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Top 15 Bible Verses for a Celebration of Life Service

By Explore Options, Meaningful Funerals, Planning Tools

A Christian funeral service is not complete without a few readings from scripture. Readings can help mourners process the loss and find meaning in the midst of pain. Additionally, the Bible is full of verses that give hope to the hopeless, comfort to the grieving, and the promise of an eternal future with God at the end of life.

Personalizing the service with your loved one’s favorite verses or passages that bring hope can help you create a healing and meaningful service for all who attend. Now, let’s explore a few options.

Verses to Bring Comfort

When someone you love dies, you may experience a wide variety of emotions: sadness, anger, shock, denial, relief, and guilt, to name a few. In the midst of the emotional turmoil, words of comfort from the Bible can be exactly what you and other mourners need.

Matthew 11: 28-30

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Matthew 5:4

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Psalm 34:18

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

Lamentations 3:22-26, 31-33

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him! The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord. For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love. For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.

Verses to Remember God’s Promises

Remembering the promises God has made to his people can not only comfort mourners, but in many ways, it will also bring a renewed perspective of who God will be through this trial.

John 14:1-3

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.

Romans 8:35, 37-39

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

John 14:27

 I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

Psalm 56:10-13

I praise God for what he has promised; yes, I praise the Lord for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me? I will fulfill my vows to you, O God, and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help. For you have rescued me from death; you have kept my feet from slipping. So now I can walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light.

Verses of Hope for the Future

In addition to feeling God’s comfort and remembering His promises, the Bible gives hope for the future – an eternal life in God’s presence. Moreover, verses that talk about Christ’s sacrifice and his victory over death give comfort that earthly death is not the end. Jesus has conquered death, as have His children. Because of his sacrifice, there is hope. Hope for a future filled with God’s goodness. Hope for life with Him in heaven.

1 Corinthians 15:50-57

What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever. But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

John 11:25-26

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.

Job 19:25-27

But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last.  And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!

Philippians 1:21-23

For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me.

*All Scripture references are from the New Living Translation of the Holy Bible.

4 Ways Visiting a Loved One’s Grave Can Help You Grieve

By Grief/Loss, Memorial

Losing a loved one can cause our entire world to start spinning. For some of us, the spinning doesn’t completely stop for a while. One loss may take a year to process while another loss may take ten years before the person feels ready to move forward. Both of these scenarios are normal – they are just different. As we deal with our whirling emotions, we need a way to bring ourselves back to reality. In other words, we need something that will ground us and give us peace at the same time. One way we can accomplish this is by visiting a loved one’s final resting place.

4 Ways Visiting a Loved One’s Grave Can Help You Grieve

Dr. Alan Wolfelt, respected grief expert, author, and counselor, says, “I have learned that we cannot go around the pain of our grief. Instead, we must learn to embrace and express it. This is hard but absolutely necessary work.” So, how does visiting the graveside help us do the work of grief?

Provides a place of connection

For some, a loved one’s final resting place is a cemetery. For others, particularly those whose loved one was cremated, a final resting place may be a body of water, a park, or some other special place. No matter where that place may be, going there may help you feel more connected to the person you love. Knowing that you are where they are, or you are in a place special to them, brings a sense of connectedness and closeness that may be less achievable in other places.

Provides a time for solitude, contemplation, or prayer

After losing a loved one, you may be feeling a lot of emotions. Sometimes, it’s beneficial to sit in quiet and take time to think or to pray. If you are someone who journals, take a notebook to the cemetery with you and simply write out what you’re thinking and feeling. Being so close to your loved one may help you sincerely express what’s in your heart and on your mind.

Provides an opportunity to talk to your loved one

What wouldn’t we give for just one more conversation with a loved one? While you may not hear their answers, you can still talk to a lost loved one. You’ve seen it in movies and on TV – it’s a real thing. People want to feel a sense of connection. They want to talk to the person they’ve lost. What do they do? They go to the cemetery and have the conversation they need to have. It’s normal, natural, and a meaningful way to grieve. So, if you want to have that conversation, go do it. You’ll feel better.

Provides a comforting tradition

For many people, visiting a loved one’s grave becomes part of a comforting tradition. They bring flowers or mementoes on special days, like birthdays or holidays. They spend time talking to their loved one, updating them on the grandkids, the new house, or whatever else they want. At first, the tradition may be sad, but over time, visiting the grave becomes a joyful and peace-filled ritual that brings comfort and keeps a loved one’s memory alive and strong.

What Can You Do at the Graveside?

You can tailor your visit to your own and your family’s needs. There’s really no wrong way to go about this. However, to give you a start, here are a few thoughts to consider.

  • Bring a bouquet of flowers to leave
  • Place a favorite photo at the grave
  • Decorate the grave (i.e. for Christmas or a birthday)
  • Walk and/or kneel and pray or meditate
  • Talk to your loved one, sharing your plans for the future or reflecting on the past
  • If you came with family members or friends, share memories
  • If there’s a bench nearby, sit down and eat a picnic lunch or simply take in your surroundings

A Few Etiquette Tips

No matter what you decide to do, make sure to act respectfully at the cemetery. A few tips:

  • Familiarize yourself with any posted cemetery rules
  • Leash your pets (and clean up after them)
  • Drive slowly and be alert
  • Respect the graves of others
  • Be respectful of funeral services and other mourners
  • Clean up after yourself and others

As you grieve the loss of a loved one, consider the power of connection and reflection a visit to your loved one’s final resting place can bring. If nothing else, give it a try at least once to see if it works for you. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t, but at least you’ll know. As you look for what’s right for you on your grief journey, may you find peace and comfort as you grieve your loved one and find a way to move forward.

Supporting a Friend Dealing with Suicide Loss

By Grief/Loss, Loss from Suicide

Any loss takes a toll on us emotionally, mentally, and physically. However, losing a loved one to suicide carries an extra level of challenge and confusion. Not only are suicide loss survivors processing the death of their loved one, they are also grappling with questions they may never have the answers to. Why did this happen? Could I have done something to prevent it?

