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Memorial

Illustrates what an inscription would look like

6 Ways to Personalize a Memorial Marker

By Explore Options, Meaningful Funerals, Memorial, Planning Tools

When visiting a cemetery, it can seem like your options are limited when choosing a memorial marker, but that’s not true. There are many options for creating a personalized monument that will identify a loved one’s final resting place for generations to come. Today, let’s talk about why memorial markers matter and 6 different ways you can personalize a monument to create something unique and special.

Shows an example of a memorial marker

What is a Memorial Marker?

A memorial marker goes by many names. Tombstone. Headstone. Grave marker. Monument. It can get confusing quickly, so we will use “memorial marker” and “monument” for our purposes today.

If you’ve ever visited a cemetery, then you’ve seen memorial markers. It could be a plaque, an upright headstone, a footstone, or even occasionally a ledger stone, to name a few options. Typically, a memorial marker lists the deceased person’s name and life dates. Anything beyond that is customized.

Why is a Memorial Marker Important?

As human beings, when we lose someone we love, our feeling of connection to them continues, even though they are no longer with us physically. It is this connection that contributes to our feelings of loss, that makes it so difficult to process death and move toward healing and reconciliation.

Not only do memorial markers highlight the value of remembering people by name – names are so important – they also give us a place to go to feel close to the person who has died.

To learn more about why memorial markers and a final resting place can be valuable to families, especially when feelings of grief arise or anniversaries come around, check out 5 Reasons to Establish a Permanent Memorial.

Illustrates why a memorial marker is important as two young people visit a loved one's final resting place

6 Ways to Personalize a Memorial Marker

Now, let’s dive into 6 ways you can personalize a memorial marker to reflect a person’s unique life, personality, and preferences.

To help you decide what’s right for your needs and situation, consider which of these categories you want to focus on (or if you’d like to create a mix):

  • Choose elements that reflect personality (kind, giving, friendly)
  • Focus on family attributes (father, grandmother, uncle, sister)
  • Highlight achievements, hobbies, interests, or long-term commitments

With these categories in mind, let’s talk about personalizing a memorial marker.

1. Create a Personalized Inscription

Also called an epitaph, you can include a short message on the monument that has meaning and significance to everyone – family, friends, and the person who has died.

For instance, you could include:

  • A focus on family (“Beloved mother, sister, and friend”)
  • A poignant sentiment (“Forever in our hearts”)
  • A spiritual quote or verse for a person of faith
  • Pop culture references to music, movies, etc. (“May the Force be with you” or similar)

For a real-life example, one beloved grandmother included her famous fudge recipe on her memorial marker so that everyone who came by could make and enjoy it as much as she did. The possibilities are quite literally endless with how you can personalize the inscription.

Illustrates what an inscription would look like

2. Choose a Color

Next, let’s talk about color. Depending on what material you select, you can choose a color to personalize a memorial marker. Granite is the most popular monument material because it retains its shine for many years. It is available in black, blue, gray, pink, red, and more. If your loved one had an affinity for a certain color, you can ask your monument representative what your color options are.

Bronze is another common material used for memorial markers. Keep in mind, bronze will develop patina over time, resulting in a color change ranging from antiqued green to light or dark brown. Some people love this color change, and one more famous example of patina is the greenish hue that we now see on the Statue of Liberty.

3. Select a Shape

While most people choose a rectangular, square, or pointed top monument, memorial markers aren’t one-size-fits-all. Custom monuments come in many forms—from benches to unique shapes like hearts, books, arches, or even guitars.

If you have a specific vision for what shape you’d like the memorial marker to be, talk to the monument designers about the possibilities. They will discuss the cost and what’s possible when working with stone.

Shows one shape option for memorial markers

4. Add an Image or Symbol

If you’d like, you can request that the memorial marker feature a specific image or symbol. From animals and military insignia to pop culture references or nature scenes, anything is possible. The key is to pick something that is meaningful.

If you aren’t sure what kind of image to request, ask yourself, “Does my loved one have a well-known hobby? A pet who is always nearby? A deep faith? A favorite instrument or talent or sports team?” These types of questions will help you narrow down the options.

Monument companies will work with you on the design and help you create something that will bring your creative vision to life as you honor your loved one’s legacy.

5. Include a Photo

Similar to an image or symbol, you could add a photo (or photos) to personalize a memorial marker. Depending on your wishes, the photo could be etched (by hand or with a laser), or if you prefer to use a color photo, the image can be created in ceramic or porcelain and then permanently affixed to the marker in whatever size you want.

