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How To Honor Your Loved Ones Who Have Passed

By October 8, 2023November 14th, 202313 Comments

This week is a difficult one for me. It is the anniversary of my mother’s passing. I can’t believe it’s been 14 years. There are times when grief reappears, and it feels like she passed away yesterday. It is also my brother’s birthday. The brother closest in age to me is still with us – thankfully. But my other brother is not. We always used to celebrate their birthdays together even though their birth years were three years apart. The anniversary of my brother’s passing is coming up on Halloween. I was thinking about my mother and brother and rather than sit in my thoughts and allow myself to be overwhelmed by grief, I wanted to do something to honor them. Since I know I am not alone in trying to figure out ways to honor your loved ones after they passed, I thought I’d share my thoughts here in the blog and hope they may help someone else as well as myself.

Here are 3 ways to honor your loved ones

Engage in an activity you used to do together

As many of you already know, my mother and I used to garden together. To honor her, I went out and bought violas which I will plant along the front of my townhouse. Mom used to call violas “johnny jump-ups”. Just because I had to know, I looked to find out if that is another name for violas and it is!

I will think about my mom as I engage in this bit of gardening. Digging in the dirt is something she and I loved to do together. Sometimes we would talk, other times we would just quietly work side-by-side. It was easy to have a conversation about nothing or about serious things that were on our minds when our hands were deep in dirt, and we weren’t looking at each other. So, I will talk to my mom, sharing the things that are on my mind while I plant the violas.

In truth, I regularly talk to my mother this way as I often tend my plants and think of her.

Go to church or a place of worship

When I lived in Connecticut and for a year or two after we moved to Atlanta, I was a very regular church goer. I loved the church I attended in Connecticut and tried to find a place of worship just like it here in Atlanta.

Of course, you know every place is its own unique place. Just like every person is unique. I served on the Altar Guild at my church in Connecticut and so joined the Altar Guild at the church in Atlanta. It was run differently, and I was missing the familiar routine and the people at the church I left behind, so I quit.

I gave myself all sorts of reasons for quitting; not enough time to do my chores and attend church (you know that’s not true), it’s a beautiful day and I’d rather be outside (well, was I outside? NOPE), or any excuse I could come up with that sounded reasonable at the time.

This Sunday, I will not allow myself any excuses. I’m going to put my excuses aside and go to church. Honestly, I love the music, the prayers, and the quiet time for reflection. I’ll light a candle for my mother and my brother and say a little prayer for them.

Is going to church, temple, or another place of worship something you did with your loved ones and can do now to honor them?

Write them a letter

Consider writing your loved one a letter. Grab a pen and some paper or a nice card and write what you would say to them, as if you were going to pop the letter or card in the mail. What do you want them to know about the things that currently interest you? Tell them how you have changed in the days, months, or years since they have passed away.

Writing things down has a way of helping to process the way you’re feeling.

For me, just acknowledging that even though I’m doing well I still (and probably always will) feel this sense of loss deeply from time to time.

Letting go of grief was hard for me because I thought that if I let the grief go, I would also let go of my loved ones. When I wrote that thought onto a piece of paper and read it back to myself, I realized that my loved ones would not want me to just wallow in my grief. That helped me to push aside grief and to honor my loved ones by living my life the best way I know how.

Now when I write them, I pretend that this is a letter they will read. I share my updates, news of my children and grandchildren, and feel satisfied because I am remembering them with love.

Go to their grave site

Another way to honor your loved ones is to visit their grave site. My mother’s ashes are buried in the cemetery at the church in Connecticut and my brother’s ashes are buried in the cemetery at a church we used to attend in the summer in Upstate New York.  I will visit my mother’s grave site when I spend time visiting my son and his family.

Can you go and spend some time at your loved one’s grave site?