If you know someone who is dealing with the loss of a loved one to suicide, they need your compassion and support more than anything else. You may not feel you are the most qualified person to help your friend, but you can do small things to help as they process their pain and walk down the path toward healing. Let’s review a few simple tips.

1. Listen attentively

First of all, be a safe place. Anyone dealing with suicide loss is processing many conflicting emotions and troubling questions. If they want to talk, be an attentive and caring listener. Also, let them decide what to share and when. Even if you have also lost someone to suicide, don’t assume that your friend’s grief is like yours. No two grief journeys are the same because no two people are the same. Instead, listen without judgment. Or, if they aren’t ready to talk, be patient and ask simple questions about how they are doing. Your questions about their welfare may open up a door to talk. If not, simply move the conversation to other topics.

2. Don’t ask for explanations or details

Stay away from asking too many questions. Your friend may feel like you are more interested in the gossipy details than you are in their welfare. Plus, your friend may be grappling with the same questions themselves, and your questions only emphasize just how little they actually know. Instead, focus on supporting them and listening to what they have to say about their loved one and the feelings they are dealing with. In time, you may learn all the information you’re curious about, but in the beginning, focus on just being a friend.

3. Be sensitive

Words are powerful. What we say has the power to build others up, tear them down, make them feel important, or make them pull away from us. So, as you talk and interact with your friend, be sensitive. That means, don’t try to fix things or brush over their difficult emotions. Don’t try to share in “troubles talk” by comparing your grief experiences to theirs. Instead, consider your words carefully. Ask yourself, “Would I find these words helpful?” If not, don’t say them and find other ways to offer support and love. For a few suggestions on what NOT to say, click here.

4. Make them feel comfortable

As mentioned earlier, be a safe place for your grieving friend. They may feel pressure, both internally and externally, to hide what happened. Suicide loss survivors often deal with a certain stigma from society and may feel alone or isolated. Your role as a friend is to make them feel comfortable, loved, valuable, and heard. Assure them that you want to hear what’s on their heart and mind. Make it known that you don’t think any differently of them and simply want to be there to love and support them through their grief journey.

5. Help them honor their loved one’s memory

More often than not, suicide comes after a long mental health battle, most commonly depression. It’s always important to remember that our loved ones are more than the way they died. Taking time to remember them and honor their life is an important part of the grieving process. So, share memories and stories with your friend that include their lost loved one. Use their loved one’s first name. Encourage your friend to write a letter to say all the things they didn’t get to say. Watch their loved one’s favorite movie, look at photos, or plant a memorial tree. Every life is worth remembering, no matter how it came to an end.

6. Stay close

Losing a family member to suicide is often especially devastating. While any kind of death may be difficult to bear, suicide can haunt survivors. In fact, research tells us that those who lose a loved one to suicide are more likely to commit suicide themselves. However, those who received support and didn’t feel so stigmatized after their loss were at far less risk. So, make sure to stay close and be consistent with your love and support. They don’t need you just this week or this month – they need you long term. Allow them to talk about their grief whenever they feel the need and assure them that their emotions are valid and important.

Note: If you notice that your friend is struggling with their grief on a much deeper level, encourage them to see a grief counselor or therapist who can help them work through these complex emotions. Some things are beyond your capabilities, and it’s okay to seek help.

7. Offer to help

Grief is exhausting and throws off our established routine. So, to help your friend get the rest they need, offer to help with the practical things. Run errands, provide rides to appointments, pick up the kids from school, or walk the dog. Look for ways to help and ask, “Can I watch the kids tomorrow afternoon so you can rest?” After you’ve helped with a few tasks, try asking them directly how you can help. Since you’ve already established that you want to help, they will be more likely to tell you what they need. Each of these tasks may seem small, but to someone who is grieving, your actions mean support, friendship, and kindness.

Now that you have a few simple tips, go out there and support your grieving friends. We aren’t meant to walk through life alone. We need each other, through the good times and bad. As we support each other, we spread kindness and love to those who matter the most to us.

5 Obituary Writing Tips We Can Learn From Viral Obituaries

By Plan Ahead, Planning Tools

If we’re honest, all too often obituaries are a little formulaic and offer only a few facts and details. They don’t truly reflect the person who has died – their personality, life circumstances, decisions, or impact on the world around them. While not every obituary will go viral, there are a few things you can learn from viral obituaries that will help you craft an obituary that reflects the unique life of the person you love.

Before we begin, it’s valuable to understand the purpose of the obituary. Dating back to around 59 B.C., the obituary has evolved over time. In our current day, it serves both as an announcement of the death and service details and as an opportunity to honor, remember, and celebrate a life in a meaningful way.

5 Obituary Writing Tips We Can Learn from Viral Obituaries

Below, we are going to look at 5 obituaries that have gone viral in the last few years and take away a helpful tip from each one.

1. Paint a picture

It’s hard to connect to someone when you don’t know them and can’t see them. But good obituaries do just that. They make you wish you’d known the person who has died. You feel like you could connect to them in some way. So, make an effort to paint a picture of your loved one’s life. Discuss what made them unique and one-of-a-kind. In Joe Heller’s viral obituary, his family chose to highlight his mischievous side, focusing on his pranks, his frugality, and his charm.

Since every person is different, choose a few characteristics that clearly define your loved one’s life and personality. Focus on bringing those few aspects to life as you paint a picture.

2. Be genuine

Every life has its ups and downs. Some may be more up and others more down. As you write an obituary, it’s important to be genuine. This doesn’t mean that you give away secrets or expose dirty laundry. It simply means that you strive for authenticity and sincerity.

For example, in Bill Ebeltoft’s viral obituary, his family openly spoke about his mental health struggles after the Vietnam War and how that experience deeply affected the rest of his life. By the end of the obituary, you come to care about Bill and wish that he had been dealt a different hand. His family didn’t expose anything deeply personal or inappropriate. You can tell from the tone and the wording that they deeply love Bill and want to mourn him in a genuine and sincere way.

As you craft an obituary, you will put a little bit of yourself into the words. As you write, get in touch with what you feel about your loved one and lace the words with your own sincerity.

