Nothing- not even time- can completely remove grief. However, taking time to honor loved ones who have passed away can at least help ease it. Let’s talk about why, along with how to do that in a way that’s truly meaningful to you.
How Honoring Loved Ones Who Have Passed Away Can Help Ease Our Grief
The other day, I came across a meme that compared grief to a box with a ball and a “pain button.” The accompanying caption explained that at first, the ball is so big, it constantly hits the button.
As time passes, the ball shrinks. It hits the button less often, but the pain when it does make contact is still excruciating. Worse, since it’s bouncing around endlessly all willy-nilly, you never really know when it’ll manage to strike the button. It looks kind of like this:
I thought that was a really great analogy for grief. It made me think, though, about how we can’t stop the ball, but maybe- just maybe- we can kind of intercept it before it strikes and take away some of its momentum. Not always, of course, as we can never really control an emotion entirely.
Still, even if we can soften the blow sometimes, it helps. To me, that’s what taking the time to remember someone who has passed away. It’s kind of like I’m giving my grief the attention it craves in a way that also truly honors my loved one.
So, how do you honor a loved one that has passed away?
Originally, I planned to fill this section with “X ways to remember and honor loved ones who have passed away.” I had a whole bunch of them running through my head. Make your grandmother’s favorite recipe and remember the times you spent with her in the kitchen. Donate your time to a charity that they were passionate about. Share pictures of their lives with your own children.
Don’t get me wrong, these are all beautiful ideas…if they make sense for you. What if your grandmother didn’t cook, or your grandfather was passionate about a charity on the other side of the world? What if you lost all of your pictures in a fire?
Besides, a list of specific ways to honor loved ones feels too much like saying that there’s a right and wrong way to do it. There isn’t. Whatever makes you feel most connected to them is the “right” way. Period. But I do have a few ideas that anyone can do, regardless of the situation. So, let’s talk about those a bit.
Write their story
It doesn’t matter if your loved one lived a life of adventure and intrigue or one that was quiet and unassuming. Everyone has a story that deserves telling. You don’t have to be Hemingway to pen your loved one’s tale, either. Even just a collection of memories jotted down in a notebook helps keep their spirit alive, and not just for you. It’s a way for future generations to feel connected to their ancestors as well.
Carry them with you
While there are tasteful ways to take that literally (such as carrying a lock of their hair or their ashes in a locket), that’s not something that everyone is comfortable with (or even always feasible, depending on your loved one’s final resting place). So, it could be as simple as carrying something small that belonged to them. What if that’s not even possible, though? You could instead carry something that represents them to you. For example, if your grandmother loved to knit, carrying a bit of yarn in her favorite color could be a way to keep her with you. It doesn’t really matter what you choose as long as it reminds YOU of her.
Just talk to them
If you can’t think of anything else to do (or even if you can), sometimes just talking to your lost loved one is enough to honor them and keep their memory alive. Outloud, in your head, in your journal, alone, or with others…whatever works for you. Tell them about your day, your week, your year. Tell them about the big things that happen in your life or the small. Tell them you miss them, that you love them, that you wish they were here. Tell them whatever you want. There are no rules.
There’s no right or wrong way to memorialize someone you loved.
When my friend’s grandmother died, her grandfather filmed the funeral. He spent his entire life making videos- both professionally and as a hobby- so it felt like the right way to honor the woman who stood by his side (and helped carry his gear) throughout more than five decades, even though some in attendance found it “eerie and morbid.”
Her grandfather passed away of a broken heart less than one year later. My friend filmed his services. Again, some found it odd. However, those who knew him best- his children, grandchildren, brother, closest friends- knew that this is what he would have wanted and thought nothing of it. Even if it was strange, even if it was “morbid,” it was her best way of truly honoring him.
Maybe you agree with those who found her actions strange. Maybe you think it was inappropriate. Morbid. Gross. Creepy. Here’s the thing, though: it doesn’t matter. When it comes to remembering and honoring someone that you loved, it doesn’t matter if anyone else agrees with your methods. As long as you aren’t harming yourself or others in the process, literally anything goes.
Throw a massive party in their honor once a year and celebrate their life…or have a somber graveside vigil on Memorial Day. Build a memorial website where everyone can contribute photos and stories about them…or create a private scrapbook that you pull out on their birthday. Get a tattoo of their favorite animal…or donate to a wildlife sanctuary.
Seriously, big or small, festive or somber, if YOU feel connected to them, if YOU feel like this is the best way to remember and honor them, then it is 100% the RIGHT way. As long as you’re doing something, you’re giving grief the attention that it demands. You’re taking the air out of that proverbial ball, so that when it does hit the button, it’s not quite so shocking.
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