Updated: Oct 19
Coping with the loss of a loved one who has died isn’t easy. Losing someone we love, no matter how old or young is a painful and sorrowful experience. Each comes with its own trove of treasured memories, reminding us of moments of joy, happiness, love, and special times spent with that person.
Grief is an experience that one learns to live with and take with one for the rest of their life.
Coping with the loss of a loved one who has died isn’t easy. I have found ways to honor the loss of those I love dearly and miss every day. And, others have also shared with me, the ways they remember a loved one who has died.
By honoring the loss of a loved one, you’re remembering their specialness. It can also be a deeply personal and intense way of coping with the loss while releasing the pain.
1. Create a Memory Box
A friend of mine ended up fostering her best friend’s six-year-old daughter when the little girl’s mother died unexpectedly. To help ease this little girl’s pain, my friend created a memory box for her. In it, she put photographs of the little girl’s mom as well as her favorite jewelry, trinkets, and other memorabilia.
My friend also asked everyone who knew this little girl’s mom. to write a letter describing what made her mother so special to them. This little girl is now a teenager and she still looks through her memory box whenever she wants to feel closer to her mother. A memory box can be as big or as small as you want it. And, it can contain whatever you choose to put in it that reminds you of your loved one.
2. Keep Something That Belonged to Them
I have my grandmother’s wedding ring which I’ve worn since she died sixteen years ago. I also have one of my father’s favorite jerseys which I wear on camping trips as a reminder of all the times he took us on holidays and told stories around the campfire.
Keeping something that belonged to a loved one and even wearing it, is a wonderful way to honor their uniqueness. It can be a hat, a piece of jewelry, or even a scarf or walking stick they loved so much. This way, you can keep their memory close to you whenever you wear or use a particular item of theirs.
3. Create a Collage
When my six-year-old niece died, I created a collage of all my favorite photographs of her. It took quite some time to compile but the process was cathartic. I added some pictures of butterflies, her favorite winged creature, and framed the collage. I love looking at the collage and I’m reminded of all the happy and special times we had together.
Creating a collage of all your favorite photographs of the person you loved is a wonderful way of “spending time” with them. It’s also a good way of putting all your favorite pictures in one place. I know some people have done scrapbooks which is also a beautiful way of honoring the loss of someone you loved who has died.
4. Plant a Tree
Planting a tree in memory of your loved one is a special way of honoring them especially if they loved nature and plants. My father loved trees but his favorites were not indigenous to our country. I chose to plant an indigenous tree and it died! I think my father was telling me a thing or two and I always laugh when I think about it.
But, planting a tree in your garden is a beautiful way to honor each passing year since the death of your loved one. You could also choose to plant their favorite flowers or shrubs. My niece’s second name was Rose and my aunt also loved roses, so I’ve planted rose bushes in pots for both of them. When they flower every spring, I’m reminded of these two beautiful souls.
5. Honor Them at Full Moon Rituals
Full Moon rituals are powerful ways of releasing old energies and bringing in the new. They allow you to reflect on all that is and all that was. When I do a full moon ritual, I like to burn a little fire. Part of the ritual includes honoring:
The four elements
The four directions
Great Spirit (or whoever you believe in)
All those that have passed
I invite all my ancestors and loved ones that have passed to come and sit around the fire with me. It’s a wonderful time to feel surrounded by all those I’ve lost and miss. I imagine a circle of all these souls sitting around the fire with me as I connect with the moon’s energy.
6. Use the Signs of Nature
My sister-in-law is always reminded of her daughter when a certain bird starts calling. Other people associate a creature with their loved one who has died and whenever they see that animal, insect, or bird they’re reminded of the special times they had with their loved one.
Picking a sign from nature as a way of honoring the loss of someone special is something that’ll always remind you of them whenever you see, hear, or even touch that symbol. Choose a sign from nature that the person who has passed can be associated with to make it more meaningful.