3. Find a balance

Every personality is different, and they each come with their quirks. That’s why it’s always good to find a balance when writing an obituary. Write about the good, the bad, the funny, and the serious. The key to finding balance is often in the voice and tone you use. For instance, in Tim Schrandt’s viral obituary, the family set a tone somewhere between humorous and irreverent. But it works. You get a sense of who Tim was as a person while also understanding that he may have been a handful. His family didn’t beat around the bush, but they found a balance that honored Tim’s life and his quirks.

Your loved one may be a “character,” or they may be the sweetest, most genteel person you know. Either way, find a way to balance the different aspects of their life and character as you paint the picture of their life.

4. Offer specifics

Sometimes, it’s the details that make the difference. As you write the obituary, don’t be afraid to liberally sprinkle the little details into the mix. For instance, in an obituary she wrote herself, Dorothy McElhaney called herself the “Grand Diva of All Things Domestic” after she got married. In her viral obituary, Dorothy went into detail about her childhood remembrances, her beloved family, and even makes mention of blue ribbons she won at the State Fair for her famous sugar cookies. It’s the details that make Dorothy’s obituary sweet, thoughtful, and genuine. She shares openly about herself, wanting us to know her and the life she lived.

5. Inspire others

One last thing we can learn from viral obituaries is that they can be used to inspire others. When you are genuine, real, and vulnerable, you can truly touch hearts and make positive change in the lives of others. Take Sonia Todd. Knowing she was dying of cancer, Sonia decided to write her own obituary, which went viral several years after her death. She spoke of being real, sharing the truth, loving people, admitting mistakes, and doing something worthwhile.

You don’t have to be famous or notable to make a difference in the world. Sometimes, you just need to be sincere, be honest, and encourage others to live their best life.

A Final Note

It would be remiss if we didn’t also talk about what not to say in an obituary. In recent years, some obituaries have gone viral because they were used as a place to release pent-up negative emotions. These types of obituaries go viral for two main reasons: 1) they are shocking, and 2) people are concerned about the emotional health of the person who wrote the obituary.

While you may have feelings of anger, disappointment, even rage, toward the person who has died, the obituary is not the place to find healing. As we discussed earlier, the obituary announces service details and meaningfully celebrates a life. If you can’t honestly celebrate the life of your family member, that’s okay. Simply don’t write an obituary. Or, ask someone who has never met your family member to write the obituary with just the facts and service details.

Unfortunately, every person does not bring joy, happiness, and encouragement to others. Sometimes, the person who has died was abusive or hurtful. Instead of writing an obituary, consider taking some time alone to write down everything that needs to be said. Write the good, the bad, the very ugly. Then, take action. Burn the words you’ve written, rip them up, get rid of them somehow. This symbolic act can serve as a release, a way of taking back your life and refusing to be a prisoner to that person’s influence any longer. Don’t let them rob you of healing and wholeness. Get the emotions out on paper, release them totally from your life, and breathe freely for the first time in a long time. Your family member is gone. Holding onto the pain will only hurt you. Instead, turn over a new leaf and begin a new season in your life.

More Resources

To learn more about the building blocks of writing an obituary, go to How to Write a Great Obituary.

To see some examples of simple yet personalized obituaries, go to 5 Great Obituary Examples.

How to Make Up for the Loss of Human Touch During the Coronavirus Pandemic

By COVID-19, Grief/Loss

My first grandchild was born in early 2020, right as the COVID-19 pandemic was gaining momentum. I got a social-distancing, several-feet-away peek at him early on, but then we were kept apart for three long months out of an abundance of caution that his mom (my daughter), 60-something me, and the healthy-but-vulnerable newborn all stayed safe.

As the shelter-in-place weeks slogged by, I found myself more and more impatient to hold the little guy. I wanted to touch his tiny fingers, nuzzle his rose-petal cheeks, and snuggle up with him for a long, cozy bonding session.

And I wasn’t only craving the touch of my grandson. I found myself missing sitting close to friends and loved ones, sharing kisses and shoulder squeezes, hugs and handshakes. Like so many people the world over, I was becoming touch deprived. Even those of us who don’t consider ourselves huggy, touchy people are realizing that we need the physical proximity and touch of other human beings to feel well, especially during times of uncertainty and anxiety.

(Photo courtesy of Dr. Alan Wolfelt)

The power of touch

As a longtime grief counselor and educator, I know that touch helps us feel loved and empathized with. After a significant loss, grieving people who are hugged, touched and visited often report feeling comforted and supported. They also experience that sense of connection that helps them continue to feel meaning and purpose in life.

Since touch is physical, it has bodily effects. When we are touched in comforting ways, our brains are flooded with dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. These feel-good hormones help regulate our mood and make us feel calmer and happier.

When we aren’t touched, on the other hand, our brains suffer from the lack of these chemicals. We may feel depressed, anxious and stressed. We might also have more trouble sleeping.

In addition, touch stimulates the vagus nerve, which branches throughout our entire bodies. Its role is to calm the nervous system, which in turn helps boost our immune systems and can lower our blood pressure and heart rate.

If you’ve been feeling depressed, anxious or stressed; if you’ve been having sleep issues; or if you’ve felt unwell physically, lack of physical touch may be the culprit.

Of course, even before COVID, our culture was becoming more and more socially distanced. Instead of face-to-face contact, we have increasingly relied on technology as a main form of interface. Texting, emailing and posting on social media have become the primary ways of “keeping in touch” — even though, ironically, they involve no touching at all.

The social distancing of the pandemic has only heightened our reliance on technology. We’re grateful, of course, for the electronic means of maintaining connection. Without them, we’d be truly disconnected and utterly separated. But at the same time, we’re realizing their limitations.

Our high-tech, low-touch lifestyles aren’t enough. We need and crave physical human contact. We are skin hungry. We are eye-contact empty. We are touch starved.

Tips for feeding your touch starvation

Tell your family and friends about your need for touch. If you’re sheltering in place with others, talk to them about touch starvation and how you’re feeling. Maybe your roommates are craving touch as well. Depending on your relationships, hugs, shoulder rubs, scalp massages, back scratches, foot rubs, and handholding are possible outlets.

