We all grieve in different ways. For some people, looking through old photos brings comfort, for others seeing a reminder of their loved one brings the grief flooding back in.
We’ve gathered together some ideas for how you might want to honour your loved one’s memory. Some are tangible, constant reminders, others are reminders you can choose to visit in your own time, when you feel ready to do so. And some about actions you might want to take to honour them.
1. Dedicate a tree or woodland
Dedicating a tree or woodland is a living memorial to a loved one and dedications are available from a range of UK charities including in Woodland Trust woods across the UK and can range from individual trees to whole areas of woodland. When you make a dedication, you will receive a pack containing a certificate with a personal message, a map, and an information sheet to help you learn about the history and wildlife of your chosen wood – and how to visit.
The National Trust has an ambition to plant 20 million trees by 2030. You can make a dedication via their website to celebrate a loved one’s life while also giving back to nature.
If you’d prefer to plant a tree in your garden or on land you own, check the best time of year to plant the type of tree you have chosen. Bare-rooted trees are best planted between November and March. The Woodland Trust‘s website has advice on how to plant native woodland trees and fruit trees in the UK.
2. Make a memory bear
Memory bears are made with clothing that belonged to a loved one or material that has some sentimental meaning for you. They give you something tangible that you can hold for comfort as well as incorporating visual reminders. Memory bears are often made to give to younger family memories as a keepsake.
A favourite jumper, jeans, rugby shirt, or part of a wedding dress can be incorporated into a cushion or bear. You can buy a pattern and make your own or, if you prefer to have your keepsake made for you, there are many suppliers on Etsy.
3. Design a piece of memorial jewellery
Memorial jewellery is a keepsake which contains the ashes of someone who’s been cremated. There are various types available, suitable for different budgets. Because of its unparalleled beauty, durability, and uniqueness, many people choose to have memorial jewellery made from diamonds.
Only a small amount of ash is needed to create a piece of memorial jewellery. This gives you the freedom to divide the ashes up between family members. Designing a one-of-a-kind piece of jewellery gives you an opportunity to reflect on your loved one and reminisce about your time together.
Every time you see your ring, pendant, earrings, or cufflinks, you’ll be reminded of your loved one and the happy times you spent together. Your personal keepsake can also act as a reminder of the fragility of life and the importance of living every day to its full potential.
Diamonds made from ashes and mined diamonds are identical, both chemically and aesthetically. The only difference in their creation is that mined diamonds are made from applying high pressure and high temperature naturally, while memorial diamonds are made by applying high pressure and high temperatures inside a lab.
4. Make a donation to their favourite charity
You can honour someone’s beliefs and interests by making a donation to their favourite charity.
As a charity, we are entirely dependent on gifts and donations. By donating to Humanists UK, you’ll be helping us to provide our much-needed campaigns and services. We devote much of our time to campaigning and lobbying on behalf of the non-religious – as well as for freedom of religion, belief, speech, thought, and expression more generally. We champion a society where there is no religious privilege or discrimination based on religion or belief. We also campaign for a rational approach to public ethical issues.
5. Live your best life
The old adage ‘Life’s too short’ can sometimes hit home when someone you love dies. It can make you assess your own life and clarify for you changes you want to make. As a result, some people choose to honour the memory of a loved one by changing something about their own lives: to give their life purpose, to slow down, to travel, or to strive for happiness.
Humanists believe we have only one life and so we should make the most of it. For us, being happy is one of the most important things in life. But we don’t think of our own happiness in isolation: we take into account the health and wellbeing of others, and the care and protection of the environment.
Many humanists believe that building positive relationships, finding peace and tranquility, and pursuing intellectual endeavours are all important ingredients of ‘the good life’ and can make us happy.
‘The happy life is to an extraordinary extent the same as the good life.’ Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970)
The humanist goal is for everyone to be happy and recognise that our own happiness is tied up with everyone else’s.
‘Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so.’ Robert Ingersoll, ‘The Great Agnostic’ (1833 – 1899)
A humanist funeral to honour a loved one
Humanist funerals are non-religious ceremonies that are about the person who’s died, the life they led, and the relationships they forged.
Ceremonies conducted by humanist celebrants are both a celebration of a life and a dignified, personal farewell. They’re the perfect option for families who want a sincere, personal reflection on the life of their loved ones.