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The value of creating grief rituals is to help us maintain a connection with our loved ones in loving, healing ways that provide us with a sense of peace. It is unnecessary to “hold on” to pain to remember those we love. The ideas below may be adapted or simply used as inspiration for creating your very own ritual. The important thing is for a ritual to have meaning and significance for you and foster an ongoing connection to your loved one.

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  1. Buy a special candle and light it at times that are special to your loved one’s memory, i.e. birthday, Mother’s/Father’s Day, anniversaries, etc. Light one at your dinner table as a reminder of your loved ones presence at holiday gatherings.

  2. Write special notes and put them inside balloons – fill them with helium and have a “releasing” gathering to let them go.

  3. Create an altar of remembrance to keep in your home as a space for you to spend time with your loved one. It can be on a shelf or small accent table, just for holidays /birthdays or even as a permanent fixture.

  4. Create a scrapbook of memories/photos—you can even create a “digital scrapbook” with a blog or website to remember your loved one by.

  5. On birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, etc., buy your loved one a gift (or re-gift some of their gently used belongings you don’t mind parting with) and donate to a local hospital, nursing home, shelter or someone in need.

  6. Christmas stockings – hang one up for a loved one and have everyone write a special note to put inside.

  7. Find a tree in the canyons or woods, tie a colored ribbon around it, and go frequently to remember your loved one (this can be especially helpful when ashes have been scattered and there may be no grave site).

  8. Have a party to honor your loved one on his/her birthday.

  9. Offer a charitable donation (monetary or in-kind) or a scholarship in a loved one’s name.

  10. Frame a piece of clothing or create a shadow box with special items that remind you of your loved one.

  11. Plant a strong, healthy tree, rosebush or whatever may have special meaning to you. You can even dedicate an herb garden or flower bed in their name. Then you can foster your connection to your loved one as you care for your beautiful plant.

  12. Buy a holiday ornament each year to remember your loved one.

  13. If you go on a trip at a special anniversary time, do something special to remember your loved one on the trip (i.e. toss a rose into the ocean, light a candle, etc.)

  14. Have a loved one’s ring made into a new setting for a necklace, etc.

  15.  Let balloons and/or bubbles go with a reflection or special wish to send to the loved one.

  16. Host a family “memory” evening where you share pictures, reminisce about special times, create a scrapbook/box of memories, etc.

  17. Bake cookies/treats together and take them to someone who is sick or unable to get out this time of year.

  18. Decorate a small tree and take it to a hospital/nursing home for a patient who may need some extra warmth.

  19. Create a memory quilt or stuffed animal using photos and/or clothing items from your loved one to cuddle up with.

  20. Start a collection of stories, poems, or quotes about the season. Place them in a book that honors your loved one and add to these each year.

  21. Attend an event that reminds you of your loved one, such as a sporting event, concert, play, movie, etc.

  22. Visit your loved one’s gravesite and bring them flowers, letters, balloons, or something meaningful to you (ie toy cars for a car lover).

  23. Participate in a charity event such as a race or walk, help feed the hungry at Thanksgiving, or start a drive to benefit a local organization by collecting food, books, or stuffed animals.

  24. Create a remembrance wreath ritual with your family at a particular time each year.

  25. Have a watch engraved with his/her name, or carry a locket with a photo to remember them always.

  26. Or.. DIY: design it yourself! Design a special ritual all of your own. Remember, all that’s important is that it is meaningful to you!

Copyright 2015 The Austin Center for Grief & Loss
*Special thanks goes to Panacom, Inc. and Healing Resources, "To Touch a Grieving Heart."
www.austingrief.org