If you decide to include a photo, select one of your favorites and go over your wishes with the monument designer so they can create exactly what you want.

Shows a man leaving flowers at a loved one's memorial marker

6. Incorporate a QR Code

A new trend in memorial marker personalization is the QR code. The code is affixed to the marker, and when mourners or visitors scan the code, they view a website dedicated to that person’s life and legacy.

Imagine if you could scan a QR code for someone who died 100 years ago. It would be both amazing and interesting to read more about who they were and what their life was like.

Of course, this personalization option takes a little additional work on your part (you have to create a website), but it may be a good option for remembering and honoring your loved one’s life.

Do What’s Best for Your Family

The best thing about this whole discussion? There’s no right or wrong. If something traditional is right and good for your needs, do that. If a photo with inscription is best, do that. Would a book top with a literary quote be meaningful? Do that. It’s entirely up to you.

One final note as you consider the possibilities, remember to ask the cemetery representative if they have any specific regulations. Some cemeteries place firm restrictions on monument color and material.

Shows woman visiting a cemetery where there are monument regulations

Now, take some time to brainstorm. Talk to a funeral home or monument company to learn what the options are. Then, start creating a vision for a personalized memorial marker that makes the most sense for your family, your needs, and your loved one.

For more helpful information, make sure to read Selecting and Installing a Grave Marker.

What Do the Coins Left on Veteran Graves Mean?

By Memorial, Veterans

If you’ve ever visited a national or state veteran cemetery, you may have noticed coins left on grave markers. But did you know that each type of coin has special meaning and significance? Let’s dig into this intriguing tradition a little more.

Origins

It’s not clear exactly when the practice of leaving coins on the graves of veterans began. However, many believe that the practice began in earnest after the Vietnam War. Leaving a coin was thought to either be 1) a way to pay respects to a solider without getting pulled into discussions about this much-debated war or 2) a down payment on a drink or a hand of cards when the friends are finally reunited.

For centuries, coins have played a role in funeral and remembrance practices. For example, in Ancient Greece, it was customary to place coins on the eyes or in the mouth of a fallen warrior. In Ancient Egypt and other ancient cultures, rulers and prominent citizens were often buried with coins as well as many household goods to prepare them for the afterlife.

While our funeral practices are no longer in line with the ancient world, coins have survived as a method for paying homage to someone we admire and respect.

What Do the Coins Mean?

Each of the four coin denominations have a distinct meaning, according to tradition.

  • Penny – signifies that someone (veteran or civilian) has visited the grave
  • Nickel – signifies that the coin-leaver attended boot camp with the veteran
  • Dime – signifies that the coin-leaver served with the veteran in some capacity
  • Quarter – signifies that the coin-leaver was present when the veteran died

As you can see, the higher the coin denomination, the closer and more personal the relationship to the deceased veteran. In addition to the four standard coins, it’s possible you may also see challenge coins left at a grave as a token of respect.

What are Challenge Coins?

Challenge coins started gaining more popularity during the Vietnam War when they were used by Special Forces units. Typically, a challenge coin proves group membership (i.e. in a certain unit). Or, unit commanders present them as a symbol of recognition and achievement.

If you ever see a challenge coin on a veteran’s grave, it is a sign of the highest respect. More than likely, it came from a brother or sister in arms. It’s not uncommon for the challenge coin to showcase the emblem of the deceased veteran’s military unit.

It should go without saying, but if you ever come across a challenge coin, please do not take it. Let it be a continual respectful remembrance for years to come.

What Happens to the Coins?

At national and state veteran cemeteries, cemetery staff eventually collect the coins. The cemetery then places the coins into a designated fund used to pay for maintaining the cemetery grounds (washing graves, mowing the lawn, killing weeds, etc.) and covering the burial costs of indigent veterans.

However, no one collects challenge coins. They remain at the veteran’s grave as a sign of remembrance and respect.

For veterans buried in private cemeteries, any coins are subject to the regulations of the individual cemetery. Many cemeteries collect the coins and use them to maintain the cemetery grounds.

Interesting, isn’t it? As human beings, we have an innate need to mark the passing of the people we love and respect. It’s followed us from the beginning of time, and for as long as human beings exist, we will practice the art of remembrance and value the lives of those we love. So, the next time you see a coin on a grave, remember that this person is loved and missed.

