The heartbreak that follows the death of a loved one is not easily mended, but after the denial, numbness and shock wears off, perhaps the hardest part of grief is figuring out what comes next. How does one simply get back to the so-called grind after an event that causes such a significant life change as a loved one’s death?
One way to do so: honoring your loved one’s memory. Though it’s the cliche answer that many give to comfort people in mourning, it’s still an important way to remember them, to cherish their influence on your life even after they have gone.
Check out these tips for keeping your loved one’s memories alive:
- Talk about them! Share stories about your loved one on a regular basis — and don’t worry that you’re being morbid by bringing them up. It might be uncomfortable to do so a few months after the loss, when emotions are still very raw, but it will eventually get easier. Dedicate a time during family gatherings to talk about the person you all miss.
- Record their stories for future generations. Your mother was a beautiful, kind-hearted, and generous person. She was also painfully shy, and she loved her work on an assembly line in a factory that made children’s toys. Unless you keep a record of these facts somewhere, her great-great grandchildren and the other generations to follow probably wouldn’t know it. Read blogger Laura Hahn’s 50 Life Lessons My Pop Pop Taught Me for a touching example of preserving sacred memories.
- Create a living memorial. The sky’s not even the limit here (some people choose to name stars after people they love, right?). Because there are so many options for remembering your loved one, you can tailor the memorial in the way that best symbolizes your relationship. If you want to continue sharing and hearing about the memories your relatives relayed at the funeral, set up a private Facebook group to do just that. A memorial plaque on a bench or in a theater, a stone on a walking path with her name on it, or a tree planted in his honor — all represent her tangible mark, a lasting footprint on the places he/she loved and supported.
- Do good in their honor. Why not start a foundation, service project, scholarship, annual run, community event, family sports team, fundraiser or other effort to support a cause he/she had always been passionate about? It’s a great way to give to others, to honor your loved one’s good works, and to keep it going. (Bonus: volunteering and giving back is also a great grief healer.)
- Adopt a favorite phrase. Maybe your father always said, “That’s the ticket!” when you did well, or your aunt loved to ask, “What’s shaking?” when you called or stopped by to visit. Whatever your loved one’s characteristic sayings were, use them in your own conversations now and then. You’ll be remembering them every time you hear their words coming from your own lips.
- Keep a picture or special item that belonged to your loved one close by. On your desk, dresser, nightstand — anywhere you would see it regularly. Besides photos framed throughout the home, I keep old pencil sharpener from my grandfather’s workshop in a special place on my desk.
Consult our extensive Grief & Bereavement Resource Guide for basic information on grief, how to deal with it in a healthy way, and more.