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Creating living reminders to honor a loved one’s life

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When grieving the loss of someone special, there will be days when you desperately wish they were still with you. Maybe you miss the sound of their laugh, the comforting smell when they pulled you in for a hug, or all the happy times you shared together. You’ll find yourself wanting to capture and remember every little detail about them, whether it’s the way they dressed or the way they made you feel so loved. 

During these times, many find that living reminders can bring comfort and help with the grieving process. These reminders offer a peaceful way of remembering your loved ones while helping you keep their memory alive. 

If you’re looking to feel closer to those who’ve passed, explore these 10 special ways to remember your loved ones. 

10 ways to remember a loved one after they’re gone

1. Treasure an heirloom 

When you’re looking to remember someone special, start with something tangible. Carry a photo of them in your wallet or cuddle up with their favorite teddy bear. Or maybe you inherited something special like a necklace from your mother. Instead of putting it away in a box, wear it and think of her when you do. Regardless of whether it’s an ordinary item that belonged to them or a fancy family heirloom, keep it near as a way to always remember and cherish them. 

2. Donate to their favorite cause 

One great way to remember and honor your loved ones is to continue their legacy. If your loved one was passionate about rescuing animals, consider donating to your local animal shelter, volunteering with a rescue organization, or adopting or fostering an animal in need. Doing so will help you feel more connected to the friend you lost and your community as well. 

3. Celebrate them on a special day

Sometimes certain days, like your loved one’s birthday or death anniversary, can be more challenging to face than others. But instead of ignoring these days, why not use them as an excuse to celebrate? Make a cake, sing “Happy Birthday,” visit their favorite spots, and share your favorite stories and memories of them. On days like these, it’s ok to laugh and be happy or to be sad and cry. 

4. Build an altar in their memory

In many customs and religions, an altar or shrine offers a special way to remember loved ones who have passed. In Mexico during Dia de Los Muertos friends and family honor their deceased loved ones by decorating an altar, or ofrenda. These ritual displays often include photos of the deceased, along with their favorite foods and beverages for their spirits to enjoy. We can learn from this beautiful tradition and find inspiration for building our own shrines. You may wish to include flowers, candies, trinkets, or even toys to encourage your loved ones to visit. 

5. Write them a letter 

The process of writing can be extremely cathartic. Maybe your brother died suddenly, and you didn’t get a chance to say everything you wish you had. Writing a goodbye letter can help provide closure as you address the things that were left unsaid. Or perhaps you simply miss your husband and want him to know how you’re doing. Write him a letter as if he was still alive. Tell him about what’s new in your life, the milestones your kids are hitting, and how much you love and miss him dearly. 

6. Plant a tree or flowers

What better way to create a living reminder than to actually create something living? Plant a tree, flowers, or even a garden in your loved one’s memory. For instance, if your sister loved hiking, connect with an organization that lets you plant trees along her favorite hiking trails. Or, if roses remind you of your grandmother, sprinkle rose seeds in your backyard and watch them bloom come springtime. Seeing your creations grow and thrive can be a lovely reminder of those you’ve lost. 

7. Get crafty

Crafting lets you create a living reminder to honor your loved one, but it also provides a productive way to channel your grief. Did your father leave behind a wardrobe of t-shirts? Patch together a quilt using all his worn-in shirts, or make a teddy bear with your favorites. Or maybe you have a box filled with photographs of you and your uncle. Create a scrapbook to showcase all your special moments. When you’re feeling sad, flip through the pages and remember all the good times. 

8. Visit memory-filled places 

One special way to remember a loved one is to visit places where you created memories together. Head to that Italian restaurant where you had your first date. Breathe in the comforting smell of pasta, order your partner’s favorite meal, and toast to their life with a glass of red wine. Or there’s that beach house you and your cousin visited every summer. Go to the seaside, frolic in the waves like you did as kids, and feel the salty air on your skin. Venturing to these special locations can conjure up memories and help you feel like your loved one is near. 

9. Finish their projects

Creating a living reminder can come in many forms, including finishing what your loved one started. If your aunt was designing a sanctuary in her backyard, continue her mission by planting flowers, hanging bird feeders, and placing a bench where you can reflect. Or, if your father was building a treehouse for his grandkids, round up your siblings and finish the endeavor together. Seeing the completed project will give you a sense of accomplishment and provide you with a reminder of them to treasure. 

10. Contribute to the memorial service

Another way to remember a loved one is to find a way to contribute to the memorial or funeral service. This could include anything from writing a eulogy to singing their favorite song. Some like to tell a story of a touching memory or perform a meaningful poem. When you’re missing your loved one, you’ll have these relics as a reminder. 

Everyone grieves and celebrates the loss of life differently. Try out some of these living reminder suggestions until you find one that offers you comfort and peace when thinking of your loved one. 

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