13 ways to keep a lost loved one’s memory alive

Remember a lost loved one in a way that feels healing and connective to you

Remembering a lost loved one in special and personal ways aids in the grieving process and establishes a legacy inspired by the person’s unforgettable life.
“By honoring a loved one after he or she has died, we are able to develop a connection with him or her that allows for a continued relationship,” said Julie Kays, a licensed clinical professional counselor, nationally certified counselor, and manager at The Counseling Center at Stella Maris in Timonium, Maryland. “In doing so, those who have died continue to be a part of our lives when we incorporate conversations, memory sharing, rituals, or acts of service in their name.”
Kays also says that the best ways to heal are those that feel right to the grievers. Below are 13 ideas for remembering a lost loved one to help inspire your journey in honoring their life and healing from your grief. These may also help you think about how you can support others who are grieving and how you want to be remembered after your own passing.

1. Make a charitable donation in your loved one’s name

You can support a cause that was important to your loved one or make a gift to the end-of-life care provider who helped your loved one feel more comfortable and at peace in their final days.

2. Visit a meaningful place

Take a trip to a locale close to your heart, where you shared memories with your loved one. You could also go to a place they always wanted to visit to feel closer to them.

3. Write letters

Compose letters to your loved one as if you’re talking with them or they can read your words, so you can continue to stay connected to the person you miss so dearly.

4. Create a garden inspired by your loved one’s memory

Planting a tree is a long-standing tradition for keeping a loved one’s memory alive. But you can take the idea a step further and plant a garden to honor your loved one. The physical activity may also keep you busy, help you feel productive, and connect you to others who will enjoy the fruits of your labor. If gardening isn’t a current hobby, it could also help you establish a part of your new identity after losing a loved one.

5. Light a candle in honor of remembering a lost loved one

Honor your loved one by lighting a candle or offering a word of prayer during a vigil or religious service.

6. Designate and dedicate a legacy bench, plaque, or paver

Mini memorial monuments such as these can have photos, text, and other personalized design elements on them that represent a loved one. The best places to set up a mini memorial monument are a spot where you will see it often or a place that was meaningful to your loved one.

7. Create a special place in your home

Fill the mantle with photos of your loved one. Carve out a certain part of the house where they often spent time and make this their place. Lay a blanket they loved on their favorite chair, so you can sit there and feel close to them.

8. Plan an event for remembering your loved one

Organize a 5K race, dance-a-thon, or spaghetti dinner, and invite your loved one’s family and friends. Make it an annual event to continue remembering them.

9. Establish annual traditions

Eat your loved one’s favorite cookies on their birthday. Release a balloon with a special note inside on the anniversary of your loved one’s passing or a specific date that’s significant to the two of you. The possibilities are endless, and you can be creative.

10. Change traditions that no longer feel right

Or you can start new traditions that make you feel good. For example, start going out to dinner on Thanksgiving if hosting at home now feels empty without your loved one.

13 signs you should seek grief counseling

11. Start a blog

Connect with other people who are grieving a lost loved one by writing about your experience. You may inspire others who are also working through the stages of grief. You may also enjoy sharing happy stories while remembering your loved one’s life.

12. Remember a loved one by keeping a piece of them close to you

Dangle your loved one’s wedding ring on a chain around your neck, wear their scarf, or turn their clothing into a blanket.

13. Learn to do something your loved one was good at

From painting to building furniture, focusing on the development of a new skill may make you feel close to your loved one while carrying on their legacy.
You could do one, several, or all of these. No matter which you choose to do, the most important part is to remember a lost loved one in whatever ways that feel healing and connective to you. And if you want to make the grieving process easier for your loved ones when you’re gone, you could write your own autobiography with Great Western Insurance Company’s “How do you want to be remembered?” storybook. Download it for free.
This article may contain links to third party websites, but Great Western Insurance Company is neither responsible nor liable for their content, accuracy, or security. Review our Terms and Conditions to learn more.
Photo credit: iStock


Find grief support

Search for grief support resources, such as in-person groups, online forums, and phone hotlines, available in your area.


Related articles

Preplanning after a loss: How do you want to be remembered?

After losing a loved one, it's natural to start wondering, 'How do I want to be remembered?' Preplanning can help you record your answers.

Read more

How to apply 5 stages of grief to your grieving process

A new look at the stages of grief model can make the pathway to healing less rocky when you're mourning a loved one. 

Read more

How to support someone who is grieving

Learn the right things to say — and what not to say — when helping a grieving loved one cope with loss.

Read more

Complicated grief: How to cope with death

If the loss of a loved one consumes your mind and causes your relationships to suffer, you may be experiencing complicated grief.

Read more

Checklist: What to do when someone dies

You've just lost a loved one. You're consumed by grief and can't think what to do next. Use this outline to walk through what to do when someone dies, step-by-step.

Read more

What you need to know about bereavement leave

When a loved one dies, you need time — to grieve and to begin the healing process. That’s why it’s necessary to understand what, if any, bereavement leave your employer offers. This list of bereavement leave questions and answers will get you started.

Read more

Understanding and coping with grief attacks

If you’re struggling with unmanageable grief attacks during bereavement, this guide can help you understand what grief panic attacks are and how to cope with them.

Read more

Grief support is available in more ways than ever

Grief support groups try to connect you with others, but not everyone feels comfortable sharing their emotions. That’s why finding the right format to receive grief support is as important as seeking it in the first place. 

Read more

How to help a child grieve a loss

Children grieve in a much different way. Their perception of death and their grieving process change in each developmental stage. That's why it’s important to explain death to a child in an age-appropriate manner.

Read more

How to avoid bereavement scams after a loved one dies

Many families face bereavement scams after the loss of a loved one. But if you know what to look for, you can avoid being scammed and focus on finding grief support.

Read more

4 ways to turn grief into positive action

Some bereaved use actions instead of emotions to grieve and to turn grief into positive effects. These stories may inspire you to do similarly as you’re coping with grief.

Read more