Honoring the memory of a loved one doesn’t always need to come in the form of timeworn traditions. Research shows that something as simple as telling the story of the life and loss of a loved one can help family members make sense of the situation, find meaning, and provide relief when coping with grief

We asked members of the Thrive community to share the small yet meaningful ways they honor the memory of a loved one. Their resiliency and thoughtfulness show that there are many ways to keep someone’s impact with you. 

Embrace the healing power of art

“‘La vita é breve, e l’arte é lunge’ — Life is short, but art endures. To my sister Gianna, who was a museum professional and an artist, museums and galleries were sacred spaces. As part of her cancer treatment, she made quiet, reflective visits to her favorite institutions and artworks, calling this her ‘museum therapy.’ Each time I visit a museum, it is an opportunity to be with and honor her memory,  and to receive the same healing power of art.”

—John Capecci, story coach, Minneapolis, MN

Develop a ritual

“I lost my son three years ago, when he was only 35. I started a tradition that helps me cope with the loss. He was a veteran, so every year on his birthday I go up to our local V.A. hospital and deliver an envelope with a short note of thanks to a veteran. Somehow, I always seem to find the right one. The envelope has a short note about my son’s Navy service, and that on this day, he would have been 36, 37, 38, and so on. I thank them for their service, and I give an amount of money corresponding to my son’s age with best wishes to enjoy lunch or a tank of gas.”

—Holly Morris, R.N., Gainesville, FL

Remember their talents 

“My father had an uncanny knack for finding parking. In the most crowded shopping center or on the busiest street, spaces would magically open up right in front of him. We learned not to question his abilities. One day, after he had died, I was in a neighborhood with impossible parking, and I was running late. Out of desperation, I said, ‘Dad, help me find parking!’ Miraculously, a spot opened up. A week later, in a similar situation with a friend, I told her about dad’s parking karma. I suggested that she ask him for help. It worked. After that, I told other friends. Now, my father is the patron saint of parking. Often a friend will say to me, ‘I asked your dad to help me find parking, and he did.’ It brings a smile to my face every time.”

—Margaret Meloni, author, Long Beach, CA

Continue their spirit of giving 

“I honor my favorite cousin and aunt through yearly charity work for underprivileged children and homeless families. They were such loving and giving people, and I wanted to continue that same path in their memory. It’s something that has helped me cope with grieving, and has given me great internal rewards.”

—Kiki Dahlke, author, Tampa, FL

Carry on holiday traditions, even if they weren’t your favorite 

“As the Jewish New Year is upon us, I reflect upon two of my mom’s strict customs this time of year. Formalities meant a lot to her, and although they don’t have that much meaning for me, I do them to honor her memory, her life, and what mattered to her. For example, I’m not a honey cake lover, but if she were at our table, as she was almost every holiday, I would have it for her.  So although I really thought I wasn’t going to buy it this year, I succumbed and bought one at the bakery. It brings me back to those sweet times having mom’s presence at our table. I also visit her grave. As a child, my mom felt very strongly that I visit the graves of my grandparents with her before certain holidays.” 

—Harriet Cabelly, L.C.S.W., grief therapist, Long Island, NY

Spread kindness 

“I continue to honor my mom’s memory by bringing kindness into the world. My mom was always kind to others, whether it be sitting and listening, loaning money that someone needed to pay rent or put food on their table until the next paycheck, or even just giving a much-needed hug. She was one of the kindest people. I keep her memory alive by spreading kindness, and every now and then, when I receive a ‘thank you,’ I respond with, ‘My mother taught me well.’”

—Pat Obuchowski, executive coach, San Francisco, CA

Keep their memory alive through plants 

“My dad loved his garden. He had flowers and shrubs and a vegetable garden. I don’t have a garden, but I do have pots of flowers and herbs, which I attribute to my dad’s passion. I can’t let a summer go by without planting my herbs. It makes me feel close to him. I have an oleander plant that is barely hanging on, but I keep nurturing it as best as I can because it was planted by my dad. I’ll never be as good of a gardener as he was, but I keep trying. It brings a smile to my face to think he’s probably shaking his head at me and laughing.”

—Marianne D’Alessandro, virtual assistant, Toronto, ON, Canada

Write your family history 

“My uncle Sean passed away in Ireland last year, and I honored him by writing a eulogy that was printed in the Irish newspaper. My cousin and I have been working on our family history, and I am now writing a short story for an Irish magazine sharing my family roots all the way back to my great, great grandfather Thady, who landed on our farmland in 1836, years after surviving the Great Famine in his teens. I know my uncle Sean and my other family members who have passed are smiling down at our efforts to put the puzzle pieces together, and ensure our children and grandchildren know where they came from.”

—Siobhan Kukolic, author, speaker, and life coach, Toronto, ON, Canada

Have a goodbye celebration 

“When my father passed, one of his wishes was to have his body donated to a medical school. He was a research scientist and professor. We honored that wish. The medical school, a year and a half later, sent back his cremated remains. Our final goodbye celebration was to have a family gathering on the beach where we had spent so many of our summers — where he taught me how to swim — and we gave his ashes to the waves that he had so loved to jump through years ago.”

—Mim Senft, wellness consultant, Blooming Grove, NY

View the world through their perspective

“My father-in-law passed away very recently, and it’s been a tough loss. He loved to read, and he would randomly call me to tell me about his most recent Kindle download, or book he picked up. Reading was our way of connecting, as I love books too. He liked all kinds of genres, but was a huge John Grisham fan, so in his honor, I’ve decided to read some Grisham novels. As I do, I’ll imagine reading the stories from my father-in-law’s perspective, and imagine the parts that drew him in the most.” 

—Bridgette Provancha, corporate recruiter, Petaluma, CA

Honor your heritage

“Following my Hispanic cultural heritage, I built a Día de los Muertos altar on my patio, and asked friends and relatives to send me pictures of their loved ones who have passed on. I invited them over, and requested that they bring their loved one’s favorite dish to share. After dinner, we each lit a candle and said their name out loud, along with anything else we wished to share about them, as we placed framed pictures next to a LED candle on the altar. Afterward, I moved the altar inside my living room, where it will remain until November 2.”

—Yolanda Ingram, product specialist, Palo Alto, CA

Celebrate birthdays 

“I have learned to honor and remember the birthdays of those who have passed. Over the years, I have done everything from taking off work to being mindful and baking a cake. The way this works has a lot to do with the company I am with. To remember my mom, my wife and I decided to use her name as our daughter’s middle name. I also have since put a picture of my mom and dad up in my house to remember them.”

—Josh Neuer, licensed professional counselor, Greenville, SC

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  • Marina Khidekel

    Chief Content Officer at Thrive

    Marina leads strategy, ideation and execution of Thrive's content company-wide, including cross-platform brand partnership and content marketing campaigns, curricula, and the voice of the Thrive platform. She's the author of Thrive's first book, Your Time to Thrive. In her role, Marina brings Thrive's audience actionable, science-backed tips for reducing stress and improving their physical and mental well-being, and shares those insights on panels and in national outlets like NBC's TODAY. Previously, Marina held senior editorial roles at Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, where she edited award-winning health and mental health features and spearheaded the campaigns and partnerships around them.