Remembering a Loved One After a Death
Written by Kristen Hicks
When you’re coping with the loss of a loved one, so much can feel out of your control that it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by hopelessness. Regardless of what you do, you will find yourself remembering the person you loved. Turning that remembrance into a project that feels valuable and provides some catharsis can be a way to take back some of that control.
There are as many different techniques for remembering a loved one as you can think of. Based on the passions and interests of the person you lost, there may be a way of remembering or memorializing them that just feels right. Go with what you feel.
If you could use some help figuring out the best direction to take, some of these suggestions could turn into a meaningful project for you in this time of loss.
Write a book of memories.
To be clear, a book does not have to be a 500-page tome ¬– it could just be a few paragraphs or pages. Brainstorm all your favorite stories and memories of the person you lost, and sit down and write them out.
It might be enough to have a few pages for yourself to re-visit from time to time, or you might feel it worthwhile to make it into something more. You could add some images to make it look nicer, get it bound to keep in your bookcase alongside your other books, or share it with others you know who also loved the person you lost.
Create a photo gallery.
Scour the pictures you have (both online and off) and pick out the ones you like the most. There are lots of resources online for creating a photo gallery or album, many of them free – you could create a free WordPress site, load a photo album to Facebook, or use Shutterfly. Collect the photos in whatever format you prefer and make a note of where they are so you remember anytime you want to return to them.
Frame the photos that are the most meaningful to you to put them somewhere where you’ll see them regularly, or collect all your favorites into a physical photo album for easy perusal if you prefer a physical object to having them collected online.
The format is up to you, but regardless of which direction you take, having meaningful photos of your loved one will be something you appreciate in the months and years to come.
Create a memorial.
This can take whatever form is meaningful to you. It can be as simple as taking flowers to the grave regularly, or it can be something more unique like planting a tree in their memory.
If your loved one was a big reader, you could devote a bookcase in your room to some of their favorite books. If they had a favorite spot in a local park, that can be the place you visit to remember them. A memorial has exactly as much meaning as you give it, so if it’s enough to keep an object they valued on your bedside table that can work as a meaningful memorial as well.
Re-visit valuable possessions.
This can relate to your memorial, or be something separate you do. Flipping through books they marked in to get a glimpse of some thoughts they had while alive can be satisfying. Going through their clothes and remembering which ones were their favorites can also be meaningful.
Possessions aren’t just things, they carry memories within in them of the person they belonged to. A wedding ring, a worn-out copy of their favorite book, a photograph they took that they were especially proud of, the apron they always wore when they baked those cookies you loved so much – these are all items that tell a valuable story.
Share your memories with others.
Much of this can be done in a way that’s solitary, but if you bring other loved ones into the process you may get even more out of it. Others can contribute stories that you never knew about and share their own most valued memories.
Talking with others who are also suffering from the loss of your loved one can bring some beauty and human closeness into the darkness of grief. And you may learn about a side of the person you loved that you never knew about in their life.
You have to feel their death, there’s no way around that. But you can make the choice to remember their life instead of their death. Don’t dwell on how they died or their last days when they were suffering from an illness, think back to the days when they were happiest and most themselves.