If you’ve been isolated and need a hug, meet up outdoors with loved ones. Then, masks on, share some safe embraces. A 20-second hug is the threshold for alleviating stress and helping you feel calm and safe. Even without hugs, simply gathering outdoors to chat and have distanced face-to-face eye contact for an hour or two can make a big difference.

If you can’t be near your loved ones right now, use video calls as the next best thing. Faces and voices help us feel close and “read” one other. On the calls, tell people how much you care about and miss them. You’ll find that speaking your love out loud releases the same feel-good chemicals that touch does.

Cuddle with your pets. Touch them in the ways they like being touched.

When it’s safe to do so again, consider making an appointment for a massage. Other options: manicure, haircut, or a healing touch or reiki session.

Self-massage also releases feel-good chemicals. Giving yourself an arm rub by rolling a tennis ball up and down your arms a few times a day, or use a foam roller to give yourself a back rub.

Use a weighted blanket when you watch TV or sleep. These 15- to 25-pound blankets press down on the skin, which triggers vagus nerve activity. Choose one that’s about ten percent of your body weight.

Practice yoga. Yoga poses place pressure on lots of different parts of your body, essentially touching you all over.

I’m happy to share that I finally got to hold my grandbaby recently. He’s already a grinning, wriggly three-month-old, and boy did it feel amazing to have in my arms. With my new appreciation for touch starvation, I’m planning on lots of hugs and kisses in the months and years to come.

About the Author

Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., is an author, educator, and grief counselor. He serves as Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition and is on the faculty of the University of Colorado Medical School’s Department of Family Medicine. Dr. Wolfelt has written many bestselling books on coping with grief, including Grief One Day at a Time and First Aid for Broken Hearts. Visit www.centerforloss.com to learn more about grief and loss.

Reprinted with permission of Dr. Alan Wolfelt.

Creating Memorial Keepsakes from a Loved One’s Clothing

By Grief/Loss, Memorial

When we lose a loved one, it’s often difficult to think about parting with their belongings. After all, objects hold memories, stories, and special meaning. While it’s important to sort through your loved one’s possessions and thoughtfully decide what to keep, what to donate, and what to trash, you might also consider making memorial keepsakes from their clothing.

A memorial keepsake may be part of a healthy grief journey for you. A way to honor your grief through creative expression. The keepsake may be long lasting, or it may have a shorter term of use. It may be something you keep for yourself or share with others who are grieving or had a relationship with the person who is gone. The choice is entirely up to you and your wishes.

Creating Memorial Keepsakes from Clothing

Most of our loved ones had multiple changes of clothing so that means you have a lot of material to work with as you create (or commission) memorial keepsakes. Because there’s so much fabric, you could have one keepsake for yourself and an entirely different kind for a relative. This diversity is helpful because you and your family members may value different things. So, let’s get started and discuss some of the options available as you consider whether or not to create a meaningful keepsake from a loved one’s clothing.

Quilt

You can make a beautiful and unique quilt using a loved one’s clothing. You might use smaller pieces and go for a patchwork look. Or, you can use t-shirts to create a quilt that reflects your loved one’s unique style. The style and design are entirely up to you, but just imagine curling up under the quilt on the cold nights and feeling surrounded by love. If you don’t have the skills necessary to make the quilt yourself, there are many websites and services available to commission an expert to create the keepsake for you.

Memory Bear

While many memory animals are bears, you can pick any animal you like. Essentially, using a loved one’s shirt, you make the casing of the animal and then stuff it. If you aren’t comfortable with your level of skill, find a YouTube tutorial, ask a friend who sews to help you, or commission an expert to make it for you. Memory stuffed animals are especially helpful for children and can remain special for years to come.

Ornaments

For those who like to collect Christmas ornaments or call Christmas their favorite holiday, you might consider using fabric from a loved one’s clothing to make ornaments. There are so many ways to do this that all you need to do is pick your favorite and go for it. You could do a folded fabric ornament, a no-sew “quilted” ornament, a Christmas tree ornament, and so much more. Then, every year as you decorate your tree, you will have an ornament to represent the person you love.

Table Runner

If you want to create multiple pieces, a table runner might be an excellent choice for the extra scrap pieces of fabric. You could use neckties or even dresses. Then, when you have a family dinner or your loved one’s birthday comes around, you can pull out your memorial table runner and honor their memory even as you make new ones. If you prefer a table topper, that would work perfectly, too!

Placemats and Napkins

Similar to the table runner, you could also make placemats and napkins. Whether you use strips of leftover fabric or devote particular articles of clothing to the project, both placemats and napkins are a beautiful way to re-use clothing in a meaningful way. This way, every time you use them, your loved one’s memory lives on. You could even create a tradition that you tell a story about your loved one’s life every time you bring them out. If you like this idea, go online, find a pattern that appeals to you, and get started!

Keychains

As with all of these projects, the end product is entirely up to you. If you choose to make keychains or even key fobs, you can select the style and design to suit your tastes or the amount of fabric you have available. Keychains are small and make an excellent, easy-to-keep-track-of keepsake that you could share with the entire family.

Pillowcases

Whether you choose to make pillowcases for sleeping or for decoration, this project will allow you to make some beautiful creations that will bring peace on the hard days. For many of us, there’s something comforting about hugging a pillow tight. In those moments when you miss your loved one most, grab a memorial pillow and hug it close, taking time to dwell on your memories and keep your loved one’s memory alive.

Baby Clothes

A practical option for re-using a loved one’s clothing is to create baby clothes with them. Whether the clothes are for your own child or to give to a shelter or a family in need, there’s something special about knowing that your loved one’s clothing will shelter and warm a young, new life. Though your loved one’s life has come to an end, they can still make a difference in the lives of future generations.

Scarves and Other Apparel

Another idea for creating memorial keepsakes from a loved one’s clothing is to make scarves or other apparel (like jewelry). Every time you wear the scarf, you can feel close to your loved one, almost like they are wrapping you in their love. There are many simple ways to create scarves, jewelry, and other items, so do a little digging and find what works best for you.

Aprons and Other Kitchen Accessories

If your loved one was a whiz in the kitchen, then making aprons or other kitchen items (like potholders or oven mitts) might be a good option for you. Then, you can either keep them or share them with family. Either way, any time you use these practical items, you can take a moment to remember your loved one. You might even choose to wear your memorial apron when cooking your loved one’s favorite dishes or during the holidays, just to feel that extra sense of connection.