How to Create a Memory Capsule

By Grief/Loss, Memorial

Sometimes, words aren’t enough to fully express what you feel or say what you mean. In the times when words are inadequate, participating in healing rituals and actions plays a key role in helping you grieve well and express what can’t be said. One healing action you might consider – either for yourself or your entire family – is creating a memory capsule.

What is a Memory Capsule?

Similar to a time capsule, a memory capsule is a container that holds precious mementos, photos, notes, and other memorabilia associated with a loved one. Once the capsule is complete, you hide it away until a specified time. Then, either alone or together with family, you open the capsule, remembering the person you love and sharing those cherished memories with each other.

But why should you consider a memory capsule? Remembrance is a key part of grieving well and creating a memory capsule is one way you can remember, reminisce, and embrace your loved one’s life. It will allow you to gather some of your most treasured items and put them in one place. You can go back to the capsule as often as you wish, or you can wait a specified amount of time. Regardless of what you decide, when you open the box, tender memories will flood you with love and help you lovingly remember and grieve for the person you’ve lost.

How to Create a Memory Capsule

With a few simple steps, you can create both a memory capsule and a meaningful activity for your family.

1. Determine where you’ll store the capsule.

First, you must decide where you will be storing the capsule. Whether you decide to store it indoors or outdoors will affect what kind of container you use and what types of items you place inside. So, before you can really begin, you need to determine how you plan to store your memory capsule. Also, select a person to take charge of the capsule. This person will be responsible for storing the container and bringing it out of storage at the appropriate time.

2. Choose your container.

Once you’ve determined where you plan to store your capsule, it’s time to select the type of container you intend to use. If you are planning to keep the memory capsule indoors, then you could select a box, a plastic container, a jar, or some other container that is easily storable.

However, if you plan to keep the capsule outside or you intend to bury it, there are a few things to consider. For outdoor safekeeping, find a container that is non-biodegradable, like something made of metal. Water, dirt, pressure, and critters won’t be friendly to your capsule so make sure that it’s strong, weather-proof, and watertight.

If you are making this a family activity, discuss together what kind of container you’d like to use.

3. Decide what to include.

Next, it’s time to decorate your container (if you wish) and gather your memories. Since this activity is meant to be part of a healing ritual, you might write a note expressing what you miss about them. Record a favorite memory. Gather photos, drawings, trinkets, clothing, or other cherished items. Find the items that are meaningful to you and place them in the container. With kids, have them write a note or create a drawing for the capsule. You could even write a note to your future self, saying what you’re feeling now and where you hope to be when the capsule is opened.

If you are planning to store your capsule outdoors, consider using good paper and permanent ink. Try not to use paper clips, staples, or rubber bands because they will rust or break with age. Consider placing photos and other paper items into plastic sleeves to further protect them.

WARNING: Make sure you don’t include flammable materials or anything else that may cause damage, such as liquids, food products, matches, or lighters.

4. Set a date.

Typically, capsules are left closed for several years, but you can do whatever works best for your family. For example, if you are putting together a memory capsule for a lost loved one’s birthday or at Christmas or Thanksgiving, you can open it the following year or several years down the road. The most important thing is to select a time frame and make sure that everyone participating knows what the time frame is. That way, each person can tailor their offerings to meet the time frame, if that’s needed.

5. Seal your container and store it.

Once everyone has had a chance to add their personal contributions to the memory capsule, all that’s left is sealing the container and storing it away until your agreed upon date. If you’ve made the memory capsule a family activity, make sure to gather everyone together (or use a video call) to make sure everyone is included in the sealing. You can even write a “Do not open until” date on the outside. For extra protection, seal the container with tape or a lock.

Before you disperse, give each other hugs and best wishes. This activity is not only about healing from your loss but about finding support in each other as you all mourn the loss of someone you love.

Continuing Your Grief Journey

Now, all you have to do is wait until the agreed upon date and do the work of grief. While creating a memory capsule will help you participate in a healing ritual and remember your loved one, it’s not a “one-and-done” kind of thing. As you grieve, you will need to continue to talk about your loss, participate in healing rituals (like journaling, attending a funeral or memorial, lighting candles, praying, etc.), and face the grief you feel.

Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally respected grief counselor and educator, says this about grief: “From my own experiences with loss as well as those of thousands of grieving people I have companioned over the years, I have learned that we cannot go around the pain that is the wilderness of our grief. Instead, we must journey all through it, sometimes shuffling along the less strenuous side paths, sometimes plowing directly into the black center.” So, as you confront your emotions head on, you will begin to actually deal with them and find a way to move toward healing and eventually reconciliation.

Just remember, you’re not alone on the journey. Lean on your loved ones. Talk to your family and/or friends. While they may not always understand what you’re thinking or feeling, they love you and can be a source of support through the grief journey ahead. Take your time – there’s no rush. You are never going to “get over” the loss of someone you love, but you can learn how to move forward and find renewed purpose and meaning in life. It may seem impossible right now, but as you do the work of grief, it will happen, little by little. Best of luck on your journey!

How to Create a Memorial Page on Facebook and Instagram

By Estate Planning, Grief/Loss, Memorial

More and more, people across the globe are cultivating a social media presence. Some put more effort into it than others, but for many of us, social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are a normal part of life. But what happens to these online profiles when someone dies? Today, let’s talk about the ins and outs of creating a memorial page on Facebook and Instagram.

The Importance of Digital Estate Planning

You may associate estate planning with a will or power of attorney, but digital estate planning is an important, often overlooked part of estate planning. It’s just as valuable to provide instructions for online accounts, digital assets, and social media profiles as it is to write down your wishes for physical holdings. To learn more about digital estate planning, take a moment to read Managing your Digital Estate and How to Make Digital Estate Planning Simple.

Now, let’s move on to Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook Memorial Page

Option 1: Creating a Memorial Page on Facebook

With Facebook, you have two options after death: delete the account or create a memorial page. Thankfully, Facebook has clear-cut instructions on how to do both of these things.

The most common reason to turn a Facebook page into a memorial is to create a place where family, friends, co-workers, and even acquaintances can process grief together and offer condolences to surviving family members. People can post memories, offer words of encouragement and sympathy, share photos, and more. Let’s start by going over a few pieces of key information!

Was a Legacy Contact chosen?

With Facebook, estate planning means designating a Legacy Contact. In other words, you tell Facebook who should manage your account after your death (often a spouse, close friend, or family member). The Legacy Contact can monitor your profile by deleting or memorializing the account, accepting friend requests, pinning tribute posts, updating profile and cover photos, and more. However, a Legacy Contact cannot log in to the account to view private messages or remove past posts, photos, or friends.

Currently, you can only add a Facebook friend as a Legacy Contact. When you select a Legacy Contact, Facebook gives you the option to notify that person right away, which is recommended so that person is in the know about your wishes. To learn how to add a Legacy Contact, go to How Do I Add, Change, or Remove a Legacy Contact?

On the other hand, if you’ve been added as a Legacy Contact to someone’s account and aren’t sure how to manage a memorialized Facebook page, go to How Do I Manage a Memorialized Profile on Facebook? for some helpful tips.

What if there is no designated Legacy Contact?

That’s okay. Family members can simply reach out to Facebook directly with a request to memorialize the account. However, memorialized accounts with no Legacy Contact can’t be changed in any way. To request that an account without a Legacy Contact be memorialized, go to the Memorialization Request.

What happens when you memorialize a Facebook page?

Memorialization locks the account and prevents anyone from logging in. While a Legacy Contact can’t log in to the account anymore, they can still make decisions on basic functions, like viewing posts, removing tags, updating profile and cover images, etc.

Additionally, a memorialized account will no longer appear in “search” results. However, any existing friends can still view the page and share photos, memories, and wall messages. The word “Remembering” will appear next to the deceased person’s name on their profile.

For a full list of links to helpful information, go to All You Need to Know about Facebook Memorialized Accounts.

Option 2: Deleting a Facebook Account

Alternatively, you can choose to have an account deleted instead. Keep in mind, if/when Facebook learns of a death, their policy is to memorialize the account if no instructions were left behind (i.e. no Legacy Contact and no request to delete the account).

If you are completing your own digital estate planning and want your account permanently deleted after your passing, go to Settings. Click Manage Account. Scroll down until you see Request that your account be deleted after you pass away and follow the prompts.

If you would like to delete the Facebook account of a deceased family member, you can reach out to Facebook directly. To learn more about the process and the required documentation, click here. Once you have your documentation gathered together, you can use the Special Request Form to begin the process of deleting the account. Please be aware, Facebook cannot provide you with login information for someone else’s account even after a death has occurred, but they can either delete or memorialize the account.

