Your gain: Discover ways to honor loved ones that have passed year-round, during holidays, or special events. I’m excited to share these ideas with you so you can find some inspiration to remember and observe the memory of a loved one in the most special way possible.

Where to Start

When it comes to the loss of someone special, finding a way to honor them or keep their memory alive can feel overwhelming. There are days where sometimes it never feels like enough, or it doesn’t do them justice. It may even make you feel worse, especially if it’s a stark reminder of their absence. I’ve definitely had those days. 

The holidays, an anniversary, a birthday, a would-have-been due date—you name it—can be one of the most difficult times of year in general. Let alone finding the perfect tribute to pay your respects to a loved one. My hope with this entry is to give you a little inspiration on ways to continue to keep their legacy and memory alive for years to come.

By the way, if you missed it, I’d love for you to check out my post on embracing the holidays after a loss if you’re really struggling with a particular holiday, getting into the holiday spirit, or find it difficult to engage with all of the merriment and excitement around you.

23 Ways to Honor Loved Ones

These are just a handful of ideas to get you started; but, I hope they spark some joy or perhaps other fun ideas for you to try that feel fitting to you!

  1. Make a special dish or recipe they (or you/your family) loved. My mom’s chocolate chip cookies and French chicken recipes are a staple in our household. Around the holidays, I try and shake it up and make some other fun cookies or a dish we all loved to share together. Enter—stuffing at Thanksgiving, Ghirardelli brownies, and my dad’s famous meatloaf that I don’t actually have a recipe for…
  2. Go to a restaurant they liked. If cooking isn’t your thing, venture to a favorite restaurant and let someone else do the heavy lifting (for me, that’s the dishes)! Nothing wrong with that. If there’s not specific eatery, simply choose a cuisine they loved—something as simple (but delicious) as tacos. None of this has to be fancy, it’s truly the thought that counts.
  3. Have a moment of silence before dinner.
  4. Do an activity they enjoyed.
  5. Play songs that remind you of them.
  6. Watch their favorite movie.
  7. Visit a sentimental place. This could be their burial site if that’s possible or relevant. If that’s too difficult emotionally, simply visit somewhere they loved.
  8. Support or volunteer for a cause that is close to your heart (or was close to theirs). If it was a disease or illness they journeyed through, consider giving time or funds to a cause or charity associated with that.
  9. Design a memory book, scrapbook, or photo album.
  10. Put out a photo or two in a more obvious place than usual to make them feel like they’re closer to you. I know this can be painful at first, but don’t be afraid to make their presence known. You’ll get used to seeing it there and it will, eventually, bring comfort.
  11. Watch a home video (this is my favorite) or look at photos.
  12. Say a prayer for them. This can be a daily ritual, something you do on holidays, or whenever you feel appropriate.
  13. Send a message on a lantern and release it. This is on my to-do list!
  14. Remember to talk about them. Yes, this can hurt and bring up some sadness or tears. I promise you, after a while, it starts feeling more joyful and cathartic than painful.

Holiday-Inspired Ways to Honor Them

These can be done any time of year, but I find these fun to put a little holiday twist on them!

A man and woman couple in their 60's, smiling at the camera with a Christmas tree in the background to honor the holiday
  1. Create a new tradition in memory of them.
  2. Create a memorial wreath, tree, menorah, etc.
  3. Put together an altar or area in the home where they can clearly be commemorated. For example, the beautiful tributes seen around Dia de Los Muertos. For us, I have this sweet photo of my parents that was taken before they went out to my mom’s company holiday party that’s placed in our Christmas tree. Here is that photo 🙂
  4. Make a special holiday ornament or memento.
  5. Put out a ‘memory stocking’ or ‘memory box’ where you and others can write down memories you treasure. Pick a time to read them together. Whether this is on a specific holiday or whenever you feel the need, there’s no bad time to do this.
  6. Invite someone who doesn’t have any family nearby or anywhere to go. I love this idea and think it’s so thoughtful, especially if leaving an open seat at the table where the deceased would have been is too much.
  7. Donate a holiday meal to a family in need through a local church, salvation army, or department of social services.
  8. Light a candle in their honor.

The reality is you may never feel completely whole. Or like any of the above ways to honor them are enough. That’s okay. Even with these ways to show your love, thoughts, and respect, at the end of the day what matters is that you tried. Your loved ones would be grateful and smiling down on you for any and all effort, too. 

Don’t Shy Away From Remembering

I encourage you not to shy away from remembering, as painful as it is sometimes. It’s truly a part of your healing process, and no one ever said it’d be easy. For a very long time, I could only focus on the memories I had of my parents being ill. Not when they were healthy and happy. It was the strangest feeling. On one hand, I didn’t want to remember those memories of illness because they were so painful to watch and endure. On the other, I desperately didn’t want to lose my most recent memories. It was a really difficult push/pull to deal with.

Do not push it if it’s too much for you. When the time is right, some of these ideas may speak to you. I do want to recommend one thing, though. Whether celebrating on a specific/special day or not, consider making the day or celebration more joyful or even humorous. Remember funny events, comical things they said or did, or anecdotes about them. I can’t promise it won’t have its sad moments without their amazing personality there in the room with you. But, it beats the heck out of remembering someone in a negative state. I think it’s safe to say they wouldn’t want you to remember them that way, and their spirit certainly isn’t that way now.

Take It Day by Day

Grief is a long process that never truly ends. It’s confusing, emotional, and one heck of a rollercoaster that goes in and out of a lot of dark tunnels. I want for you to know that you have the power to come out of that darkness and despair to embrace a sunny, comforting, safe space that’s even brighter than the curves life just threw at you. Give yourself grace. Remember that no matter what idea you come up with to honor someone, as long as it’s special to you, that’s all that matters.

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