All of these projects (and any others you think of) will take time and commitment, but really, they can be as simple or complex as you like. Find the patterns and ideas that work best for you. And remember, if you simply aren’t comfortable with your level of skill, either ask a sewing friend for help or seek out a professional. So, rather than donating or simply throwing out a lost loved one’s clothes, consider whether they can do some good for the future. As memorial keepsakes, they just might help you as you continue to grieve and find a way to move forward.

10 Story Books on Grief for Children Ages 3-12

By Grief/Loss

There’s no denying that grief is taxing, difficult, and stressful, no matter your age. For children, grief can be particularly confusing because they haven’t emotionally and cognitively developed enough yet to examine and name their feelings. When they feel an emotion, it comes out in their facial expressions, their play, or their behavior (crying, acting out, etc.) because they don’t yet know how to identify and deal with their emotions in a healthy way. That’s where you – the parent or caregiver – come in. You can use books and story to help your child name their emotions and begin to process them.

Through storytelling, we can help our children identify their emotions, see themselves in others, and begin to understand complex situations. On top of that, reading books centered on certain topics – like grief – can open conversations that will allow you to talk to your child and educate them on important life topics.

Below we will review 10 different books for children ages 3-12 that focus on grief, loss, and death. These are certainly not the only books available, but they will give you a place to start. Let’s begin!

The Goodbye Book by Todd Parr (Ages 3-6)

Told from the point of view of a fish who has lost his companion, the book weaves a touching story of how to say goodbye. Touching on a wide range of emotions and responses to loss, Todd Parr gently reminds readers that it’s okay to not have all the answers and that you can rely on others to support you when you’re sad.

Click here to view the book.

“There are many little ways to enlarge your world. Love of books is the best of all.” – Jacqueline Kennedy

I Miss You: A First Look at Death by Pat Thomas (Ages 4-7)

If you are looking for a more straightforward approach, Pat Thomas discusses grief and death in a simple, factual manner. Practical at its heart, the book shares reasons why people die, introduces the concept of a funeral, explores how to say goodbye, and assures children that it’s normal to feel sad after a loss. I Miss You will open opportunities for discussion with your child so you can help them understand the difficult topics of death and dying.

Click here to view the book.

The Invisible String by Patrice Karst (Ages 4-8)

With more than half a million copies sold, this picture book has touched the hearts of readers, young and old alike. The Invisible String shares the story of two siblings who discover that there is an invisible string connecting them to their loved ones through life’s hardest situations. The book offers a simple approach to dealing with loneliness, separation, and loss while helping children explore deeper questions, such as how we are connected to each other through love and unbreakable bonds.

Click here to view the book.

Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift.” —Kate DiCamillo

Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs by Tomie dePaola (Ages 4-8)

In his beloved and signature style, Tomie dePaola tells the story of four-year-old Tommy, his grandmother, and his great-grandmother. Through beautiful illustrations, dePaola explores the concepts of aging, compassion, loss, and taking care of our elderly loved ones. Perfect for children who have lost or are facing the loss of a grandparent, they can follow along with Tommy as he learns how to say goodbye.

Click here to view the book.

Ida, Always by Caron Levis (Ages 4-8)

Inspired by two real-life polar bears, this endearing tale is a moving depiction of loss and friendship. With its focus on long-term illness, the words and pictures blend together beautifully to create an unforgettable exploration of the complicated emotions associated with the death of a loved one. Simple, graceful, and gentle, Ida, Always will help you navigate through your child’s emotions and give them the chance to ask their questions in a healthy way.

Click here to view the book.

There is no substitute for books in the life of a child.” —May Ellen Chase

The Memory Box: A Book About Grief by Joanna Rowland (Ages 4-8)

Sometimes the best way to grieve is to remember. Told from the viewpoint of a young child who is afraid she might forget someone who has recently died, this comforting book shares the power of creating a memory box, filled with mementos and cherished moments, to grieve a loss. Whether the loss of a friend, family member, or pet, this book will help parents and their children discuss the complicated emotions of grief while also giving them a practical activity to help process death and loss.

Click here to view the book.

Dog Heaven and Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant (Ages 4-9)

For many children, the first loss they experience is the loss of pet. In both Dog Heaven and Cat Heaven, author Cynthia Rylant offers comfort and a look into what could be. Each picture book features bright, bold images to show a peaceful and happy heaven where dogs receive delicious biscuits, and cats never lack a soft angel lap for naps. Slightly unconventional in its depictions of God and heaven, the book has brought comfort to many families.

To view Dog Heaven, click here.

To view Cat Heaven, click here.

It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations—something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own.” —Katherine Paterson

Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen (Ages 8+)

Filled with wisdom, comfort, and practical tips, Tear Soup focuses on assuring the reader that grief is natural and normal. Its pages address the different emotions a child may feel after loss. Additionally, the book offers a cooking tips section that is full of guidance and solid suggestions for processing grief. With this book, you and your child can navigate the grief journey together, giving you the opportunity to sensitively answer your child’s questions along the way.

Click here to view the book.

A Taste of Blackberries by Doris Buchanan Smith (Ages 8-12)

Children in the 8-12 age range have most likely come into contact with grief in some way. It could be the loss of a friendship, the death of a pet or loved one, or some other life-changing event. At this age, children already have a foundation for loss. Even so, it’s good to bring in story and books to help them ask questions and process emotions.

In A Taste of Blackberries, the author follows the friendship of two young boys when something terrible happens. Honest and open, this book will be a conversation starter with your child. It will give you the opportunity to explore how we move forward in a healthy way after loss.

Click here to view the book.

Reading is important, because if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything.” —Tomie dePaola

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (Ages 8-12)

Another opportunity to learn through story, Bridge to Terabithia is a compelling tale of loss, friendship, and coming of age. Written by Newbery Medal-winning author Katherine Paterson, this children’s classic dives into the bonds of friendship and how people change us in positive ways, even if we only know them for a short time. Its encouragement to deal with grief in a healthy way and to rely on loving family for support will help your child learn how to deal with loss and lean on loved ones.

