10 memorial ideas
Losing a family member, loved one or friend is a difficult process, with the initial grief then followed by a period of readjustment that can take a long time. One of the hardest parts of losing someone is the gap left behind – what may be a Saturday afternoon visit every week, a quick coffee here and there or a full life spent together is suddenly gone.
Remembering a loved one who has passed away is an important part of the grieving process and can go some way to fill this gap. Strong memories are good to have, but over time it may become more difficult to remember the person. This can be especially true for children, who may not remember a grandparent or parent who passed away when they were young.
One of the best ways to ensure someone who has died will be remembered long into the future is by creating a memorial. Here are ten memorial ideas that could help you or your family to memorialise a loved one or create something that can act as a reminder of a special person.
1. A memorial plaque or headstone
Just because a person was cremated doesn’t mean that they can’t have a physical location that can be visited. Speak with whoever manages your place of worship to see if a memorial garden already exists, or request if a headstone can be erected. At the crematorium, there may be a similar garden area or a wall where plaques can be affixed, which can act as a location to visit in the future.
2. An urn
If the person or family of the deceased person opted for cremation, then retaining their ashes is a way of ensuring that they can still be part of people’s lives even though they have moved on. The most common way of retaining ashes is to display them in an urn. Urns are a traditional way of creating a memorial if there isn’t a headstone or grave that can be visited, plus it can be moved around much easier, for example, if the family moves to a different house or part of the country.
The funeral service you choose may also include the option to purchase a memorial urn, but you don’t need to buy an urn to receive the ashes. If you wish to shop around, use something other than an urn or even make your own receptacle, then most of the time the crematorium will be able to provide a temporary urn or vessel, or use your chosen urn to store the ashes.
3. A memorial photo frame
Creating a lasting memorial doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. Simply choosing a favourite photograph and getting it framed can be a simple way of creating a reminder that can go pretty much anywhere. Try choosing a photograph taken on a particularly happy or memorable day, or one that also includes other special people such as friends or family members.
You can always get a few additional prints to give to other important people, or smaller photographs that can be kept in a purse or wallet.
4. Plant a tree
This idea is great for environmentally conscious people as well as being a nice way to create a lasting memorial that children and grandchildren will be able to visit for many years to come. A small plaque next to a young shrub is a nice way of letting others know that the tree has been planted in someone’s memory. If you intend on planting the tree on both public and private land, ensure that you have permission first. It also helps to know a little about tree care or have some basic gardening knowledge, as certain trees need a little extra TLC as saplings.
5. A park bench and plaque
Park benches and accompanying plaques have become a popular way of creating a memorial in a spot that was particularly special to the person being remembered. Usually, the purchase of a park bench and any plaque is organised by and at the expense of the family or friends of the person who has passed away. However, permission must be sought at the location where it is intended to go. If this is a local park or public place, then the local authority (Council) is the best place to start.
At privately owned places, like National Trust properties or similar, then there may already be a process in place for arranging a memorial bench or other similar memorial. Check websites for details or arrange a phone call to check what needs to be done or whether memorial donations are currently being accepted.
6. A scrapbook
If you’re sorting out the belongings of the person who has passed away, then why not save smaller keepsakes like house keys, photos, souvenirs or tickets and creating a scrapbook or keepsake box? This can then be shared with younger family members as they grow, or opened up and looked at times where the person is being particularly missed.
7. A special location
Creating a memorial can be as simple as picking a nice view, a spot where the person liked to spend time, or a quiet and peaceful location that can be visited by other friends or family members. From a beach to the local pond, memorials don’t always need to be purchased or made. You could make the place even more closely linked to the person by spreading some of their ashes, but gain permission first if the intended location lies on private land. Learn more about what to do with ashes after a cremation.
8. A song or poem
Memorials don’t always have to be a physical place or object. Getting creative can be an equally effective way of honouring someone’s memory, plus if the song or poem is memorised, it can be taken anywhere and remembered at any time. If you’re able to create this soon after the person has passed away, then you could even read it at their funeral.
9. A charitable donation
Doing something to help others is a popular inclusion in many people’s final wishes and can even be included as part of the will. However, this could also become part of the memorial itself. If money isn’t readily available, then relatives or friends could always offer to volunteer. Nine times out of ten, the charity will likely honour the act with a special mention or will record it in their publications or on a website, creating something that can be visited or thought of again in the future.
10. A lasting memory
Many people want to memorialise their lost ones with something they can touch and feel, or a place they can visit regularly to simply say hello and maybe lay some flowers or light a candle. But, as mentioned, a memorial doesn’t have to be something physical – and memories can often be just as effective as a physical reminder. We mentioned at the start of the article that memories can fade over time, but particularly positive or strong memories can often be difficult to lose, especially if they make a strong impression.
A good tip for making memories last longer is to write them down in a diary or somewhere safe, so you can revisit those memories again. Even if years have gone by since the person passed away, well-embedded memories or visual cues like a note or diary entry can soon make them vivid again. Again, the beauty with strong memories is that they can be taken anywhere and accessed at any time!
Simple memorial ideas
Don't forget that a memorial should be personal to you and your loved one's family. It doesn't have to be a permanent memorial, and a memorial certainly doesn't have to fit to any conventions. Our memorial ideas are just that: ideas. Take them for inspiration and create a memorial that commemorates your loved one's life.
We're here when you need to talk
If you’ve recently lost someone and are finding it difficult to cope or just want someone to speak to, support is available via the National Bereavement Service's (NBS) webchat. It is a free online service which connects you to a trained advisor.
We may even be able to offer some free and confidential advice about the funeral itself, alongside further memorial ideas to help you remember and honour someone you have lost.