People remember their loved ones in all sorts of ways. Some reminisce with old photos or telling stories, while others visit a memorable location or cook their favorite food. Regardless, this process will look different for everyone, even two individuals who are honoring the same person will go through this season differently.
Here are some truths about remembering your loved ones during holidays and on their death anniversary.
Allow your feelings to ride, not drive. Your feelings can be taken into consideration when deciding how to act, but they can don’t control you.
Practice the reality of “yes…and”. You can hold the reality of something yucky while also holding the excitement of something else (ie. YES, you are mourning the fact that your grandmother isn’t there to celebrate your brother AND you are there, helping to celebrate).
There is no roadmap. Grief can manifest in numerous ways.
Death can bring out the best (and worst) in families (and friends).
The first year may not be the hardest.
It is normal to need space from others to grieve independently, but make sure you communicate this with those in your close circle.
It is also normal for others to give you space assuming you need time alone. If this is not helpful for you, communicate this.
It can be hard for others to know how to support you, so tell them what works.
Give grace with others whose grief may come out sideways on accident.
So, if remembrance can look differently for everyone, what does remembrance look like for you? Here are some ideas on how to continue to incorporate your loved ones into special moments even when they are not physically with you.
Visit them. Go to the burial site or the location where their ashes are kept/were scattered or any other location that is meaningful to your relationship.
Embrace their favorites. Spend some time watching movies, listening to songs, and eating the foods that they enjoyed and that remind you of them.
Take care of yourself. What does your body need right now? A bubble bath? Going to see a chick-flick in the theaters? A hug from a close friend? Treat yourself by doing what feels good.
Leave a chair for them. Whether at the dining table or the end of your wedding aisle, it can be helpful to save a seat with their picture in a frame, so you know that they are with you in spirit.
Random acts of kindness. Honor your loved one(s) by showing kindness to others through small things like holding the door for someone else or bigger acts like financially donating to a charity that they supported.
Create an altar. Make a specific space in your home designated to remembering your loved one with flowers, photos, candles, and other meaningful items.
Item association. By yourself, your family, close friends, or all of the above, make an intentional connection between your loved one and an item that they loved, or that reminds you of them (ie. sunflower or unicorn). When you see that item or an item that has the symbol on it take a picture of it (or sometimes buy it) and share it with those who know of the meaning of that item.
Write a letter. Take time to write out any thoughts or feelings you’ve wanted to share with them. When you feel complete either safely save the letter or burn it.
Celebrate. Whether you choose to celebrate their birthday, their death day, or a different date that’s meaningful to you, take the time to celebrate them by doing something they would have considered fun (ie. boat ride or round of golf).
After reading the list above, we suggest reflecting on the ideas.
Which ones gave you peace? And which ones made you cringe or clam up?
Please note: This is not an exhaustive list. There is plenty of other ideas out there, and we encourage you to find what single, or combination of these actions best supports you in your act of memorializing your loved one(s). Remember that sometimes you may feel like you NEED to do something to remember your loved one, but then your body tells you that you’re not ready. This is normal. Press into what your body is telling you by mindfully breathing or meditating before either moving forward in remembrance or stepping back. You can still honor your loved one and the relationship you had even if you don’t physically do anything. Your mental/emotional health matters far greater than forcing yourself to actively participate in commemorating the death/life of someone else.
Ally Bremer, LCSW