When someone we love dies, we want to keep his or her memory alive. We want to do something to honor that life. If the person died of a disease, we can do something meaningful by setting up a memorial fund to further research for a cure. If our loved one had a particular passion, we can continue the person’s life work by setting up a charitable non-profit. There are also simpler, more intimate ways to continue to remember someone dear to our hearts that don’t take a lot of planning or financing. Honoring the person’s memory gives a sense of purpose to a profound loss, and as a result, it will aid in your own healing process.
Here are some suggestions of what you can do to carry on a loved one’s legacy.
Establish a High School Scholarship Fund
This is a great way to help students with a financial need to pursue a higher education in a favorite subject or activity of the deceased: music, art, science, etc. If their passion was sports, you can establish an athletic scholarship in their memory.
Give an Annual Donation in His or Her Memory
Choose a charitable organization that’s doing work that was especially meaningful to your loved one.
Plant a Tree
Watching a sapling grow and flourish will encourage happy, healing, life-affirming memories of the person.
Create a Memorial Garden
Fill it with your—and your loved one’s—favorite plants and flowers. Install a plaque in the garden with their name on it and perhaps a few lines of a favorite poem.
Light a candle
Gazing into the glowing flame can help you visualize the deceased and bring up fond memories. It is a Jewish tradition to light a special candle that burns for 24 hours on the Yahrzeit (yearly anniversary) of a loved one’s death.
Propose a Toast or Say a Blessing in Their Honor
At holidays or any special occasions when family and friends are gathered around the table, pause and reflect on the person whose presence, although not physical, can be felt on a spiritual level.
Make a Keepsake Box
Gather poems, pictures, and other items that remind you of your loved one and place them in a special box that you can open and reflect on the contents whenever you feel the desire.
Construct a Photo Collage
This is a visual way to chronicle the person’s life. Hang it in your home to inspire family and friends to share their stories of the deceased at different times and places during their lifetime.
Keep Memories Alive Through Storytelling
Write down or record favorite stories/funny anecdotes about the person that can be passed down through the generations, keeping his or her eternal spirit alive.
Find a Place in Nature to Reminisce
Visit the gravesite, memorial site, a woodland preserve or beach—anyplace where you feel especially close to your loved one and present in the moment without distractions.
Make a Musical Connection
Listening to music is an emotional, sensory experience that brings up memories and helps us do our grief work. Made a mixed tape or CD of songs that remind you of your loved one or organize a benefit concert in your community in their honor.
Complete a Project Your Loved One Was Working On
This could be anything from refinishing a table, installing a fountain in a garden, or organizing all the stuff in the basement. Enlist friends and family to help and make it an adventure.
Support a Cause that Had Significance for Your Loved One
Organize a charity walk or run, a bake sale or special event and donate proceeds to a charity or non-profit that the deceased had been involved in—or continue his or her volunteer work in the organization.
Paint a picture, create a collage or craft project, make a piece of jewelry, compose a piece of music, or write a story in his or her honor. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Expressing yourself through the arts is also a healing process for you.
Establish an Anniversary Ritual
Whether it’s saying a prayer, lighting a candle, reading a poem, or taking a walk in a special place, rituals can offer solace on a day that may elicit both joy and sorrow, and as the years go by, serve as a marker of how far you’ve come in your grief journey.