In the articles on how our deceased loved ones do not watch over us and do not become angels, I noted that our attempts to honor our loved ones must not dishonor God and take glory and credit that belongs to Him alone. Since those who have died no longer have anything to do with this world, how can we honor their memory?
- Sympathy Card to Loved Ones – You can send a sympathy card to the family or special friends of the deceased so they will know you are thinking about them. You may want to include a single positive memory of the deceased or lessons you learned from them. It is comforting to know that your loved one had a positive impact on the lives of others. Don’t talk about how you used to party or get into trouble together as this may not have been positive in the eyes of the grieving.
- Provide Help During The Transition – If the deceased was a parent, the surviving parent might appreciate help with the children while they take care of some of the financial and legal affairs that accompany someone’s death. Months after the death, offer to take the kids to the park or out to eat. If a husband died, help with yard work or household repairs might be needed. If a wife died, help with household chores, laundry, and meals would be greatly appreciated. This help, especially when offered long after the funeral is appreciated.
- Charitable Donation – If a person died of a disease, sometimes the family will ask that “in lieu of flowers” (instead of spending money on flowers for the funeral) make a donation to an organization that raises funds to fight the disease and help its victims. Even if the family does not request this, you can make the donation and send a sympathy card to let them know how much you gave to what organization in memory of the deceased.
- Memorial Donation – Similar to the charitable donation, you can donate money to a general scholarship fund or provide funds for a project in the name of the deceased. On a couple of occasions I have donated money to the Florida College library and asked them to purchase materials in honor of the deceased. They will usually tell you what was purchased and put a special label in the front of the book with the name of the person you want to honor. Several friends purchased materials for a church classroom in honor a preacher’s wife who was very active in teaching young people. Occasionally a special fund is set up to help provide an education for the children of the deceased or otherwise honor their memory.
- Record your memories – We think our memories will be crystal clear forever but scientific studies demonstrate that they blend with other memories and sometimes are distorted or the details forgotten. When the memories of the loved one are fresh, record special times together, the type of things you talked about, private jokes, lessons learned, and your feelings about their absence. This will not only preserve memories that you can revisit often, it will help you come to grips with your loss.
- Scrapbook – Put together a scrapbook of pictures, mementos, the newspaper obituary, and written reminisces of what you did with that person and what you learned from them. If the departed loved one has small children, you can share these things with them when they grow up and will have questions about who their loved one was and their impact on the lives of others. I love to hear people talk about good memories of my father especially since he died when I was 5 years old.
- Create a Collection – If the departed was creative, you can collect their drawings, writing, poems, music, photos, or photos of large creations (sculptures, multi-media work) and create a memorial work. Publish the collection on a web site or blog, create a memory book through a print-on-demand service (or copy store like Office Depot or Fedex/Kinkos), or have a show to demonstrate the work and share stories. I knew some friends of a young boy who was a talented cartoonist who collected his drawings and published a book after his death and it was a welcome tribute and provided comfort to his friends and family.
- Memorial Web Page- – A Google search for “memorial web pages (or sites)” yields results for companies that provide web space to share media and record the life story of the deceased. Immediate family members can “memorialize” a Facebook account to preserve it and restrict access to friends only (see http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=842)
- Memorial Gathering- Host a party or dinner to honor and reminisce about the departed loved one. This does not have to be immediately surrounding the funeral, in fact, it might be good to wait a couple of weeks to allow the initial shock and pain to be felt and the grieving to start. Write and/or record stories and scan or collect pictures to share with the group (maybe on a memorial web page). An important part of the gathering will be to comfort one another and remember the good times spent with the deceased.
- Finish Their Work – Was there a big project they were working on at the time of their death? Organize a group to finish the work. If they were involved with a charity or perhaps there was a project they were doing for the family, a lot of friends and family coming together to finish the project in their memory is a good way to accomplish something that was obviously important to the departed. The family of Michael Mason published his autobiography of his challenging life with MD. The book moves the reader from laughter to tears and provides great insight into the physical and emotional challenges of living with Muscular Distrophy. I highly recommend that you download and read his book In Body Only.
- Remembering Special Days – Birthdays, holidays, and the anniversary of the death will be difficult for the immediate family in the first few years especially. Mark on your calendar to call, visit, or send a card to the loved ones to remind them that you are thinking of them, praying for them, and you are remembering the loved one as well. After the initial frenzy surrounding the funeral, the immediate family can sometimes feel lonely or isolated and may wonder if everyone has forgotten the deceased. Reminding them of your love for them and the departed is comforting.
- Use Your Comfort to Comfort Others – As you move through the grieving process, it is often helpful to record your memories of the deceased and the spiritual lessons you are learning in the process. As you understand and accept God’s care and comfort, share that comfort with others who are grieving through conversations and the written word. My friend David Tant wrote an article several years ago about his conversations with me and my wife and others as he was grieving the loss of his father and settling his father’s financial affairs. His article has provided comfort on many occasions when I was grieving. The article is called “When Do The Tears Stop” and can be found here: