7 ways to keep your loved one’s memories alive

Written by Trudie McConnochie for Real Insurance.

Saying goodbye to someone you love is an incredibly painful experience that everyone will go through at some point in life, but finding ways to staying connected with your loved one and the memories you have of them, can help you heal.   

Specialist bereavement counsellor Jackie Tarabay from the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement says grief is an emotional response to the loss of someone important to us.

“Grief often impacts several areas of our life – emotions, thoughts, physical wellbeing, beliefs, relationships and our behaviour,” she explains. “The experience of grief can sometimes be overwhelming; it can sometimes feel like a storm. You may feel like the storm has passed, then out of the blue another storm strikes, catching you by surprise.”

Corinne Laan, author of The Art of Grieving: Gentle Self-care Practices to Heal a Broken Heart, says that while everyone will move through the grief process differently, being kind to yourself at every stage can help.

“A healthier way to grieve is by being an active participant in our grieving and healing process,” she says. “We must feel the emotions and everything else, no matter how painful and heartbreaking they may be. This is the most important part of healthy grief – the ability to attend to our grief with love and compassion.”

It may be helpful to think of death as the end of a life, but not the end of the relationship, says Jackie.

“When someone dies, our experience of grief isn’t a straightforward process which ends in saying goodbye,” she explains. “Instead, when someone dies, we gently and slowly find ways to adapt and redefine our relationship with the deceased person, allowing for a continued bond with them.”

Here are seven ways you can help to ensure your connection with that person continues.

1. Create a remembrance garden

Setting up a remembrance garden in a corner of your garden and dedicating it to your loved one’s memory can be healing, says Corinne.

“Taking care of the plants is a symbolic way of tending to the love you have for your loved one,” she explains. “As the plants grow and change with the seasons, it can be a reminder that your grief can change and transform over time, just like the plants you are caring for.”

If you have no outdoor space, you could do this with potted indoor plants.

2. Write a letter

Writing (or typing) a letter to your loved one is a great way to feel connected to them, says Jackie. It also gives you a way to express your thoughts and feelings, rather than keeping them bottled up inside.

“You may want to start by telling them about all the things you wished you had said or done while they were alive,” she says. “How life has changed since their death, be it great sadness, moments of joy or laughter. Other things you could consider are sweet memories, regrets, and the wonderful gifts they have given you.”

3. Create a memorial website

Tapping into a virtual space when you’re missing your loved one can be a comforting way to celebrate their life. There’s an abundance of free sites online that allow you to set up a memorial website dedicated to your loved one, then enables you to share it with others.

“It’s also a great way to bring a community of people together to share in the remembrance and life celebration,” adds Jackie.

4. Compile a book

If you prefer a more analogue tribute, create a notebook or scrapbook where people can write memories about your loved one, which you can read whenever you need to.

“It highlights the gifts given by the deceased, allowing the bereaved person to carry their legacy,” Jackie says.

5. Create a playlist

Music has long been considered a powerful vessel for healing, so by putting together a playlist of your loved one’s favourite songs, it can help evoke memories of them. Invite friends to contribute to the playlist so they can play it too.

“It creates an opportunity to reminisce and celebrate the deceased person,” Jackie says.

6. Reframe birthdays and holidays

Your loved one’s birthday, anniversary and the Christmas holidays can be especially tough when you’re grieving. Corinne suggests creating new rituals around these events that honour your loved one – for example, gathering friends and family together to celebrate what that person meant to you.

“You can cook their favourite meal, dedicate the start of the festivities with raising a glass in their memory, fill your living room with their favourite flowers,” she suggests.

7. Donate to charity

Did your loved one support a particular charity, or was there a cause close to their heart? You could make a charitable donation in their name, or take it a step further and start an ongoing relationship with that organisation.

“You can also participate in a fundraising event to raise money in your loved one’s memory and involve friends and family to help you raise funds or support you,” Corinne suggests. “You can even make it an annual event to honour your loved one’s anniversary.”