A funeral or memorial service is just the start of your bereavement process. Losing a loved one isn’t something you just “get over” or “recover from.” It’s a lifelong journey of finding ways to cope and enjoying the positive things that remain.
Funerals are a great way to kick start this grieving process, but they often leave a sense of emptiness behind. Once the funeral planning is done and the guests have departed, it’s time to begin finding your new path through life—often with only yourself to rely on.
For many, creating a memorial space at home is an ideal way to begin this journey of healing. In addition to allowing you a physical space to mourn (that’s not as far away as a cemetery), you may find comfort from having memories of the deceased so close by.
- Dedicate a space for the memorial. A mantelpiece is the most common location, but any niche or corner (or even a shelf on the bookcase) will do. A coffee table, a desk, or even an entire room you don’t use may also apply.
- Place an urn or photo in the space. If you had the deceased cremated, you can keep an urn of the ashes in the memorial space. If not, you can place a photograph or beloved item (shoes, a stuffed animal, a favorite hat, a trophy, an award medal, a wedding ring) in the center location. Anything that reminds you of the deceased and brings you joy will work.
- Consider flowers, decorations, and other commemorative items. There’s no rule about how many things you need to put in a memorial space, so feel free to include anything you feel is relevant to your relationship with your loved one. Some people also like to put up seasonal items (in much the same way you might place seasonal decorations at a grave site).
- Burn candles or make offerings. Depending on your spiritual beliefs, you may want to light special candles or burn incense. Aromatherapy candles can provide a double benefit if you choose soothing, healing scents that bring you personal comfort or remind you of the deceased. (Make sure you never leave anything on fire unattended.)
- Keep it up as long as you need. The great thing about a memorial space in your home is that you can keep it up year-round, and with the exception of an occasional dusting, you don’t need to do anything to maintain it.
The need for having a safe, physical space to mourn is why we have cemeteries and memorials in the first place. So much about death is intangible, and making a physical connection with those we have lost is difficult. A personal shrine or memorial space not only gives you more flexibility in your grief, but it allows you to personalize the process so that you can always feel connected.