Click here to view the book.

Now that you have a place to get started, consider which books are most appropriate for your child. Read them, talk about them, and teach your child about grief, loss, and how to honor, remember, and celebrate the lives of those we have loved and lost.

Grief & the Six Needs of Mourning

By Grief/Loss

When we lose someone we love, we experience a wide range of complex and sometimes confusing feelings. These may include sadness, fear, anger, guilt, relief, and shock or disbelief. All of these emotions are normal reactions to loss, and they can vary greatly depending on the person and the type of loss. Having witnessed this spectrum of emotions through his years of walking with families through grief, Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally respected grief counselor, author, and educator, has come to identify six needs of mourning. It is only after these six needs are met that we can move toward healing and reconciliation following a loss.

But what are the six needs of mourning, you ask?

The 6 Needs of Mourning

Everything begins with a meaningful, healing, and personalized funeral or memorial service. The more personal, the more healing. Dr. Wolfelt has found that those who take part in a meaningful service have a firm foundation for their grief journey and “through their own grief work and through the love and compassion of those around them, are most often able to reconcile their grief and go on to find continued meaning in life and living.”

People often mistakenly think of the funeral or memorial service as an act of closure. This isn’t the case. In fact, the service is only the beginning of your grief journey. The challenge ahead of you is to walk through each of the six needs of mourning along the way toward healing.

Let’s look at each need individually and discuss what each one may look like in your life.

Need #1 – Acknowledge the reality of the death

When we lose someone we love, our minds naturally rebel against the knowledge. We don’t want to believe what has happened. We reject reality. But in order to heal, we must confront the truth. So, in some way, you must come to acknowledge the reality of the death. This may mean spending time with the body before burial or cremation, attending the funeral or memorial service, visiting the graveside, or something as simple as intentionally using the past tense when speaking about the person. In time, your mind will accept the reality of what has happened, and you can begin to process through the emotions of loss.

Need #2 – Move toward the pain of the loss

Dr. Wolfelt says, “I have learned that if we are to heal we cannot skirt the outside edges of our grief.  Instead, we must journey all through it, sometimes meandering the side roads, sometimes plowing directly into its raw center.” While the funeral or memorial service gives you a start on confronting your loss, it’s up to you to continue the journey. And that’s what it is – a journey. It will take time. It will take intentionality.

Instead of turning away from what you feel, allow yourself to grieve and heal. This may mean talking to trusted friends about your loved one, writing in a grief journal, going for long walks and talking aloud to your loved one, crying in the dark of night, or venting your anger or frustration by going on strenuous runs or using a punching bag. We all deal with our emotions differently, but as long as you aren’t hurting yourself or others, do what you must to face the pain and let the emotions out. Emotions that are stifled or allowed to fester will only lead to pain down the road, so deal with them now.

Need #3 – Remember the person who has died

In order to heal, we must shift our relationship with the one who has died from one of physical presence to one of memory. To do this, it’s important to actively find ways to remember the person who has died and to honor their legacy. In many ways, you do that by telling the story of your life with your loved one. According to Dr. Wolfelt, “the more we ‘tell the story’ the more likely we are to reconcile to the grief.”

So, be intentional about creating opportunities to share and to remember your loved one’s life. Bring friends and loved ones together for a shared remembrance meal. Don’t be afraid to share the stories of your life – growing up, in school, at work, at play, etc. Also, you might choose to create a memorial item, like a scrapbook, photo book, art piece, composition, or whatever else makes sense for you. As you create and design the memorial item, you engage with your memories and find comfort in them.

Need #4 – Develop a new self-identity

To some degree, our relationships give us an identity. Father, mother, sister, brother, friend, grandchild. You may have heard someone say, “I feel like a part of me died along with him.” This is because we gain some sense of identity from those around us. After losing someone we love, we have to step into a new identity, whether we want to or not.

Perhaps we move from a wife to a widow or from a grandchild with living grandparents to a grandchild without living grandparents. No matter the change, coming to grips with our new role – both in our family and in our other relationships – is an important part of the grieving process. In order to move forward with our lives, we must accept our new role and find a way to live it well.

Need #5 – Search for meaning

As part of the grief process, we naturally question the meaning of life and death. Why did this happen? Why now? What happens after death? The answers you find to these “why” questions will decide your reasons for living and contribute to your search for meaning. The death of a loved one confronts us with an inescapable fact: we will die. And because one day we, too, will face death, we must wrestle with how our lives look today. Ask yourself if there’s something you have always wanted to do or be known for. Have you done it? Why not? Is now the time to get started? Write down your thoughts, talk to friends or family, seek out ways to ask the hard questions, and if you do the work of grief, you will find the answers you need.

Need #6 – Receive ongoing support from others

Lastly, we need each other. We aren’t meant to go through life alone. The funeral or memorial service provides an excellent time to give and receive support, but you will still need support far beyond the ceremony. You may be tempted to work through these needs on your own – don’t. There are moments when time alone is needed, but also look for ways to invite others into your life. Find a group to support you – through church, school, or local support groups. The people around you can offer an incredible reserve of strength, kindness, and encouragement.

These are the six needs of mourning. You won’t necessarily experience them in any particular order. In fact, you may experience several at once. For example, you may sit down with a friend and receive support while also talking about your plans to make changes to your life. In this way, you are meeting needs #5 and #6. You will meet many of these needs quite naturally but still be intentional about facing your loss.

And remember – grief is a journey. There’s no hurry. No set time frame. Sometimes you can move forward after three months, sometimes three years, sometimes longer. The time it takes doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are working at it. You are looking for ways to reconcile yourself to what has happened and finding a way to move forward. Those who don’t find a way to move forward often become stuck in their grief, unable to move. Don’t allow yourself to become stuck – do the work of grief and find a way to continued meaning and new hope for the future. You can do this!

5 Tips for Helping a Person with Dementia Grieve

By Grief/Loss

If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, the grief journey for both of you will be a little more complicated. It may be that you’ve lost a mother, but your father, who suffers from dementia, has lost a wife. How do you navigate him through his loss – a loss that he may not always remember – while also walking down the road of grief yourself?

Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally respected grief counselor, author, and educator, has helped many families navigate the difficult journey through grief over the years. Because of his extensive background in helping families, he has identified key ways you can help someone with dementia mourn a loss. These helpful tips will empower you to help your loved one with dementia while also allowing you to grieve your own loss.

Dr. Wolfelt states: “For people with dementia, the grieving process grows more complicated. Their brains, the traffic control centers for thoughts and emotions, literally become clogged, creating dead ends, jams and crashes. Grief is a physical, cognitive, emotional, social and spiritual journey, yet the brain is where all those aspects of the self originate and traverse. Grief is always difficult, but when someone’s brain is no longer working well, it is even more challenging, both for the person with memory loss and for his or her family and caregivers.”

5 Tips for Helping a Person with Dementia Grieve

1. Interact with Empathy

Every person’s journey with dementia is different. As you help someone with dementia grieve, remember that their cognitive and physical condition, their personality, as well as the circumstances surrounding the loss will all factor into the process. That’s why it’s important to operate in empathy.

It is easy to become frustrated or stressed when caring for a person with dementia, but what they really need is your compassion, your kindness, and your willingness to try to understand reality from their perspective. Don’t worry about trying to say the “right” words – your empathetic presence and your support are more important than any specific words you may say.

2. Realize that They May Mourn Differently

Through his experience helping thousands of people through the grief process, Dr. Wolfelt has identified six needs of mourning: 1) acknowledge the reality of the loss, 2) feel the pain of the loss, 3) remember the person who has died, 4) develop a new self-identity, 5) search for meaning, and 6) receive ongoing support from others.

Now, in many cases, a person with dementia is no longer capable of addressing these six needs on their own. That’s where you – their caregiver and loved one – come in. For example, they may not always remember that someone has died, but in certain moments, they may recall it perfectly. When those moments of clarity come, allow the person with dementia to talk about the loss and share their memories, even if they are sharing those memories for the hundredth time.

Any expression of their inner thoughts and feelings is good and helpful, though it may be difficult for you to see. They may exhibit delayed reactions or sudden emotional outbursts. If this happens, try to remain calm. These reactions may be the only way they can express what’s happening on the inside, so witness their emotions and accept them. Above all, actively listen and affirm your loved one with dementia. This is how you can show your support.

3. Include Them in the Funeral Ritual

Whether you have a funeral or memorial service, a graveside service or a scattering of ashes, don’t be afraid to include the person with dementia in these symbolic events. If it’s appropriate, you can even include them in the funeral planning process. Tell them what choices are being made. Encourage them to share any memories they may recall and consider incorporating them into the service. Additionally, while the person with dementia may not remember attending the visitation, service, or gathering, the familiar rituals can offer comfort and support. Consider asking a family friend to sit beside the person with dementia during the funeral events so that immediate family members can focus on their own grief.

On the other hand, if the person with dementia is unable to attend any of the funeral events, there are other options available to help them understand the reality of the death and work through their grief. For example, you can arrange a private viewing. Or, schedule a short service at a place where the person with dementia can attend (their own home or an assisted living facility). You could also take the person with dementia to the cemetery, columbarium, or other final resting place. The more you include them, the more likely they are to retain the knowledge that a loved one has died and can grieve for that loss.

4. Pay Attention to Their Feelings

Because long-term memory is the last to be affected by dementia, your loved one may act as if the person who has died is still alive. When this happens, it’s okay. Consider it part of their memory at work and actively join them in reminiscing. In some moments, they will be completely lucid. In these moments, try to discern any emotions they may be feeling inside and compassionately name them. For instance, “It looks like you may be feeling….” This is a form of empathy and will help them feel understood and cared for.

5. Incorporate Practical Tools

There are intentional acts you can do to help a loved one with dementia through the grieving process. For instance, introduce items that belonged to the person who has died. Allow the person with dementia to handle the items. If their response is comforting, leave the object. However, if they react negatively, remove it and try another one.

Other practical tools are:

  • creating a display of photos they can look at and interact with
  • using the past tense when referring to the person who has died
  • recounting stories that may trigger memories
  • listening to music associated with special memories of the person who has died

By including these practices, you help your loved one with dementia do the work of grief.

Helping Them Helps You

Helping a loved one with dementia grieve will not be easy, but it is beneficial. Dr. Wolfelt believes: “Patience, honesty, and, most of all, empathy and love are the keys to helping a person with dementia after someone loved dies. Always remember that though dementia may destroy a brain, it cannot destroy a soul. The soul is where love and grief live, and any efforts you undertake to help the person express what is in their heart and soul will honor what has been most meaningful in their life.”

And while helping a person with dementia grieve may seem like a daunting task – something that takes away from your own ability to grieve – remember that as you help them grieve, you will also do the work of grief. Talking to a person with dementia about the reality of the loss will help you accept it yourself. Sharing memories about the person who has died will help you remember them, too. Witnessing the painful emotions your loved one with dementia may exhibit will help you to face your own pain at the loss. And so on.

Grief is the natural consequence of love. It is exhausting, physically and emotionally. But thankfully, there is no time frame and no deadline for “getting over” a loss. In fact, it’s not about “getting over” a loss – it’s about finding a way to move forward. And that takes time. So, as you help a loved one with dementia process a loss (and as you process your own feelings of loss), don’t feel pressured by an imaginary timeline. Instead, breathe deeply and take the time you need. There’s no rush.

*Source: Supporting Mourners with Dementia, Dr. Alan Wolfelt, August 2019

8 Intriguing Funeral Customs from the Victorian Era

By History of Funerals

Have you ever found yourself wondering where some of our funeral traditions come from? The Victorian Era (1837-1901) introduced some of our current funeral traditions as well as a few customs that have fallen out of memory and practice. Some of the following customs will feel familiar while others will surprise you. Let’s take a look at a few funeral traditions from the past.

A Shift in Funeral Customs

The Victorian Era directly aligns with the reign of Queen Victoria of England. Crowned on June 20, 1837, Victoria reigned until her death on January 22, 1901. While she is the second-longest reigning monarch in England’s history, she is also notably known for her deep love for her husband, Prince Albert, and her 40 years of mourning following his death in 1861.

