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.