A friend told me a story about a man sitting on a bench at a cemetery she passes twice a day when she takes and picks up her children from school. We wondered who he was visiting. I suggested she stop and ask the man. He would probably like to talk about, tell the story of the person he spends time visiting every day. I hope she stops and asks him.

It doesn’t matter how you chose to honor your loved ones after they pass. The best way will be the way that works best for you.

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer® ,a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release●Repurpose●Reorganize, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia.

13 Comments

  • One way I remember loved ones is to donate to THEIR choice of charity on their birthdays. Yesterday was my mom’s birthday and I made a donation to Nature Conservancy. I also spend the anniversary of her death (in May) outside planting flowers in my pots for the summer, similar to your gardening example except that I’m not nearly as much of a gardener as my mom was. On Christmas Eve I put luminarias around her grave. She grew up here in New Mexico (since age 10, that is) where they are traditional, and taught us to love them even though we lived in Idaho during most of my childhood.

  • I was drawn to your post due to the recent passing of my dear dog. Although some of your ideas would only apply to human loved ones, I found things here I can use. I can go for walks along the streets we used to walk together, remembering the early days when she was young and crazy as well as the later days when we were barely moving. And I’ve been thinking of writing her not one, but many letters, kind of a journal where I record my memories of her. Thank you for your caring, and well-timed, post.

  • I love this, may all our loved ones who passed rest in peace. And if it helps doing things that will bring their memories to life, then we should all be engaging in some activities hopefully it will bring us comfort and maybe a smile. Grief doesn’t just disappear and memories become a treasure.

  • Julie+Bestry says:

    What a lovely post, Diane, and I am sure it will bring comfort to many. And I’m sure your mom would be proud of what you’ve written.

    In a book by Tiffany Shlain about taking a tech shabbat each week, she writes, “Someone once told me: whenever you are doing something that the person you lost loved to do, you bring them back.” This dovetails nicely with your idea of doing the things you previously did together, and both ideas warm my heart.

    I hope this week passes easily for you, and that you are comforted by blessings of happy memories with your mom.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Thank you, Julie. I appreciate you sharing what Tiffany Shlain wrote in their book.

  • Jana Arevalo says:

    Thank you for sharing this. My mother passed away a couple of years ago, and I love the idea of doing something in her honor. I think your suggestions are healthy ways to honor our loved ones when, so often in our profession, we see people trying to honor them by holding onto their things. But just like you said, they wouldn’t want us holding onto our grief, and I think the same can be said for holding onto their stuff. Hugs for you this month as it sounds like October has a lot of precious memories, both happy and sad.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Thanks, Jana. It’s so true! Our loved ones would not want us to hold onto their stuff to help us remember them.

  • My heart goes out to you, Diane. Grief is something that doesn’t ever go away completely. It just changes how it feels.

    Your expressions of love and how you’re honoring your mother and brother are inspirational. I love how you continue to connect your love of gardening with beautiful memories of gardening with your mother. Or, how you write letters to your mother and brother and imagine they are reading the messages. These are loving ways to keep their memories close and acknowledge the importance of these connections for you.

    My mom’s been gone almost three years. This year, I decided that once a year, on the anniversary of her passing (March 27th,) I would celebrate her by eating coffee ice cream with hot fudge. This was something the two of us loved. It’s also something I rarely eat now. So I went this year and ordered it from our local ice cream place and sat in my car eating as the tears streamed down my face. It was delicious, cathartic, and made me feel close to her.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Oh Linda! I can see you in your car. That’s a wonderful bittersweet way to honor your mom’s passing.

  • I love this post. My favorite is engaging in an activity we used to do together. My mother loved birding and at times we would watch birds together. I still have her binoculars and bird books. As I sit out on my deck enjoying the birds I am going to bring out her binoculars and try to identify some of the birds I don’t know.

  • I love this post! I found that doing activities my parents loved helped me honor both my parents. When my dad passed, we scheduled a trip to Disney for the whole family, something he would have loved to do. He was a big fan of Disney.

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