by Anne Peterson
Death. The true thief. It comes without warning and snatches away those who are important to us.
And even when we know our loved one is ill, that their death is imminent, we still hope, that just maybe they won’t die.
You’ve stood at the grave of your lost one, though honestly, you can’t believe you made it through their burial.
I felt that way just a couple of years ago as I stood at the grave of my granddaughter. They say you aren’t supposed to outlive your children. The same is true for your grandchildren.
Here are some ways to honor those you’ve lost.
Everyone grieves differently
First, it might be a good idea to make sure that you have others who will join you in your endeavor. Find others who feel the same as you. And explain to them this is just another way to grieve. To remember how important your loved one is. Not was.
Don’t be surprised if some don’t share your idea. There are many people who believe that after you have grieved for a while, it’s time to move on. Most of the people who hold this view have not laid to rest someone close to them.
Or sadly, if they have, their grieving was cut short from others who held up a timetable.
Let me go on record as saying, no one can tell you how long you should grieve. Everyone grieves differently.
Birthdays are difficult
Birthdays are celebrations. You stop and celebrate the fact that this person is another year older. And as you celebrate, you think back to the day they were born.
There are balloons, there is cake. It is a happy time.
But what about when your loved stops having birthdays. That doesn’t lessen the importance of the day he/she was born, does it?
When my granddaughter’s birthday rolls around, I believe there is still celebration going on in my son’s home.
They look at pictures and videos of his daughter’s life. All 14 months of it. And I’m pretty sure there is cake.
One year they lit a lantern and lifted it up to the sky. Unfortunately, it burst into flames and Nathan ended up chasing it down the street to make sure it didn’t land on a house.
Birthdays can still be celebrated. Maybe you don’t feel like singing, but you could still celebrate the fact this precious life was born.
Your loved one won’t be getting older, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pause and thank God for the precious time you had with them.
Every year without fail when we approach the anniversary dates of those we’ve lost, we start feeling sad. It’s normal. It’s expected.
But what if you plan on something instead of letting the day dictate how you feel.
What if you make your loved one’s favorite dish and share it?
What if you spend some time looking at pictures. Thinking of some memories and creating new ones. Did your loved one like going to the movies? Pick a movie or rent one and invite a few people over.
We honor those we’ve lost by thinking about what they’ve meant to us.
Set aside some time to reflect on a memory that is precious to you. Do what you can to take the hard part out of anniversary dates.
Sometimes when I’m missing my mom, I like to listen to a favorite song of hers. That’s a warm reminder of a little part of my mom. It’s a small connection, but one that makes me feel good.
She liked Elusive Butterfly. Listening to it the first time was hard. It took a while. But now I like listening to it. I’m enjoying something she enjoyed.
Talk about your loved one
You may find as time goes on that some people have stopped talking about your loved one. And while one of your fears has been that he/she would be forgotten, they are continually on your mind.
It feels funny when others don’t talk about them. And yet, we have to fight the temptation to conclude that it means our loved ones didn’t matter to others. We know they did. It’s just that life kind of pushes other things out when it takes over.
But if you think about it, there is probably one or two people who you feel close to who would be glad to reminisce with you.
In the beginning, when I lost my sister, I found it so hard that I would just share with people I hardly knew that my sister was killed. It’s not that I wanted to shock them, though that probably happened. It’s just that I had this burning desire to talk about her.
To just take out one of my memories and linger there a while.
And if you can’t find someone, then get by yourself, take a few favorite pictures and tell the Lord, how much you miss them. Share a story that means a lot to you. God will listen. He’s near the brokenhearted.
Plant a tree
Maybe you’d like a special place you could go and just sit and think about the one you miss. Maybe you could plant a tree in his/her honor. And as it grows you can go and sit beneath it. It will be your special place.
I’ve heard of people doing this and it gives them pleasure having a designated spot.
And the tree could grow and house birds and remind you that even though your loved one is gone, you still have love for them.
Love doesn’t die when our loved one dies.
