their remains. You can create a special area where you plant flowers while thinking of them and go to spend time when you feel the need to be close to them.
Keep and wear a piece of jewelry that belonged to your loved one. You will feel like they are with you, and you may sometimes pause and reminisce once in a while, as you look at the piece of jewelry.
Places like Jewelry Keepsakes and Etsy offer to use your loved one’s ashes to create jewelry.
Was your loved one famous for a delicious recipe? Did they enjoy wine? Why not pass on the recipe with family and friends or plant a vine tree.
Name a special dish, a star, a book, or anything after your loved one.
Create a yearly ritual where family and friends gather for a meal in their memory.
Plant a wildflower garden somewhere while thinking about your loved one and watch nature take its course.
I hope that you found these suggestions for remembering a loved one useful. They were certainly helpful for me as I attempted to remember the people that I had lost. Now, I’d love to hear your ideas.
How do you remember the people that you have lost? Do you write them letters? Do you talk to them in your head? Do you celebrate their birthdays? Something else? What advice would you give for remembering a loved one? Please use the comment box to share your ideas and rituals.