When you’re grieving the death of a loved one, it helps to find just the right way to honor their life. Sometimes that may mean painting a portrait, creating a scholarship fund, or writing down the story of your life together. Other times, when the person particularly enjoyed the sun and fresh air, it might mean creating an outdoor memorial.
To help you think through all the possibilities, here are 9 ways you could honor your loved one’s life outdoors.
1. Personalized Headstone
First, let’s look at a traditional option – a personalized headstone or grave marker. Whether it’s a burial plot or a cremation niche, you can customize a headstone or plaque that is meaningful. Include a sweet sentiment. Choose a unique color or shape. Add a photo or special image. There really are a lot of custom options available to you, if you’d like to honor your loved one’s life in this way. For more information on how you can create a one-of-a-kind headstone, read 6 Ways to Personalize a Memorial Marker or Gravestone Recipes: Adding a Sweet Touch to a Memorial Marker.
2. Bench with Memorial Message
Whether it’s at a cemetery, a favorite park, or even in the middle of downtown, you’ve likely seen memorial benches. Often built of wood or metal, the bench stands in a picturesque or meaningful location and includes a message. The message could be anything you want. Forever loved. In loving memory of <person’s name>. For <person’s name>, impractically perfect in every way. You could also choose a special quote or add a few details about the person. With metal benches, you can even include cutout shapes and various colors to make the bench even more unique.
3. Remembrance Tree
If you prefer a completely natural option, you can plant a remembrance tree. While it’s certainly not required, you can also bury a loved one’s ashes with the tree. There are biodegradable urns specifically intended for this purpose. In the top section, seeds and soil mix together, and the ashes rest in a lower section. First, the seeds grow in the soil, and once they reach a certain level of growth, the roots spread down to the ashes, and everything mingles together. With this option, you have grown a tree that supports the environment, but also created a lasting memorial for someone you love.
4. Memorial Flag
Whether you want a smaller garden flag or a full-sized flag, you can order a custom flag to honor your loved one’s life. Add a favorite photo. Use their favorite color. Choose a flag with a special image, like hearts, flowers, teddy bears, bees. Whatever makes it personal. Then, display it whenever you want. You may want to leave it out all year, or you could put it out on the person’s birthday or the anniversary of their death. There’s no right or wrong way. Simply do what feels right and helps you honor their life.
5. Garden Stone
You don’t need a garden to use an outdoor garden stone to honor a loved one’s life. You can either add a personalized plaque to a larger rock, or you can paint a smaller rock. Then, you can place the stone outside your home in a place that makes the most sense for you. That might be in your yard, on your patio, or lined against the walkway to your front door. This option is very versatile, and if you move or want to change things up, you can easily transport the stone to a new location.
6. Bird Feeder
If birds are special to you or your loved one, then a memorial bird feeder may be just the right thing. You can choose one that appeals to you and add personalized elements, such as a loved one’s name or photo. You can choose the color or design based on their favorite feathered friend, such as red for the cardinal or rust orange for the robin. Then, select the best tree in your yard for its home. Every time you see a bird visiting the feeder, it’s like your loved one is enjoying it, too.
7. Wind Chime
If you don’t have a large outdoor space, a wind chime doesn’t require much room and holds its own charm. Select a wind chime that feels like the perfect match for your needs and then find a space to hang it up. You can even add customized touches, like a specific color or engraving. Once its in place, the chime’s windswept tones will become a sweet reminder. Some days, it may even feel as if your loved one has stopped by to say hello.
8. Memorial Cross
All of us have passed memorial crosses on the side of the road, marking the place where someone loved lost their life. For those who are lost tragically, a memorial cross can bring a sense of comfort to family and friends. It provides a place to mourn, but it also brings attention. Other people – even strangers – will pass by and think kindly of your loved one. Who were they? What were they like? And in a small way, your loved one’s memory lives on and serves as a reminder to value life and to live well.
Finally, while this option is not for everyone, it may feel right and appropriate for your circumstances. With this form of outdoor memorial, there really are no creative boundaries. Though the most famous memorial sculptures are often associated with historical figures or key historical events, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can commission something small for your own backyard or for a local organization your loved one supported. In fact, many organizations have a memorial wall where beloved contributors are honored and remembered.
Please remember, these ideas only scratch the surface. There are so many ways that you can honor a loved one with an outdoor memorial, so let your imagination loose. And as you consider the best way to honor your loved one’s life, you will find that the process is helping you work through your feelings on the journey to healing and reconciliation.