Finding ways to honor our deceased loved ones is an important part of learning to live with their death. It gives us an opportunity to continue to bestow our love upon them, and it sends a message to them and to the rest of the world about how much we loved them then, and how very much we still love them now.
A competitor named C.T. on the MTV reality show “The Challenge: Rivals,” recently demonstrated an example of this kind of tribute by showing off stickers he had made in honor of his brother who was murdered. C.T. was devastated by his brother’s death, but when he and several other competitors were seen wearing the stickers on their shirts, it was clear that there was a great deal of significance for him in the symbolism of the action. As a tangible representation of the connection that we still have with that person, it helps to have something we can touch, wear, hold, or do, that we associate with our missing link. We can adapt C.T.’s example of stickers to our own lives, but that is just one possibility of many for ways to pay tribute to a loved one who has passed away.
Miranda Kerr, supermodel and wife of Orlando Bloom, recently gave the media another idea when she mentioned that her young son was named in part after a boyfriend who had died in a car accident when he was a teenager.
“Chris and I had been dating for two years,” she says. “After he died, I wrote him a letter that said I hoped to name my first child after him in some way. I told Orlando and he was the one who said he’d be happy to do that. Orlando’s a good guy.”
And while some people probably wouldn’t be secure enough to go along with the naming of their child after someone their partner was previously romantically involved with, it demonstrates her husband’s sense of compassion and understanding that he was. With these actions, he shows respect for his wife’s past and the memory of that relationship, and he gives her even more emotional closure as he allows her to honor her past grief and the statements she made to her friend after he died. He demonstrates his spiritually enlightened attitude that love in all its forms is valuable, and the people we have loved from our past are still people we love, still people we can honor and show respect to. Miranda expressed that sentiment as well when she said,
“Chris’ death taught me that the people who touch your life are always with you. It taught me that I have the choice to be grateful for the time I had with him instead of dwelling on losing him.”
That is a beautiful message, and although it usually takes time to get to that acceptance stage of the grief process, that sentiment is a key part of getting there. Knowing that our loved ones are always with us is essential to us being able to be happy again. They see us, and hear us, and they are aware of all the things we do to honor them. Our actions are not just for own selves to feel better but also to send the message to our loved ones that we miss them and we love them and they will always be a part of our lives. So with that in mind, Miranda and C.T. gave us two examples, but what else can we do to honor them?
One of the best ways is to love what they loved: their children, pets, siblings, family and friends, hobbies, and passions. And don’t forget yourself. If you love them, you can be sure they love you. In all the ways you want to honor them, they want to honor and show love right back to you.
Do things they loved to do or things you both loved to do together: Watch a favorite movie, make a favorite meal, listen to favorite music, garden, hike, sail, dance, play an instrument, whatever you associate with them in happier times.
Take a trip they always wanted to take or do something they always wanted to do: they will be with you and will experience it with you.
Spray their perfume or cologne or light a scented candle or incense that they enjoyed.
Put some of their beloved possessions to good and honorable use. If you put some thought into it you could re-purpose things in order if to get more use out of them, like a shirt into a pillowcase, or donate or give to people who would most appreciate them. Mitch Winehouse, Amy Winehouse’s father recently gave her clothes to her fans that were stationed outside of her house. No doubt Amy would be happy to see that since she loved her fans.
Nature: Find or create a spot where you can go and talk to your loved one, where you can be alone together in nature. Connecting with nature is connecting with the spirit world, and the peace and clarity it brings us gives us an opportunity to get closer to the loved one who passed.
Symbolic actions in nature: plant a tree, or a rose bush, or plants with flowers that return every year. This could symbolize the growth of the new relationship in its new form, but also, this gives you something to physically nurture and tend to.
Have a special place set up in your house with a candle and their photos, some place to sit in quiet with them.
Put special photos of them in special places.
Have a special box of their special things.
Make something: A cd mix of their favorite music, a stepping stone for your garden, a photo collage with words, a scrapbook of memories, a quilt made out of their clothing fabric, write a poem or a song, paint a picture, make a cookbook of their favorite recipes, or a book filled with your favorite stories about them, make a shadow box to keep special things in.
Names: Miranda has given us a good example of this. Names are such an important part of our personal identity, and so naming your baby in some way after a loved one is symbolic of that loved one still being a huge part of the family’s life. It makes a connection between the baby and the loved one that they share something significant together, and as it connects the past with the future, it’s a great and traditional way of honoring someone.
Dedicating something in their name: a scholarship, a building, a bench in a park, an animal area of a zoo or a nature center, a stretch of highway, even something as small as a favorite book for the school library
Tattoos: This is basically like dedicating an area of your body to them. It is a way of physically and symbolically carrying them with you at all times, wherever you go. You could do their name, initials, significant dates, photo image, or just a symbol that you associate with them like an angel, cross, butterfly or heart.
Wear something of theirs: Jewelry, item of clothing, a locket with a lock of hair, anything you connect with their personal energy. You can use this to represent carrying them with you if you are not personally comfortable with tattoos. C.T.’s stickers served this same purpose.
Write a letter to them, tie it to a balloon and then release it.
Send them a message in the newspaper, not just an obituary but on anniversaries or birthdays too.
Set up a website or a facebook social group for loved ones to be able to leave messages.
Keep a journal of notes you want to write to them and things you want to say to them.
If they were cremated, sprinkle their ashes in places that they loved, or carry their ashes with you with cremation jewelry.
Decorate their grave site.
Display tribute and memorial items around the house, or yard, even the car. Objects like plaques or picture frames or candles, stickers for the car that say “in memory of.” These are all things that can be used to tell the one you love that they are never forgotten, and to tell everyone else you meet that there is a piece of your heart living in Heaven right now, but that they are still very much a part of your life.
Talk about them: tell the stories about what made them so wonderful, how they made you laugh.
Acknowledge their spirit presence: Do not cast off significant signs and dismiss them as coincidence. Write signs of their presence and moments of connection down in your journal.
Make a tribute video: pick special music or photos, or video of them to include.
Have a gathering of loved ones on their birthday or anniversary of their death. This could include a table with some of their special/favorite items: a baseball hat, or a certain type of flower, photos, their favorite candy, their favorite food and drink, their favorite music, decorations in their favorite color. Have a book available for loved ones to send them a note or write a story about them, and give a speech or a small toast that honors them.
Memorial Service: Traditionally done in a church, but these can also be done anywhere that the deceased person would appreciate, like outside, on a mountaintop, or on a beach.
Causes: Give to causes in their name, ones they cared about, ones that affected them. Give time, energy, money, or volunteer and help in any way you can.
Support groups: Start or participate in some kind of related support group.
Charity fundraisers: Start or participate in related charity fundraisers events.
Remember them: Think about all the details of them, what their hair looked and felt like, visualize the color and intensity of their eyes, remember what it felt like to hug them, remember their laugh, their voice, their personality. Meditate on those thoughts and allow yourself to feel them actually being there with you.
Listen to your heart. They will speak to you through your heart.
Cry. You miss them so much that it creates lots of pain and lots of tears, and it is only natural to be sad and have moments of horrible sorrow. Tears are a tribute to the amazing love that is between you. It wouldn’t hurt so bad to be away from them if you didn’t love them so very much.
But in the end, the best way to honor them is make the best of your life and the time until you are together again both in spirit. Do not let your loss overcome the point of your life. Channel your grief into positive outlets and know with every ounce of your being that they are still very much with you.