Are you afraid that now with the funeral over and everyone has gone back to their usual roles that your loved one will slowly be forgotten? Or, are you wondering what you might do to make it clear that the deceased is still a part of your family and will forever be so?
There are many things you can do that will honor the deceased and at the same time keep his/her memory alive. In many instances the way you remember the person will be a source of wisdom and humor that can last for years and be an inspiration in life.
Here are ten ways to begin showing love even though you are separated from your beloved.
1. When the time is right (and only you will know when) tell your favorite story about the loved one. It could be a funny story or one that illustrates his/her character. Pick the right place and persons to share the best with, and be alert to inject it as a normal and natural extension of the conversation.
2. Periodically, use a favorite recipe that your loved one liked to eat or cook. You could also serve his/her favorite dessert with a reminder of what the conversation was like when it was served.
3. Plant a memory garden or a tree, bush, or flowers that bloom each year and are referred to as “Sarah’s Garden, ” “Mary’s tree” or Joe’s plant. ” Choose items that were the favorites of your loved one. If possible, put them in a space so that when you look out your window they can be seen and you can comment on their growth or looks during the year.
4. Use your loved one’s first name each day. You can do this by choosing to talk to him/her each day, either silently or out loud, or you can tell others that you hope they will feel free to use the name and talk about the loved one when referring to them would be natural in a particular conversation.
5. At holidays, birthdays, summer cookouts, or anniversaries find a way to symbolically recognize the presence of the loved one. Use a particular utensil when cooking; display a special item that belonged to the deceased; light a candle in home and/or in church; display something the person made or painted; make a toast in which the person is mentioned by name or hang a particular ornament or object that characterizes the loved one.
6. Do something to carry on the charitable interest your loved one had in a particular organization or cause. It could be things like the preservation of some part of the environment, the sponsorship of a child in an orphanage, helping the homeless, or volunteering at a soup kitchen. You may also want to consider establishing a scholarship at a high school or college.
7. Play your loved one’s favorite song or a song from his/her favorite entertainer or television show. It can also be useful to find music that was popular earlier in your life that can bring up old memories of you and the loved one.
8. On an anniversary or other special day, ask your best friend to take a trip to a favorite spot that you used to go to with your loved one. While there discuss the past and the memories this visit evokes. When you are further along with reinvesting in life, you may wish to make this trip by yourself, and choose to talk to your deceased loved one about the good times you had there.
9. Make a collage of pictures of the loved one that can be framed and placed in your home and/or office. If you possess a specific artistic talent (or you could hire someone) draw cartoons or symbols that illustrate the interests, character, or skills of the person and include them in the collage. Include a sample of the deceased’s work, if appropriate.
10. Have a plaque made with your loved one’s name engraved on it with a favorite saying (yours or one your loved one liked). Inquire at your local college or university, if he/she was associated with it, if they would accept a donation of a bench for the campus with your loved one’s name on it. Or purchase a bench and place it in your garden area or at a cemetery garden.
In summary, the way you remember your loved one is only limited by your creativity. So take into consideration what you learned from your loved one, how he/she helped others, and how you feel he/she would like to be remembered. Ask others you trust for their input. Then decide how you will keep the memory of your loved one alive by the tangible reminders you create.
Dr. LaGrand is a grief counselor and the author of eight books, the most recent, the popular Love Lives On: Learning from the Extraordinary Encounters of the Bereaved. He is known world-wide for his research on the Extraordinary Experiences of the bereaved (after-death communication phenomena) and is one of the founders of Hospice of the St. Lawrence Valley, Inc.
His free monthly ezine website is http://www.extraordinarygriefexperiences.com