That’s it for Facebook – let’s move on to Instagram.

Instagram Memorial Page

While Instagram has been working on its memorial options for a while, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated their efforts. Now, similar to Facebook, you can either memorialize or delete an Instagram account.

Option 1: Creating a Memorial Page on Instagram

While Instagram now offers the ability to memorialize accounts, they do not currently allow you to designate a digital heir (Facebook calls this person a Legacy Contact). However, with the proper documentation, you can memorialize a loved one’s Instagram account after their death.

What are the key features of a memorialized Instagram account?

With a memorialized account:

  • The account locks and no one can log in.
  • The word “Remembering” appears on the person’s profile.
  • Any posts the deceased shared prior to death will stay visible.
  • You can no longer make changes to photos, videos, comments, privacy settings, or the current profile picture. Also, followers and the pages the deceased was following cannot be changed.

However, if you feel a comment or post on a memorialized profile violates Instagram’s Community Guidelines or Terms of Use, you can report it to Instagram by going to How to Report a Comment or How to Report a Post.

How do you memorialize an Instagram account?

The first step is to put in a request. When Instagram receives a valid request (regardless of whom that request is from), they will memorialize the account. To ensure that the request is valid, you must provide proof of death, such as an obituary or a news article. Just like Facebook, Instagram will not give out login information.

With a validated request, Instagram will memorialize the account. To submit a request to memorialize an account, go to the Request to Memorialize and fill it out.

Option 2: Removing an Instagram Account

The second option is to remove/delete the account. To entirely remove an account from Instagram, the requester must provide evidence that they are an immediate family member of the deceased.

Accepted forms of proof that you are an immediate family member are:

  • The deceased person’s birth certificate
  • The deceased person’s death certificate
  • Proof of authority under local law that you represent the deceased person

To request the removal of an Instagram account, you must complete the Removal Request and submit the required documentation.

Thankfully, both Facebook and Instagram have made the process simple and clear. Now that you know more about how to memorialize or delete accounts, take some time to carefully consider the best way to move forward. Every person is different, so decide what’s best for you and your family and do that. It may mean memorializing a lost loved one’s account so that friends and family can share memories and photos. It may mean removing the account entirely because it’s too painful to manage. There’s no right or wrong answer – just what makes the most sense for your needs.

Ideas for Honoring Your Loved One’s Memory This Thanksgiving

By Exclude from Top Posts, Memorial, Seasonal

Missing a loved one during the holidays is hard. The traditions that used to bring you joy may feel a little hollow this year. You may feel an internal (or external) pressure to keep things the same as always. It could be that Thanksgiving was your loved one’s favorite holiday, which only makes everything more difficult.

No matter what level of grief this Thanksgiving brings out in you, there are ways to add meaningful moments that will soothe your heart and help your family remember and honor a much-loved missing member. While the holiday won’t be the same as years before, it can be sweet, poignant, and just what your grieving heart needs.

Ideas for Honoring Your Loved One’s Memory This Thanksgiving

These ideas are intended to spur your own thoughts. Some of these may resonate with you; others may not. That’s okay. Consider incorporating the ones that make sense to you or come up with your own ideas. You could even make it a family exercise and bounce ideas off each other for how to best honor your loved one’s memory.

Share Cherished Memories

Whether it’s over the dinner table, on family walks, during the football game or movie, or as you sit around the living room enjoying each other’s company, take time to share cherished memories. You could talk about memories from Thanksgivings past. Or, you can simply reminisce over the ones that easily come to mind. Bring out the photos and listen as different family members share varied accounts of that family moment. Not only will this be a sweet time to remember your family moments, it will also allow you to talk about your loved one, which is often what we need most after a loss.

Include a Memorial Opportunity at Home

By creating a memorial opportunity, you allow yourself and others to actively engage in a remembrance activity. What this looks like will vary greatly from family to family, but here are a few ideas for creating a memorial opportunity. Set up a small memory tree and encourage everyone to write a note about your loved one and place it on the tree. Create a memory board or table, adding photos and mementos. Make sure to invite your family to bring something to add. Or, you can create a memory capsule, where everyone brings an item to include (photo, souvenir, note, etc.) and then several Thanksgivings down the road, you open it together.

