No dad is perfect, but some of them get pretty close. Whether you love every aspect of your dad or you are still healing from past hurts, you may want to take time to honor his memory if he has already died. For some, this will be an exercise of joyful remembrance, and for others, it will be part of a series of healing actions that may bring reconciliation to life-long hurts. Wherever you’re at on the spectrum, here are 10 ways you can honor your dad’s memory that will help you heal and move forward.
1. Engage in an activity you enjoyed together
Every relationship is different, so whatever you and your dad enjoyed doing together, consider doing that. Whether that’s going to ballgames, visiting Disney World, woodworking, camping, hiking, watching movies, trying out new kinds of food, or painting, do something that will make you feel close to him once again as you honor his memory.
2. Enjoy his favorite food or beverage
If your dad was a food guy, you might consider grilling out, heading to a winery or brewhouse, making his favorite dessert, or trying out something new with him in mind. You could host an event to honor the dads you know and say a few words about the impact your own dad had on your life. Or, at the holidays, you can make sure to include his favorite dishes and share stories while you enjoy a meal with family.
3. Send him a message
While the physical presence of a loved one may be gone, they are still very much alive in your memory and in your emotions. That’s why sending messages even after loss is still a valuable exercise. You could write “I miss you” on a biodegradable balloon and release it to the sky or you could write a letter to say all the things you wish you’d said. Another option is to visit Dad’s grave – a place where he is still physically present – and share what’s on your heart.
4. Participate in a memorial action
If you are a person of action, you could do something “in memory” of your dad. Perhaps you could run in a 5K or a marathon, donate time or money to his favorite charity, or light a remembrance candle at home or a place of worship. No matter what you decide makes the most sense for your relationship with your dad, you can do it in memory of him.
5. Take a trip to a place he always wanted to go
Perhaps you and dad always talked about hiking the Appalachian Trail, visiting the Grand Canyon, or finally going to that prestigious art museum. While he may not go with you physically, you can still take him with you. Plan that trip and bring something that reminds you of him on the journey. You could even take pictures wearing that favorite hat or bandana of his so that it’s like he’s right there with you!
6. Reminisce with others (or on your own)
After losing someone you love, telling the stories of your life together is soothing and comforting. So, as you seek to honor your dad’s memory, take time to look at the photos, watch the home videos, and share the stories. You could even place a memory jar in your home where every member of the family can write down favorite memories, and each of you can read each other’s favorites.
7. Create keepsake items
For those who find comfort in sentimental items, creating a keepsake item might be an excellent way to honor your dad’s memory. For instance, you could create something from one of his favorite clothing items. Or you could create a decorative stone with his favorite saying in your yard or garden, so that every time you pass by, you smile at his memory. A scrapbook or photobook is another way to put your memories into one place where you can recall them anytime you miss him dearly.
8. Post on social media
In today’s digital age, it’s common practice to post tributes on social media. Perhaps you can post old photos or memories on your dad’s birthday, at holidays, or on other special days. Alternatively, for his birthday month, you could do one post a day sharing memories from your time together. No matter which platform you prefer, you can use your creativity to put together a post that is meaningful to you.
9. Restore an item
Is there something that belongs to your dad that you just love, but it’s seen better days? Then perhaps a way that you can honor your dad’s memory is by restoring or repurposing that item. For a favorite chair or toolbox, you could restore it to its original glory. However, if it’s not something you can fix, you can perhaps repurpose it and create a new item that works for your life now. For example, you could use that favorite flannel shirt to create homemade Christmas ornaments.
10. Host a remembrance event
For some, putting together an “official” event will bring additional healing during a time of loss. While the funeral service is an excellent place to begin the grief journey, there may be days in the years to come that need marking. If you’d like to put together a remembrance event – one year, five years, ten years – after your dad’s passing, don’t hesitate to do that. Invite the people who mean the most to you, who knew your dad, and take time to honor him and remember his impact on your lives.
Now, these are just some ideas to get you started, so take some time to get creative. Ask yourself, “What would Dad want to do?” And if you never knew your dad or you had a difficult relationship with him, you can grieve what you wish you had together. Dealing with grief is never easy, but over time, as you do the work of grief and participate in healing actions, you will find the healing your heart needs.