Saying Goodbye: 9 Ways to Honor Your Loved One Without a Funeral
“Goodbyes are not forever, are not the end; it simply means I’ll miss you until we meet again.” -Unknown
Traditional funeral services offer a gathering place for family and friends to come together to remember, mourn, give and receive comfort, and celebrate the life of the deceased. If there are no formal or traditional services planned for your loved one, you may wish to consider other opportunities to have a memorable celebration in a way that speaks to you and your family.
5 Ways to Honor Your Loved One Without a Funeral
Below are some ideas of how you may wish to honor your loved one with a special goodbye when there are no services planned.
1. Gather at a Favorite Spot
There is no rule about how big or small your gathering should be. Perhaps you’d like to have an intimate gathering with close family at your loved one’s favorite restaurant where everyone orders his or her favorite dessert.
Or, maybe you’d like to opt for a larger, more public gathering with family and friends at your loved one’s favorite park, where you could host a picnic or barbecue with everyone bringing a favorite dish to share.
If the beach was a favorite spot, you may wish to plan a day in the sun and gather together and tell favorite stories as the sun sets over the water.
If your loved one was a nature enthusiast, organize a walk on his or her favorite trail. If he or she was an avid sports fan, gather around a television for the big game or get tickets to their favorite team to come together at a best-loved spot.
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2. Decorate to Reflect Your Loved One’s Life
Wherever you decide to gather, consider different ways to decorate the space to reflect your loved one’s passions, interests, and hobbies.
- Incorporate favorite colors and music.
- Display photos in a collage, slideshow or in frames.
- Serve your loved one’s favorite food and drinks.
- Bring hobbies and passions to life by bringing treasured belongings for family and friends to see.
3. Encourage Guests to Participate
- Think about giving family and friends a chance to participate by sharing favorite memories and qualities about the deceased. Ask guests to share their best stories aloud.
- You can provide flat stones, colorful paper, a large canvas, or another medium for family and friends to write down their favorite things about your loved one. Memories written on rocks or paper can be gathered in a glass jar or vase, which can be a beautiful keepsake to remind you of special things about your loved one as time moves forward.
- If your loved one had a favorite color, hobby, or sports team, consider asking guests to dress in recognition of this. Guests can get involved by wearing a certain color, jersey, or other attire that reflects a theme you choose to celebrate.
4. Create a Special Memorial
- Find a meaningful place to establish a lasting memorial for your loved one. You may wish to plant a tree, have a bench or plaque made with a special inscription, or create a garden in memory of your loved one.
- Consider gathering close family and friends to share special stories or make a toast to acknowledge this meaningful space. This can be a wonderful place to visit to connect with and remember your loved one in the future.
More like This: Establishing A Permanent Memorial
5. Ask for Help From Close Family and Friends
Planning a memorial or celebration in the midst of loss and grief can feel overwhelming if you try to do it all on your own. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Friends and family often appreciate the opportunity to provide support. Now is the time to let those around you help with whatever tasks need to be done and give yourself time to rest.
4 Ways You Can Include Children
There are many different ways to support children in honoring their loved one with a special goodbye through age-appropriate activities designed to help memorialize their loved one.
1. Make something special
You may wish to consider an opportunity for your child to create something for their loved one that can be placed inside the casket or next to the urn, or that your child could share during a special memorial celebration. Some ideas include:
- Making a card
- Drawing a picture
- Writing a letter
2. Choose a Meaningful Keepsake to Share
If you’re planning any type of memorial gathering or celebration, consider suggesting that children choose special items that remind them of their loved one to be displayed during the gathering. Take the opportunity when children are selecting their items to remember favorite memories together. Different items to choose from can include:
- Clothing (such as a favorite sports jersey or fishing vest)
More like This: How To Honor Your Loved Ones Who Have Passed Away
3. Participate in a Memorial Celebration
Consider giving your child an opportunity to choose a role to participate in a memorial service or celebration. A memorial celebration can be a large gathering of family and friends, or a very small and personal family dinner. There are all kinds of memorial celebrations and children can be included in many different ways. Some ideas include:
- Sharing a special memory, poem, reading or song
- Handing out memorial cards
- Planting a memorial tree, bush or garden together
- Writing down favorite things about their loved one on flat stones or colorful paper which can be gathered in a glass jar or vase to become a beautiful keepsake
Suggested Read: Celebration Of Life – 20 Of The Best Ideas (2019 Edition)
4. Set Aside Time to Talk
After the memorial activities and gatherings have ended, set aside time to talk about any questions your child has. There may be new questions that your child didn’t know they had before, and this can be an opportunity to have a supportive conversation with your child about the passing.
Visit the article, Supporting Children At Each Stage Of Development, for ways to support a grieving child or teen at each stage of development.
For additional resources on supporting children and teens after a loss, you can visit the following organizations. They provide helpful insight, suggestions and resources for children and their families:
There are many ways to honor your loved one, even when there are no formal services planned. Consider what speaks to you and your family, and decide what feels like the most authentic way to celebrate the life of your loved one.