Bring Their Memory to the Table

If it’s best for you and your family, you can make your loved one’s memory a more prominent feature of the day’s festivities. For instance, you can create a centerpiece to grace the table that features loved ones whose memories you want to honor. Give a Thanksgiving toast or prayer. Go around the table and each share something you are grateful for about the person who has died. Leave an open seat at the table in their memory. Pull out your loved one’s recipes and serve the dishes that everyone remembers and loves. Or, place a different photo of your loved one on each place setting and invite everyone to share memories.

Take Action to Honor Their Memory

If you are a person of action, there are things you can physically do on Thanksgiving to honor your loved one’s memory. You could sign up for a Turkey Trot and walk/run in their memory. Or you could watch one of their favorite movies. Attend a remembrance service. Write a message on a biodegradable balloon and then release it to the sky, your message of love floating towards the heavens. Visit their grave or a place that was special to your loved one. Donate food or money in their name, possibly supplying a Thanksgiving meal to a family in need.

Give a Memorial Gift

A final idea to consider is giving a memorial gift. Perhaps you could give each person a photo of your loved one. Make Christmas ornaments from their clothing and place one at each place setting. Then, when Christmas comes the following month, each person has a memorial ornament to place on the tree. If you have the time, you could create a short tribute video with photos and video or audio clips. Then, you can give a copy to each family member. Or, write your loved one’s favorite recipe on cards and give one to each household so they can enjoy the dish in their own homes.

No matter what you decide to do, make sure to take care of yourself amidst it all. Grief is hard and often very tiring. Journal what you are thinking and feeling because there will be moments when the feelings come strongly. If you aren’t a writer, talk to someone or draw or go for a walk or run. Whatever you need to do to work through your feelings. Get plenty of sleep and give yourself permission to experience moments of joy.

This Thanksgiving will be different. That’s for certain. But you can find the balance between moments of grief and moments of joy. Choose a way to honor your loved one’s memory in a meaningful way and let yourself enjoy time and new memories with the people you love, here and now.

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.

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.

6 Ways to Use Photos to Honor a Loved One

By COVID-19, Meaningful Funerals, Memorial, Technology and Grief

With the current guidelines on social distancing, we must find ways of honoring and memorializing a loved one other than gathering together for a funeral or memorial service. Consider these ideas for using photos to honor and remember your loved one’s life together, even if you have to be apart for the time being.

1. Personalize a Memorial Website with Photos

Sometimes, we aren’t all able to come together to honor a loved one’s life, which is why online options are perfect for those who can’t attend a funeral because they live far away or are dealing with unexpected circumstances. With a memorial website, you can personalize the look with meaningful photos and invite others to leave comments, stories, and their own photos of your loved one. If you’d rather not create a memorial website, you can create a memorial page on Facebook (or another social media platform) instead.

2. Make a Tribute Video

With a tribute video, you can use photos, audio clips, video clips, favorite quotes, and so much more to create a truly personal account of your loved one’s life. Whether at a memorial website or other social media platform, a tribute video adds a meaningful element. A video allows family and friends to reflect on their memories, receive comfort, and laugh or cry as they remember a loved one. Additionally, a tribute video can be a special keepsake to be watched for years to come.

3. Distribute a Sharing Link for Photos

Another way to include others in honoring a loved one digitally is through a photo-sharing site. In other words, create a place where people can view your photos and share their own. For instance, you can use Flickr, Dropbox, Facebook, or even Instagram (using a personalized hashtag) to facilitate photo viewing and sharing. By sharing photos in this way, you invite others to discuss their own memories of your loved one. As an added bonus, you get to see moments of your loved one’s life that you may never have known. Together, everyone will have a more complete view of your loved one’s life and can honor its significance.

4. Order a Memory Book

Memory books can be easily created online using apps that lay out your photos into a book format. You can either request that the photo book service arrange the book for you or you can personalize it yourself. Whichever option you choose, a memory book is a wonderful keepsake gift. You can create it simply for yourself or you can make it available to other family members who would enjoy it. A few popular services are Shutterfly, Snapfish, and Mixbook. If you’d prefer to create a scrapbook instead, feel free to do that as well!

5. Print Photos on Canvas

Another wonderful option for a memorial keepsake is to print some of your favorite photos on canvas. There are many services that will create a personalized canvas print for you. Simply put in the order online and wait for your print! Once the print arrives, you can place it in a special place in your home. Also, you might consider printing photos on canvas as a wonderful memorial keepsake or gift for loved ones.

