Each of the stories in this series, is the story of one or more persons who touched my heart, who left a footprint on the path of my life. For a time we shared the journey, we walked together, and then they were gone and emptiness settled where they had been.
How can a person cope in the face of profound loss? Life goes on when it feels like it should stop. Our world as we know it has ended, yet the earth keeps spinning on its axis. The sun continues to rise and set. Yet, it seems like it should stop. But, it doesn’t and we too must carry on. But how?
Each person will grieve in their own way.
I journal. I write about the pain, about the memories, about the joy that was and the sorrow that is and in time the hope of what might be someday. I look back at old journals, reminding myself of where I have been, of the obstacles God has brought me over, the trials He has brought me through. I meet myself as I was in younger years. I am reminded of forgotten little intimacies with loved ones. I tell our story and look at it from a variety of perspectives and I wrestle with questions and doubts.
In time, I come to a time and place where I am ready to do the work of “Making Meaning.”
“Making Meaning?” What’s that? We long for the life of our loved one to matter – to be remembered, to have value, to have made a difference. We long for our relationship with them to have mattered, to have made a difference. Making Meaning is our process of discovering how their life mattered and what we can do to remember it and to share it with others.
I’ve broken this final “Making Meaning” section into three parts: Remembering, Impact, and Helping.
This first part is “Remembering.” What can we do to help ourselves and others remember our loved one and the ways his or her life mattered?
Create a scrapbook. Share your favorite memories of the person or create an overview of their life. Preserve letters to them now of things you'd like to tell them if you could. Describe memories of a specific trip or event you participated in together along with pictures and memorabilia.
A memorial website. Last Memories is one site that allows you to create a page in memory of your loved one. Pictures can be posted. Articles or letters about your loved one, your feelings, your processing can be written. People can respond with memories or words of comfort of their own.
Tattoo the person’s face or name on your body.
Facebook. Maintain the person’s already existing account or create a page in their honor. Here friends and family of your loved one can continue to post messages, memories, and updates.
A garden. Set aside a space for a garden as a memorial to your loved one. It might be one that incorporates some of their favorite flowers or a small pool or waterfall – a place of beauty as a reminder of the beauty of their life.
A special gravestone. A gravestone that has a meaningful picture etched on it. One family chose to have a picture of the family farm etched on the patriarch’s stone. Another who lost a young child had her picture etched on the stone. Other’s have the stone shaped in a unique image.
Plant a tree. Planting a tree is a living reminder of your loved one and is especially appropriate for someone who loved the outdoors or who was concerned about the environment.
Write a letter. Write a letter to your loved one. You might want to save them in a special box or scrapbook to be reread periodically. If you prefer to write privately and intimately, you may want to destroy the letter once it is written. The act of writing the letter can free thoughts and emotions that might otherwise be trapped inside. When you are wrestling with an issue that you would have discussed with them, writing a letter might help you to see from their perspective as you think about how they would have responded.
A Christmas ornament. Whether you choose one special ornament to lovingly hang year after year or to add an ornament in their memory each year, this can be a way to continue to include a loved one in your Christmas traditions.
A piece of jewelry. You may want to have a piece of their jewelry reset or redesigned as a wearable reminder. Origami Owl and Keep Collective both offer custom made jewelry so that you can design your own memory piece.
Repurpose their clothes. I have heard of both pillows and stuffed animals being made from a loved one’s clothes. Often clothes retain the most powerful of all memory triggers – the scent of a person. These huggable items can bring the person close both visually and through fragrance.
This is only a few ideas for remembering a loved one.
I'd love for you to join the conversation and tell us other ideas for remembering a loved one.
I am not compensated in any way for the links provided in this post.