After a loved one dies, finding the right words to honor them can feel like an impossible task. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to celebrate the best parts of who they were that don’t involve having to keep it together or form a proper sentence.

Focusing your energy on memorializing your loved one can also trigger wonderful memories and give your brain permission to process. Think of it as guided grieving. We’ve highlighted a handful of great ideas to get you started. Choose one, choose a few, or think of this as Grief Bingo and check them all off.

Repurpose

Just because you inherited it that way doesn’t mean you need to use it that way. Honor your loved one by creating something you’ll regularly use or look at, rather than by keeping all of their sweaters in your attic. 

  • Instead of keeping every old t-shirt and sweatshirt in their current form, make a quilt out of old clothes.
  • Frame something your loved one has written like a Birthday card, poem, journal entry, or recipe. 
  • If you’re not big on wall hangings, there are plenty of other ways to incorporate handwritten messages into your day-to-day life:
    • Bring a few words from your favorite Birthday or anniversary card to a jeweler and have them inscribed on a necklace or bracelet
    • Have those words printed on fabric to turn into a pillow.
  • Take a robust collection of ties, hankies, or table linens and turn them into something useful. Lay them out side-by-side and sew them together to create a tote. 
  • Turn some of your favorite photographs or postcards into a collage or mobile.

 

Honor What They Loved

One of the best ways you can honor a loved one is to carry on with the things in their life that brought them joy. We often know people best through the activities and places they loved -- these are great ways to both celebrate their legacy and feel close to them. 

  • Donate their clothes or belongings to one of their favorite organizations in their honor. Or go one step further and set up a fundraiser in their memory. 
  • Spend a few hours doing one (or a few of) their favorite activities: go for a bike ride, read a book, play a round of golf.
  • Listen to their favorite record or make a playlist of their favorite songs.
  • Cook their favorite meal and invite family and friends to enjoy it with you.
  • Host a movie night where you watch their all-time favorites with family and friends.
  • Finish a project that they were working on before they died.

 

Keep Their Memory Alive

Creating items that can be shared with others is a wonderful way to reflect on your most treasured memories and also ensure future generations get to know the best parts of your loved one. 

  • Make a memory book or box with photos and stories about your loved one.  Ask the people who knew them best to contribute. 
  • Create a recipe book of their favorite meals.
  • Plant a tree in their honor. You’ll be able to celebrate your loved one every year when it blooms.
  • This might be cheating because it technically requires words, but write a letter to your loved one addressing anything that may have been left unsaid. Make it the first entry into a journal full of letters to them. Moving forward you can write on important dates or whenever the mood strikes.  

Finding a meaningful and personal way to honor your loved one can be a great and healthy way to kick start your own healing process. Remember that there are endless ways to memorialize the ones you love and none of them is more right or wrong than the other.