6. Frame a Collage of Prints

Alternatively, you can order prints online and frame a collage of photos of your loved one for yourself or for a family member. This special remembrance will help you continue to honor the memories of your loved one in a very special way. And again, you can present the collage to family and friends as a keepsake item. Or, you can get together, in person or online, and each create your own photo collage. In this way, you can honor your loved one’s life while also sharing memories with those you love.

Whether you implement one or all these ideas, photos are an excellent way to personally and meaningfully honor a loved one’s life. After all, your loved one’s life is as completely unique as every photo that records their extraordinary life.

For ideas on how to use photos to personalize a funeral service, click here.

7 Pet Memorial Options

By Grief/Loss, Memorial, Pets

Losing a pet can be like losing a person. While that may sound strange to some, grief isn’t about a who or a what, it’s about a relationship. And if you have a loving relationship with a pet, the grief can be very similar to what you might experience when a person dies, especially when the emotional connection to your pet is deep. And that’s okay. In fact, you may experience a variety of emotions, including sadness, anger, depression, or anxiety. All of these reactions to the pain of loss are completely normal, no matter who or what you may be grieving. One way that you can begin to process your loss is with a pet memorial.

For those who have lost a pet recently, one of the best things you can do throughout the grief process is to cherish your memories. Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally respected grief expert, has walked with families through all kinds of grief. He says, “Memories are one of the best legacies after the death of a pet. Talk about and embrace these memories. Your pet entertained, comforted, frustrated but always loved you. Remember those times. If your memories bring laughter, smile. If they bring sadness, cry. Remember, though, memories made in love can never be taken away.”

Now, let’s discuss 7 pet memorial options you might consider as you look for ways to cherish the memory of your pet and find comfort as you grieve.

1. Share your memories with others

After losing a pet, your first instinct may be to turn to social media to post a picture and share your memories of your beloved pet. Alternatively, some pet owners choose to host a celebration of life for a very special pet. You could invite your closest friends over to help you honor your pet’s memory. You can share your memories and give family, especially children, the opportunity to say a few words. Make the event as lighthearted or as reflective as you want. You can hold an actual burial, placing your pet in a special spot, or you can simply celebrate the good times. You might even ask your guests to bring their own pets to the gathering. To bring in a little lightheartedness, you can make a special treat for any pets who attend or send the pets home with a little bag of treats.

2. Select an urn

For many people, choosing an urn for a pet’s cremated remains and placing it in a special place is enough. If you want to keep the urn in your home, you might choose one that is decorative and place a photo of your pet nearby. If you prefer to bury the cremated remains, you could use a biodegradable urn and bury it with your pet’s favorite toy or keepsakes made by the kids.

3. Create a custom work of art

If you like art pieces or are an artist yourself, creating (or commissioning) a custom piece of art is a great way to memorialize your pet. If you choose to create your own work of art, you will actually contribute to your own healing. Sometimes words just aren’t enough after a loss, and creative expression allows you to put whatever you’re feeling into a piece of art. The medium of art is entirely up to you – drawing, painting, sculpting, etc. The end goal is to create something that is special to you and helps you cherish the memory of your pet.

4. Place a memorial in a special location

If you have a garden, plant a memorial tree or add a memorial stone to the landscaping. You could even make a clay paw print to include. Alternatively, you can place a photo, painting, or collage of your pet in a place of honor in your home or in a different special place. If you had a favorite park to walk at together, you may be able to add a memorial bench. Determining what’s best is entirely up to you and the unique life you lived with your pet.

5. Make a keepsake

Depending on your own personal likes and dislikes, you can create a memorial keepsake in remembrance of your pet. You might buy or make a piece of jewelry and engrave your pet’s name on it, purchase an ornament and put your pet’s photo in it, create a shadow box, or put together a photo book or scrapbook of memories. The possibilities are endless. It just depends on what you like best and what will be most meaningful.

6. Order an engraved item

Another option for memorializing your beloved pet is to have an item engraved. The item entirely depends on you. You might want to have a piece of jewelry engraved or a shadow box or a memorial grave marker. You can even have your pet’s photograph engraved on an item if that will help you cope with your grief and remember the impact your pet had on your life.

7. Put together a memorial video

For some, a visual reminder is incredibly helpful. You can put together a tribute video of your pet, using photos, audio, or video elements. You can include footage of your pet and even interviews with family or friends. After it’s complete, you can watch the video any time you feel nostalgic or simply want to feel close to your pet again. Also, if you have children, the video will be a treasure trove of memories once they are older and want to reminisce about your beloved pet.