7. Get Inked
My daughter honored the loss of her little cousin by getting her name’s first initial inked on her wrist. Having a tattoo done is a permanent way of remembering the loss of someone you love and you can choose a picture that reminds you of them or their name.
Someone close to me had his dog inked onto his arm when she died while someone else I know had angel wings tattooed on the back of his neck. Make sure you’re dealing with a professional tattooist when getting inked so you won’t be disappointed with the results.
8. Frame Something They Wrote or Drew
If someone special in your life loved to write poems or painted pictures, pick the one you love and frame it. This is a lovely way of remembering the loss of a child. Pick out a selection of their artwork done at school (or at home) and frame them to be hung in your living or family room.
I’ve framed a beautiful poem my father wrote about living in Africa and it deeply resonates with my own love of this country. I got him to sign it when he wrote it so seeing his signature makes the poem even more special.
9. Make a Quilt
You could make a quilt out of all the clothes your loved one wore. While it may seem heart-wrenching to cut up little squares of fabric from their old clothing, the process can be healing. And, the end result is a combination of all the things they wore.
Honoring the loss of a special one involves doing things that help you to cope with loss and making a quilt could be one of those activities that alleviate the pain somewhat. And, you’ll have a permanent reminder of that person once the quilt is completed.
10. Sit With Them
Did your special one have a favorite seat at the dinner table? Or, how about the armchair in the living room? While you don’t want to always keep “that” chair vacant for a loved one that has passed, you could honor them on special occasions by saving them a seat.
When you acknowledge their “presence” at a special event, you’re honoring the loss of someone who meant the world to you. Saving them a seat at the table is another way of remembering the loss of someone dear to you.
11. Listen to Their Favorite Song
Whenever I hear Amazing Grace I know my father is near. And, even though music makes me feel very sad at times, it also brings back memories of all those I’ve loved and lost to death. If your loved one had a favorite song, listen to it whenever you want to feel closer to them.
Songs are a warm reminder of who we once knew and loved. It also gives us a sense of connection even though that person is no longer in the same world as us.
12. Assign Special Moments to Them
When my toddler nephew discovered our huge green bullfrog sculpture in our garden he was initially scared of it. I took his hand and slowly we approached this “fearsome” creature. My nephew plucked up the courage and laid his little hand on the frog and from that day onwards he would always greet that sculpture. That frog is now known as “Campbell’s Frog.”
Special moments such as these can last a lifetime especially if they’re linked to an object. By assigning these moments and objects to your passed loved one, you’ve got something to remember them by. And, you’re honoring their loss by remembering the love and joy they gave you in those moments.
13. Talk About Them
My brother was insistent we spoke about our niece as often as possible so her name was always mentioned in just about every conversation whenever we got together. Your loved one’s physical presence may no longer be, but they do still exist in your heart and mind. Talking about your special person keeps you connected with them, no matter where you are and where they are.
Many survivors find it therapeutic to talk about the loss of a loved one. Hearing their name spoken eases the pain slightly as you reminisce about the person you’ve lost and as time passes, it’s healing to still hear their name come into everyday conversations.
Watch this uplifting video (yes, uplifting and funny but wise all the same) about the importance of having conversations about your loved ones who have died.
Coping with the loss of someone you love isn’t easy and everyone grieves differently. Each survivor has their own unique way of honoring the loss of someone dear to them. It may be too painful to do any of the things I’ve included in my list and that’s okay. Remember, it’s your loss and your grief.
But, you may find some healing as you deal with the change that comes with the death of anyone close and dear, by choosing to honor them one way or another. It’s a very personal journey and only you know what you want to remember about that person. Whatever you choose, may you find some peace and acceptance while choosing to still live life to the full.
In memory of my niece, Jenni, who left us seven years ago, and my darling nephew, Campbell, who left us in May 2021. You both live in my heart always xxx
This post was originally published on September 27th, 2021, and updated on November 14th. 2022.