In the moment, celebrating the life of a person we’ve lost can be difficult. The emotions we feel in the aftermath of a loved one’s passing are hard enough to deal with without having to try to do something constructive with those feelings.
But celebrating a life by designing intentional and creative rituals can feel surprisingly meaningful. You can incorporate these memorial ideas into yearly traditions on the anniversary of your loved one’s death, adding even greater and deeper significance to your observances.
We recently hosted a “Light After Loss” IG Live episode on this topic, with Modern Loss’s Rebecca Soffer and Karen Bussen, the founder of the end-of-life and funeral-planning service Farewelling. Here are some key takeaways from their conversation.
1. Create an altar
We are big fans of the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. People set up an ofrenda — a table filled with pictures and objects that tell the stories of the deceased’s ancestors — among other memorial ideas. Think about setting up one of your own, either in your home or a more ephemeral space in nature that you walk or run to regularly. Don’t stress about it; this can be as simple as a few objects in a pretty box that you take out of your closet whenever you need it.
2. Do something your loved one wanted to do but never had a chance to experience
Whether it’s traveling, learning something, or having an adventure, treat it as a pilgrimage and a way to bring you closer to the person they were. And if it’s something you wouldn’t normally choose, remind yourself that the person who has left you would want you to experience new things even after they’re gone.
3. Host a ‘memory potluck’
This gathering can be with or without actual recipes. It’s a terrific way to prompt storytelling, and inject some levity and joy into what is always a bittersweet experience: missing the person who is no longer with you. Make it an event centered on remembering one person or invite family and friends together to honor someone they are missing. You can even make this a monthly tradition with changing themes of anecdotes people should share: humor, adventure, romance, advice, etc.
4. Combine self-care and memory for a powerful ritual
Don’t pressure yourself to find the “perfect” thing; it just has to feel like you’re doing something that allows you to connect with your loved one. This doesn’t have to be something huge. For example, you can apply a luxurious hand and foot cream and light a candle, allowing yourself to relax as you let yourself remember. If there was a type of cuisine they particularly liked, cook a delicious meal in their memory. Or, watch one of their favorite movies. (Better yet: Create a watch party to chat with others watching the same thing so you can remember them together.)
Keep in mind that memorial ideas may need to evolve or change as you move through your experience with grief and loss. Give yourself permission to do that whenever you need to.
This article was authored by ModernLoss.com, which offers candid conversations about grief and meaningful community throughout the long arc of loss.
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