In response to her husband’s death, Queen Victoria went into mourning, and her very public practices influenced many nations, creating a shift in funeral customs and how grief and mourning were expressed.

8 Intriguing Funeral Customs from the Victorian Era

1. Mourning Clothes Were a Must

Following Albert’s death, Victoria dressed in full mourning for the first three years. To her death, it was unusual to see her in anything but black. Her example led to the population copying her style of dress, and certain expectations were set in place.

Mourning clothes were considered an outward expression of a person’s inner feelings. Societal rules were especially specific for women. In “deep mourning,” women’s clothing was deep black and non-reflective, often trimmed in black crepe, and worn with minimal or no jewelry. Additionally, widows were expected to wear a black silk “weeping veil” or “widow’s cap.” After a specified time, a woman moved into “half mourning” where colors like gray and lavender were permitted with minimal ornamentation.

For men, fashion was much easier – they simply wore dark suits with black gloves, hatbands, and cravats. Children were not expected to wear mourning clothes, and for those who were wealthy, servants even wore mourning clothes. Thankfully for the Victorians, if you were ever in doubt as to what to wear, you could consult Cassell’s Household Guide.

2. There Was a Set Mourning Period

In the Victorian era, society observed a specified “mourning period.” The length of time depended on the type of loss: spouse, sibling, parent, child, cousin, etc. For example, widows were expected to wear mourning clothes for two years (one year in full mourning, one year in half mourning). In addition to wearing only black during deep mourning, a widow could not go out in society except to attend church.

Societal rules for men who lost a wife were less rigorous, mainly because men were expected to remarry relatively quickly. For children mourning parents (or vice versa), the mourning period was one year; for grandparents and siblings, six months; mourning aunts and uncles, two months; for great uncles and aunts, six weeks; for first cousins, four weeks. Again, if you were ever in doubt, you could consult Cassell’s for guidance.

While there were set rules on how long you must outwardly mourn, there was no set end date. Queen Victoria is an excellent example – she mourned Prince Albert for the remainder of her days. In the Victorian era, there was no hurry to end a period of grief. People took the time they needed, and those around them respected the necessity of mourning.

3. Superstitions Were Prevalent

During this time, humanity was still learning a lot about the natural world. People were spiritual and believed in the supernatural. Because of this viewpoint, there were a number of superstitions surrounding death:

  • Victorians carried the deceased out of the home feet first so they couldn’t look back and call someone else to follow them.
  • Curtains were closed and mirrors covered until after the funeral so that the deceased’s image wouldn’t get trapped in a looking glass.
  • It was thought that you might be next if you saw yourself in a mirror at a house where someone had recently died.
  • To prevent bad luck, all clocks were stopped at the time of death.
  • And somewhat creepily, Victorians turned family photographs face-down to protect family and friends from possession by a spirit of the dead.

4. They Feared Final Rest Disturbances

The Victorian period was a time of medical advances, but in many ways, its people were still in the dark. In fact, they really did have reason to fear that their final rest might not be as peaceful. At the time, it was difficult for medical professionals to procure bodies for study, so grave robbers became a concern for everyone. Additionally, because medical conditions weren’t as well understood, a doctor might mistakenly declare someone dead. In these cases, the person was often in a coma.

To combat grave robbers and premature burial due to lack of medical understanding, the Victorians put a few safeguards into place. Some families buried a loved one with a rope in their hand, attached to a bell outside the grave. If the person in the grave awoke, they could ring the bell, signaling their need for help. Other burial options included bricking over a grave, covering it with a protective gate, or purchasing a coffin with a series of tubes and mirrors to allow the gravediggers to peer inside for movement.

5. Victorians Contributed to the Rise of Photography

With the invention of the daguerreotype in 1839, some people began to take family photos. However, the cost was prohibitive for the average family. Many only took photographs at big life events, like the death of a loved one. Thus, the custom of taking a photograph with a loved one after death became a popular trend. The photograph gave the family a lasting visual reminder of their loved one.

Often called “death photography,” this practice continued throughout the Victorian era. It was especially common to photograph children since they had the highest mortality rates. Though the practice has died out, we do still take postmortem photographs. Now it’s more often in the context of forensics and pathology.

6. Personal Mementos Were Common

In addition to a photograph, some families also created mementos using a loved one’s hair. They artfully arranged their loved one’s hair in shadow boxes, wreaths, fabrics, corsages, and particularly in jewelry. Though a woman was not allowed to wear jewelry (other than jet black gemstones) during deep mourning, they often wore a jewelry memento afterward. Queen Victoria was known to wear a locket that contained a picture of Prince Albert and a lock of his hair.

This may seem like an unusual practice, but actually, we do something quite similar – memorial or cremation jewelry. Instead of hair, we place a portion of a loved one’s ashes in jewelry and wear it in their memory. Although the method of memorialization has changed over time, the basic idea is the same.

7. Stately Monuments Came into Prominence

Before the Victorian era, burial plots near home and churchyards were most common. With the advent of public cemeteries, the desire to memorialize and grandly mark a grave came into fashion. While grave markers had been more simplistic, during the Victorian era, they became much more elaborate. While some markers were still simple, others could be large – almost like a private mausoleum – and might include urns, wreaths, columns, or carved figures. Today, we still see large cemetery monuments, though we have toned down the opulence in exchange for something simple and personal.

8. Families Planned Ahead

The Victorians had no illusions about death. Mortality rates for children were high, and even if you survived childhood, many adults didn’t live past 50 years. In this era, death was so certain and people prized an elaborate funeral service. Because of this, many families saved for years to pay for a funeral service. In fact, women frequently made their own shrouds and included them in their wedding trousseau.

Today, we shy away from talking or even thinking about death. In reality, we could learn something from the Victorians: it’s okay to talk about and plan for death. The Victorians didn’t focus on death, but they accepted it as a reality and planned for it. While their methods seem strange to us today, the Victorians did understand the value of celebrating a loved one’s life and honoring their memory. We could greatly benefit from more openness, less fear, and a willingness to have these important conversations with our families.