Losing a loved one is never easy. Even if you’ve said your goodbyes, death often leaves a void, a sense that you’ve lost something forever.
But just because your loved one has passed away doesn’t mean they’ll disappear from your life — or the world — completely. There are things you can do to make sure their memory stays alive.
Honoring a loved one can take many shapes. You may choose to honor them privately through your own rituals or gather family and friends together for a more public event. You can even create a permanent memorial space with their name on it, allowing strangers to get to know the person you knew so well.
How you honor someone’s memory is up to you; just know that their story doesn’t have to end with their passing. To give you a hand, we’ve compiled 8 of our favorite ways to honor a loved one below.
The 8 best ways to honor a loved one who has passed
Your loved one may no longer be with you, but the following ideas can make you feel close to them as you honor their memory.
1. Experience their favorite things
Trying out someone’s favorite activities can teach you a lot about that person — even if they’ve passed away. Make their staple meals, watch their favorite TV shows and movies, read their beloved books, or crank up the stereo and listen to their favorite albums. Experiencing these little things can give you a deeper sense of who your loved one was and help you feel closer to them.
2. Make a donation
If your loved one supported a particular cause, you can make a donation to that cause in their name, ensuring the things they care about continue to receive funding. If funds are tight, see if it’s possible to donate your time, rather than money. Volunteering at a place your loved one felt strongly about can help bring you closer to them.
3. Create a memorial
Memorials take many shapes; it can be something as simple as a plaque on a bench or a selection of their favorite flowers and plants in a local garden. You may even consider a tree in a protected memorial forest. Every time someone pauses to admire the area, they’ll see the plaque or memorial marker with your loved one’s name on it and, however briefly, think about who that person might have been.
4. Create a grant or scholarship
If you have the funding, you can put together a grant or scholarship that specializes in something your loved one was passionate about. Funding an education doesn’t just help pass on the skills that were important to your loved one. It also passed along their passion to someone who might not otherwise have the means to learn this skill.
5. Complete their unfinished projects
Sometimes things are left unfinished. This might be a piece of furniture they were restoring, a painting they were creating, or even a song they were writing. You may be tempted to leave these projects to languish, but consider finishing them. You can hire someone to do the work, or work on it yourself — completing their unfinished work for them. They started the task, but you finished it; in this way, you worked on it together.
6. Keep something of theirs close by
Holding on to an item of clothing, a piece of jewelry, or something similar can help you feel close to someone who has passed away. You might keep these things in the shape they were when you received them, but you can also turn them into something you can wear or use more often. For example, you can incorporate a flannel shirt into a quilt, or turn a ring into a necklace.
7. Light a candle
Did your loved one have a favorite scent or color? Buy or make a candle they would enjoy and honor their memory by lighting it on occasions that were special for them. Think about them each time you light the candle or say a prayer if you feel moved to do so.
8. Establish a celebration of their life
Shared affection can help you remember loved ones — together. You can start small by putting together a memorial website or social media account where friends, family, and acquaintances can share their stories about your loved one. You might also pick a day every year where you gather those same people to celebrate the person who has passed. Toast to them in a restaurant they adored, or organize a hike and a moment of silence on one of their favorite trails.
Live the life they would want for you
When we lose someone we love, we may feel like nothing will ever be right again. As time passes, the wound they have left behind will begin to heal, but we often ask ourselves, “How do we go on?”
That’s okay. Grief takes time to process, and the way you move forward in life will be just that: your way forward. Just remember that your loved one would deeply wish for you to feel happy again. They would want you to accomplish your goals, to experience joy, to make the most of the life you have.
When you think about how to honor a loved one who has passed away, don’t linger on the hole they have left behind. Instead, celebrate who they were and what they did, and do your best to carry on their spirit. In that way, they’ll always be with you.