Grief & Loss Resource
How To Honour A Loved One's Legacy
What can you do to honour and preserve the memories and legacies of your loved ones?
Information & Resources
Loved One's Legacy
Honouring the legacy of a loved one after they have died is one of the ways many people choose to celebrate the life they lived.
For some loved ones, it can be easy to identify what to do to honour or remember them. While for others, it can be more difficult.
This may be due to the nature of the relationship and the level of closeness varies on the scales, there are no one size fits.
However, choosing to do something, (even if that something is nothing) can help you in your grief journey.
It always seems that we’re in a hurry for the next step in life when we’re growing up. Every new milestone seems to be more exciting than the last.
After we leave the safety net of our family units and step out on our own, we are then occupied with the general activities of life and all of the responsibilities and difficulties that come with them.
Most often, we only start thinking about all the stories that will be lost when a parent dies or is ill. For most bereaved adult children, attending to funeral plans and estate planning has traditionally been the most time-consuming and difficult task.
But what about those life stories and significant memories of a life well lived? Our thoughts turn to our loved ones who have died and wonder what nuggets of knowledge are lost. That knowledge would have been better preserved if we thought of it sooner.
This grief and loss resource provides several tips on how to honour the legacy of our loved ones, including the legacy of our parents when they have died.
Parental relationships can make up the vast amount of memories we have; they can be deeply engraved in who we are. Because of them; their love, care, lessons and guidance, we are who we are.
In this guide you will find:
What is the most difficult thing about losing a parent?
The following are some of the responses we got from members of Balanced Wheel’s Parental loss support group when we asked “what the hardest thing was about losing a parent.”
‘I was completely unprepared. I felt like I had to learn to navigate through life all over again, it was like learning to walk. The hardest part is not hearing his voice, he always picks up the phone at the first or second ring, I don’t get that anymore’.
‘The fact that I won’t see them again. Dealing with grief but I kind of hide it well through other responsibilities’.
We all know that when our loved ones die, their memory lives on, even though at times remembering those we have lost is difficult for various reasons. But, we also know that we do not want to be in a world where our parents (s) don’t exist.
‘Dealing with memories that no longer seem tangible. They happened to you, but with the person gone, they seem difficult to touch and sometimes horrifyingly, difficult to remember. And also the milestones your parents are no longer here to see you achieve. Leaves a bitter taste in the mouth’.
But maybe it’s not possible to experience a world where our parents don’t exist. Because biologically, we are part of them. Parent (s) are an enormous part of who we are. When we lose that physical connection, perhaps we can find ways to show gratitude to them.
So when you are thinking about honouring your parent (s), think about what made them who they are, the essence of their being, what they enjoyed or had a passion for. We will share six things to consider when navigating how to honour your parents after they have died.
We hope that it will help you create your own unique and special way of remembering your parent(s) and allow their memory to live on.
Tips for honouring a loved one's legacy
Preserve their legacy through Storytelling
Storytelling is one of the most profound ways memories are kept. History has proven that stories that are documented can transcend generations. And while the story of your parent (s) may not be a blockbuster, it is the greatest story to you and your family.
You can detail the most memorable moments of your parent (s) lives, and this can be through listening to stories from relatives and friends.
It might be an interesting journey to get to know a part of your parents through a relative’s perspective and maybe their oldest, dearest, or newer friends. It could be quite healing.
I remember watching an episode of ‘This is Us’ where the main character Jack had lost his mother and went back to the town where she was living and re-learned so many things about his mum that he never knew.
Especially that she had a fun side, was passionate about ice skating and she owned a cat! This was so different from the mother he had grown up with. So get to know all of their stories.
Another way of storytelling is through pictures, memory albums with photos of your parent (s) that can help you remember them and be there for your children to know what their grandparent (s) looked like. Memory albums can also be a great storytelling tool.
Create a family tree
This process of creating a family tree is easier than you think. You can find free online templates for getting started. The traditional family tree template may only be useful to a limited extent since no two family trees are alike.
