When I was growing up, the neighbors who lived behind us installed a new patio and garden in their backyard. On a plaque in front of the garden were the words, Thank You Mom and Dad. “I think that’s really nice,” my mother commented. “They used money they inherited from their parents to pay for the patio and garden.”

Planting a garden is one way to memorialize your loved one. Whatever you choose to do, you want the memorial to be “right.” When it comes to memorials, I think the bereaved have several options.  One is to choose something that represents her or his occupation. For example, my husband and I established a medical student scholarship in memory of his father. Another option is to choose something that represents your loved one’s interests and hobbies. If your loved one liked to garden, you may donate gardening books to the public library. Still another option is to choose something that represents your loved one’s goals, such as establishing a day care center.

Robin Downes offers some suggestions in her article, “Tips for Memorializing Your Loved One,” posted on the Elev8 website. These tips include creating a video, creating a special website, donating flowers to the church, and planting a tree. I know some family members make quilts and teddy bears from the deceased’s clothing. While they are stitching, I’m sure they see images and think of stories associated with their loved ones.

Other memorial suggestions are posted on The Grief Support Center website. Ginny Brancato, in her article, “Ways to Memorialize a Loved One,” suggests creating a water pond with fish, lilies, and plaque, or setting up a memorial table with a photo album, the departed’s urn, a candle, and a poem. While these are all good suggestions, I prefer memorials that get me involved, and call them Action Memorials.

In 2007 my daughter (mother of my twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother, and the twins’ father all died. What are my Action Memorials? My brother loved books, so I volunteered in the public library’s used book store. Unfortunately, I had to stop volunteering because I became my disabled husband’s primary caregiver. In memory of my father-in-law, I made one of his most outstanding personality traits–ethics–part of my life. Every chance I get, I stand up for ethics. And in memory of the twins’ father, I became an acute observer of nature.

The court appointed my husband and me as the twins’ guardians. Years passed, and we couldn’t think of a memorial for our deceased daughter. Although I can’t speak for my husband, I can admit that the absence of an idea made me feel guilty. Why couldn’t we think of anything? Looking back, I think we were so busy we could hardly think, let alone come up with new ideas. Finally, we realized that the best memorial to our daughter was raising her children, and sending them on their way.

Choosing a fitting memorial a process, and I urge you to take all the time you need. One day, when you least expect it, the idea for the “right” memorial will surface. You can develop this idea and make it come true. Good for you!


Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

More Articles Written by Harriet