10 ways to remember a loved one

First published 16 July 2018 • Updated 19 July 2018

A funeral is not the only way to mark someone’s death. There are many other ways to express your grief while celebrating the life of your loved one, from family traditions and rituals to private memorials. Whether you want a special form of remembrance in addition to a traditional funeral, or even as a complete alternative to one, there are as many ways as you can imagine. Here are just a few of them.

Hold the ceremony somewhere else

Chapels, crematoriums and funeral homes are inevitably sombre places, and maybe you feel they are just not the right place to remember your loved one. But remember, you can hold a ceremony absolutely anywhere – in a hotel, at the beach, in the park, down the pub, or even just out in the garden. The right place for a memorial service is often the place that means the most to you, your friends and family. Don’t feel pressured to conform.

Take a trip to scatter the ashes

Instead of keeping your loved one’s ashes in an urn, you (or they) may prefer them to be scattered in a special place. This can have powerful symbolic value, as you’re not only literally ‘letting go’ of them, but you also know that you’re returning their remains to the ecosystem, to be recycled into new life. What’s more, the trip itself can be cathartic, whether taken alone or with a close group of friends and family. You can treat it as a pilgrimage to say one final goodbye.

Commission a painting

Traditional headstones are expensive – and some would say it’s a lot to pay for such a gloomy chunk of rock. For a similar or possibly far lower price, you could commission a professional artist to paint your loved one’s portrait from photographs. A real portrait painter can conjure up far more life and expression than any photograph can, and you’ll have this unique monument to your loved one in your own home, to look at whenever you wish.

Make a book

One of the things people like about funerals is hearing stories of the deceased and how their own lives were touched by them. You can create a much more permanent version of these stories by compiling a book with contributions from many different people – friends, colleagues and relatives. It can include everything from anecdotes to poems, favourite jokes, photographs, extracts from their social media accounts, and pictures by children. You could have the book professionally produced for a small fee and give copies to everyone who wants to remember your loved one.

Create a living monument

Some people see gravestones as cold and solemn monuments, and they can also be hard to maintain as plant life grows around them. One way to solve both these problems in one go is to make plant life itself into the monument. You can plant a tree in honour of your loved one, and watch it grow year by year. Alternatively, a special memorial flower bed (perhaps even spelling out their name) will be an inspiration as it continues to bloom every springtime.

A memorial that means something

Another way to have a more personal memorial is to associate it with something they loved to do. Many football grounds have bricks or stones engraved with names and messages from fans both deceased and still living. If they preferred the theatre, see if your local theatre will let you put a name plaque on a seat for a small fee. Other alternative memorials include benches in beauty spots, plaques and seats on piers, or even just a requested song played on the radio. The list is endless.

Keep celebrating their birthday

The anniversary of someone’s death can be a melancholy time, but their birthday will continue to awaken memories of your loved one at their best. Death is no reason to stop celebrating a birthday, and this can be an excuse to gather the wider family around you every year, so you don’t lose touch.

Take up their hobby

If you fancy something a bit more left-field, why not step into your loved one’s shoes and do something they loved to do? Maybe they had a lifelong hobby or passion, and maybe you didn’t really understand it – or even found it irritating! Now is your chance to try and see things from their perspective, by trying your hand at playing the drums, painting, golf, model railways, ballroom dancing or whatever it is that inspired them. It might not turn out to be for you, but at least you’ll feel the warm glow of their approval.

Make something of them

The technology exists to convert a person’s ashes into a range of beautiful items, from glass to crystals and even diamonds. Jewellery made from a loved one’s ashes is a way of keeping them with you forever – and there are even more light-hearted options such as snow globes or toys.

Set aside a special place

The simplest option of all is to set aside a particular place in your home to commemorate your loved one. It needn’t be a whole room – just a corner of the living room or garden is enough to create a miniature shrine of pictures, ornaments and other mementos. A photo by a vase that always contains a fresh flower is a touching tribute that visitors will see, and the act of maintaining it is a small yet meaningful ritual that will keep them in your thoughts.

Find out more about ways to cope with bereavement.

About the author
Nick Green
Nick Green
Nick Green is a financial journalist writing for Unbiased.co.uk, the site that has helped over 10 million people find financial, business and legal advice. Nick has been writing professionally on money and business topics for over 15 years, and has previously written for leading accountancy firms PKF and BDO.