After a loved one dies many people find dedicating a memorial to them a helpful way to cope with their grief. Whilst traditional commemorations, such as headstones, plaques or urns, are still common, modern memorial ideas, such as books of remembrance or memorial jewellery, are becoming increasingly popular. Choosing these personalised memorials can enable you to focus on positive memories of your loved one and start the healing process.
If the person that has died planned their own funeral they might have specified, or even purchased, the type and design of the memorial. If not, deciding on the most suitable tribute to their life when their death is recent might seem overwhelming. If this is the case, then it’s important not to rush into any decision and come back to it at a later date.
When the time is right, it can be helpful to discuss memorial ideas that reflect their personality and beliefs with others who are also grieving. A favourite park might be a good location to dedicate a memorial bench, so others can feel their enjoyment of that place.
In this guide, we look at several ideas for modern memorials to commemorate the life of a loved one.
Memorial benches and garden furniture
Memorial benches are common features in public grounds, such as parks or riversides. These benches often feature a small plaque inscribed with the name and life-dates of the person that has died and a brief message of remembrance - this can also be inscribed onto the bench itself. All councils have their own rules and procedures for memorial benches, so it is best to contact your local authority if you are interested in installing one in a particular location.
Providing a place for anyone to enjoy one of your loved one’s favourite locations can be rewarding, but, as public property, the benches might not always be available for you to sit on.
If you would prefer a private place to think about your loved one, then a memorial bench in your own garden, which can be designed to your own specifications, might be more appropriate.
The average cost of a wooden memorial bench from a large provider, such as a garden centre, is usually several hundred pounds, with an additional fee charged for an inscription, which often depends on the number of characters. The potential cost of artisan or bespoke benches can be much higher.
One option for a bespoke memorial garden bench, that might be more affordable, is to build it yourself. This type of project might be possible in a woodwork class, or shared with friends and family who also knew and loved the person. Building the bench, or another object, such as a table, planter, or birdbath, might also be helpful for focusing on positive memories of the person that has died.
If you are close to someone who has been bereaved, these objects might be appropriate memorial or sympathy gifts, perhaps on an anniversary, but this should be discussed with them first.
Photo by Martin Knize for Unsplash
In recent years, there has been more of an emphasis on celebrating a person’s life. This emphasis is often present in the tone of their funeral, but can also influence the choice of memorial for them.
A living memorial is a tree, shrub or garden planted in memory of a person who has died. Funeral flowers can be sombre, but the continual growth and renewal of remembrance trees and plants can be a positive element in the commemoration of your loved one.
Natural burial grounds are designed to reflect this attitude - people are buried in plots with minimal markings surrounded by woodland. The peaceful natural surroundings in this type of cemetery can be comforting and help you focus on positive memories of your loved one.
It is often possible to sponsor a tree on public grounds. There is often space in cemeteries and crematoria to plant small gardens in a memorial. The price of these installations generally start at several hundred pounds, but can also rise indefinitely, depending on the cost and number of individual plants.
Planting an area of your own garden in memory of a person that has died, which you can visit at any time, might also be a helpful project to work on in the aftermath of their funeral.
Memory books and books of remembrance
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Creating a scrapbook, memory album or memory box when someone dies can also be a positive activity. It might be especially helpful for supporting a bereaved child, and discussing death with them, after a grandparent or other close relative has died.
A book of remembrance is a blank book in which family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances of someone that has died can write condolences and memories. It can be helpful for the bereaved to see how much a member of their family was loved and respected by others. Traditional books of remembrance are hard copies that can be written in at the funeral reception or wake. The book can be added to at later dates and the bereaved can keep and read it whenever they feel it might be helpful for them.
Online books of remembrance are becoming increasingly common and have the added benefit of allowing people anywhere in the world to add their thoughts to it.
Most crematoria, and several independent sites, host these platforms and opening tributes on them is usually free of charge.
Photo by Cluttersnap for Unsplash
One consideration in deciding on a memorial for someone is how happy you are to share it with other people. A small and private tribute to a person that has died is buying or designing a piece of memorial jewellery. You could create a more personal connection with a loved one by wearing something that belonged to them, or purchasing a piece with money that they bequeathed to you.
If you are buying a new piece you can have it inscribed with their name and life-dates, and several companies also design jewellery that contains a small portion of your loved one’s ashes. The ashes can be inset into rings, lockets, pendants, cufflinks and other pieces.
This service is only available from specialist companies and, as with all jewellery, the range of designs and prices is very wide. It is possible to buy a small pendant that contains ashes for around £80, but more elaborate pieces can cost hundreds or even thousands of pounds.
Lasting Touch Memorials produce jewellery and keepsakes marked with the fingerprints of someone who has died. If you are unsure of how to go about this then your funeral director will be able to help you take prints from your loved one.
Some jewellers can also produce necklaces, rings and earrings containing locks of a loved one’s hair.
Memorials are reminders of the unique qualities of your loved one, and the most distinctive feature of a person is their DNA. It can be preserved to record medical information that might be useful in the future, but it can also be infused into jewellery or keepsakes as a powerful memorial to your loved one.
DNA Memorial can infuse the dna in jewellery, but also in larger glass ‘memory crystals’.
The scientific process is complex, but all you need to do is to have a sample sent to a company that provides the service. DNA is fragile and it must be done as soon as possible after the death of your loved one, but most funeral directors would be happy to liaise with the company and provide them with a sample of the DNA, such as a cheek swab or strands of hair.
You can find more information on specific types of memorial, coping with grief and supporting the bereaved in our Help and Resources.