Perhaps you’ll need to make adjustments along the way, or you might just want to start from scratch. Create your family tree by starting with the information you already possess. Find out if any relatives have already created a family tree.
That can serve as a good starting point. You can fill out as much information as you can on your own, and enlist the help of your parent or another relative if you miss anything. The following items should be included along with the names of family members:
- Birth Dates
- Birth Places
- Death Dates
- Places of Death
- Marriage Dates
- City, State of Weddings
- Divorce Dates
Make your family tree come alive by adding photos. Stories become more personal when faces can be tied to names.
If you have any surviving family members, make copies of your family tree for them to keep on hand. This will be an eternal gift that they will pass on to their descendants, and they will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
Preserve Special Heritage/ Traditions
Traditions help us pass on things from one generation to another, and they become part of our communities or families time after time or year after year.
Traditions can help in honouring and remembering parents. You can dedicate an event to your parent (s) maybe on that day you and your family come together, eat the food they loved, listen to the music they enjoyed and tell your favourite stories/moments.
You may find that in that moment you all spend together you will be grateful for them. You can also start a new tradition, was there something your parent (s) loved? Perhaps you can create a living reminder of something that symbolises them.
Maybe your parent (s) had a bucket list; you can complete it if they didn’t get a chance to, or walk in their footsteps and visit the places they went to. If your parent (s) had a project they wanted to complete or start, perhaps you can do so on their behalf.
People come together over food, especially at family gatherings. And special recipes can transcend generations. Did they have a list of favourite recipes? How about putting them all together and creating a recipe book.
Support a Cause
Supporting a cause close to your parent (s) heart can be a great way to honour them; depending on what causes they supported, you can do various things in their memory.
For example, you can make a tribute donation to their favourite charity or start a scholarship fund in their name. Maybe your parent (s) enjoyed nature and walking; you can get a park bench installed with their name or have a memory tree for them.
You can also organise a remembrance event like a book collection, volunteer, walk or run and donate any proceeds made to their favourite charity or cause. Causes will help you do something that your parent (s) loved and help others simultaneously. Balanced Wheel is a charity you can donate to if your parent (s) do not have a favourite charity.
Live the Best Version of Your Life
Perhaps the most challenging thing when you lose your parent (s) is living life to the fullest. However, that is the one thing they would want you to do. To be happy and live life. To not be too sad and find joy in the moments of happiness you experience.
While you live life without them, maybe you can carry part of them with you every day. For example, if you have their favourite jewellery item, you can wear that every day. Or you may want to ensure that you do something that makes them proud.
It may be particularly hard during milestones in life, such as weddings, birthdays or realising that you are starting a new chapter of your life without your parents. It’s okay to take moments to stop and imagine what things would have been like if they were here.
It’s okay to have a good cry about it. Address those feelings and emotions and talk to someone but try to avoid getting stuck in the ‘could have’ and ‘would have’ for too long. There’s a new adventure waiting for you.
Where necessary learn to forgive yourself or your parent (s)
It may be that you had a complicated relationship with your parent(s) who have died. Maybe there were some words you would have liked to say or have some regrets on things you could have done differently. It may be that you could have done or said something else but you did what you thought was best at the time.
Or it may be that you had little to no relationship with your parent(s) that died. And you’re unsure how to honour them. That’s fine too. Of course there will be grief regarding the absent relationship and the death.
Ensure that you acknowledge this. It is likely that your parents may also have some regrets too. How you can honour them is by forgiving yourself. Therapy, peer support, sport or journaling could be helpful to your healing and release of these feelings.
If your loved one had travel insurance, you may be able to claim the costs of the repatriation arrangements from this. Their insurance company should be contacted as soon as possible to see if this would be covered.
If you are covered, the insurance company will most likely assign a local assistance firm to assist you with some things during the process.
Have you lost a parent(s)? Are there any special ways you have honoured or remembered them? We would love to hear from you, and please share your thoughts in the comments.