Grief is a very personal journey. Some people will take part in all of these pet memorial ideas while others may find other ways to honor and remember their pet. We all grieve differently, and those emotions can be expressed in many different ways. That’s why we must always be sure not to compare grief. We feel what we feel, and we process it the way we process it. We must all do what’s best of us individually and allow others to do the same. That goes for any kind of grief, whether you’ve lost a pet, a person, or anything in between.

Creating Memorial Keepsakes with Funeral Flowers

By Grief/Loss, Meaningful Funerals, Memorial

One way that extended family, friends, and co-workers show their love and support in times of loss is by sending flowers and condolences to the grieving family. By offering a gift, others are able to physically show their loving care and send a message of support. While the flowers bring comfort to the family during the ceremony, what should be done with the flowers afterward?

One special way that funeral flowers can be repurposed is by creating unique and personal memorial keepsakes. These keepsakes are one way that you can honor your grief and your loved one’s memory. Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally respected grief counselor, author, and educator, says: “It is not instinctive to see grief and the need to openly mourn as something to honor, yet the capacity to love requires the necessity to mourn. To honor your grief is not self-destructive or harmful, it is courageous and life-giving.”

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 a Memorial Keepsake

Depending on which option you choose, you will need to dry and/or press the flowers in order to use them. After the flowers are ready, you can start on the task of creating a keepsake.

Candle

A memorial candle with dried flowers is a beautiful keepsake option. As you create the candle, you can reminisce about your loved one, and when the candle is complete, you can light it in their memory. In the days and months to come, you can find comfort in your memories every time you enjoy the candle.

Potpourri

Our sense of smell is closely linked to memory, more so than our other senses. With that in mind, as you create potpourri out of leftover funeral flowers, choose spices and oils that remind you of your loved one. That way, every time you pass by, you can find comfort in the familiar scent.

Bookmarks

If you are a reader or your loved one was, creating a memorial bookmark with dried flowers might be especially meaningful. Every time you take refuge in the pages of a book, it will be like your loved one is enjoying the pages along with you.

Ornaments

If you particularly enjoy Christmas time, making a memorial ornament may be just right for you. You can make ornaments from a variety of materials, one of which is funeral flowers. When you place your specially made ornament on the tree each year, it will be a small reminder of the person you love. Also, these would make excellent gifts to other friends and family who value your loved one.

Bracelets

If you would prefer to make something that you can take with you anywhere you go, a bracelet may be the option for you. There are many ways to make bracelets out of funeral flowers, but two of them are with resin or with polymer clay. With your specially made memorial bracelet, you can remember your loved one no matter where you go.

Pressed Flower Initials

Pressing funeral flowers into the initials of your loved one is a beautiful reminder of the person who died and their impact on your life. With its simple beauty, you can display this work of art in your home and fondly remember the person you love.

Pressed and Dried Flower Phone Case

These days, almost everyone carries a cell phone with them. That’s why this idea is so practical. You can make a protective case for your phone that showcases the beautiful flowers given in love and support. Each time you look at them, remember that you’re not alone. People care about you and your family.

Pendant

Wearing memorial jewelry is a growing trend. For those whose loved one was cremated, cremation jewelry is available. However, in addition to or instead of cremation jewelry, you can create your own pendants with dried flowers. Any time you want to remember your loved one, you can wear the pendant you made in their honor.

Coasters

You can design some beautiful coasters with dried funeral flowers. With these, you can create something that not only pleases your eye but helps you fondly remember your loved one. And each time a guest comments on them, you can share a story about your loved one’s life.

Shadow Box

By creating a shadow box with dried flowers from the funeral, you can create a large piece of art to admire. You might even consider placing a favorite photo of your loved one in the box as well. These items together will create a lovely tribute.

If you should decide to repurpose funeral flowers, these ideas are only the beginning. There are so many options available to you. It’s just a matter of choosing the one you like most. Another benefit to these craft ideas is that you can share them with others, inviting them to join you in remembering someone loved.

For the Less Craft-Inclined Person

For some of us, the idea of creating a memorial keepsake is a bit too much to think about. That’s perfectly fine. We are all different and will grieve in different ways. For those who are less craft-inclined, you can:

  • Give any remaining funeral flowers to friends, relatives, and co-workers
  • Donate the flowers to a church, workplace, retirement home, or hospice care facility
  • Place them at the gravesite of another loved one
  • Keep them to enjoy in your own home
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