Write a letter
This website, AfterTalk.com is devoted to writing to your deceased loved one. You can do so privately with the security of knowing that nobody else can read what you have written, or you can set AfterTalk up to share with relatives and friends, even uploading photos and videos. You can even set up AfterTalk to share your writings with your therapist. For more about this, go to this link:
I remember the first time a counselor suggested I write my sister a letter.
“What’s the use?” I asked the counselor.
“I want you to write 3 letters,” she continued. “Don’t type them either, they need to be handwritten. And wait about one or two weeks between each letter.”
I was reluctant at first, but my desire to keep working through my grief was stronger than my resistance.
I noticed my first letter was angry. I was angry that she didn’t tell us what was going on sooner. Angry that I was here, and she was not. Angry that I had so much to tell her and nowhere to share it.
A funny thing happened as I wrote the subsequent letters. My anger started to dissipate, and my sadness started feeling free enough to come out.
Yes, I cried a lot when I wrote, but tears are necessary in grief. Don’t ever keep yourself from crying.
By the time I had written my third letter, I felt as if I had actually talked to my sister. It felt good. Yes, I still missed her, but I felt like the connection was not lost, it had just changed form.
Live your life
There’s another way to honor our loved ones. A way that seems unnecessary to even mention, but I have to.
Sometimes when we are living and we’ve said goodbye to our loved ones we have what they call, “survival guilt,” Why are we here when they are gone?
It was hard for me for a long time to enjoy anything when my mom died. It felt like I shouldn’t enjoy anything if she wasn’t here to enjoy it as well.
But when I heard my son and his wife talk about losing precious Livie. They kept talking about being present. She had taught them to be present in their lives because if they weren’t they would miss something.
I believe a beautiful way to honor our love done is to live life fully. To be present and to appreciate everything we have.
To breathe life in and fully experience every second.
Living is a way to honor those who have died.
Death changes us
Each time we say goodbye to a loved one, we change. With each loss I’ve learned how important relationships are. And this is something that I keep learning, it’s not a one time and you’ve got it, kind of thing.
We can actually incorporate what we’ve learned into our lives and it will be a wonderful reminder of the life they lived.
Every time I choose to be present in my life I think of sweet Livie.
When I see Lilies of the Valley, I think of my mother.
When I eat ice cream, I think of my sister.
Donate to a cause
Maybe your loved one died of cancer. You can make a donation in his/her name.
I once ran a 4K race and put my cousin’s name on the piece of paper pinned to my back. It was a race to raise money for cancer research and we had just lost our cousin, Pattie, to cancer.
Maybe you could donate to something near and dear to your loved one’s heart.
If we give it some time, maybe we’ll think of the perfect way to honor our loved ones.
There is coming a day when I’ll see my loved ones again. In a place with no cancer, no Trisomy 18, no killing.
And I will sit and talk to my loved ones non-stop.
But can I tell you something? I won’t feel like I have to store up my love for them. I can tell them about that now.
Those I’ve lost may be gone, but they’ll never be forgotten.
If your pain is fresh, then maybe any of these suggestions are too difficult, and that’s okay. Be where you are.
Our son, Nathan, kept track of his thoughts as he and his wife still got to see and hold their precious daughter, Olivia. Eventually his thoughts turned into 4 projects. Two vinyl albums and two books. They chronicle his journey of grief.
If you’d like to know more about that, you can check that out here:
Even if you’re not interested in his projects, what he says on his video may bring you healing. He talks about rest. Something those in grief long for.
Be where you are in your grief. Don’t let anyone tell you how long grief should take.
I’m very sorry for your loss. I hope one day you will be able to rest. And as you go through your grief, I hope you will get to the place you realize that you already honor the one you’ve lost. Every time you think of them, you give them honor.
Every single time.
Free, Non-Profit and Non-denominational
We invite you to submit your thoughts, essays, poems or songs. Please send to email@example.com. To see past AfterTalk Weeklies, CLICK HERE