"Mourning is one of the most profound human experiences that it is possible to have... The deep capacity to weep for the loss of a loved one and to continue to treasure the memory of that loss is one of our noblest human traits".
~ Shneidman (1980)
Plan a Memorial Service
Planning and putting on a special memorial program can provide much comfort to
you as you honor the memory of your lost loved one. It also provides a creative
outlet, a meaningful way to expend your "grief energy".
A commemoration creates a gathering of friends and family to celebrate a life lived and to mourn the loss. It is a public show of support and acknowledgement of the importance of the lost one.
A memorial ceremony can help you connect to others, draw emotional support from them, and help make some meaning of one of life's most difficult experiences... the death of someone important to you.
Plan a memorial service...
Whether you choose a small informal gathering at the beach or a large formal church service, take the time to plan your special service carefully to ensure a memorable and meaningful event. It's a good idea to have another (energetic) person designated to help plan, organize and then attend to details during the ceremony.
You will probably be too emotionally involved with your guests to bother with the practical aspects of the program. It would help to have your very capable Aunt Stella taking care of things in the background for you.
Press other close friends and family members into service to help in other ways with the ceremony: lighting candles, decorating, seating guests, or supervising the food table.
You need to give consideration to the following aspects to help you plan a memorial service:
Plan a memorial service...
Chances are as you read this that the actual funeral ceremony took place quite a while ago. In fact, a memorial service by definition does not involve the body. Some calming time has likely passed, and so now might be a good time to plan a service... on their birthday or even the anniversary of the death. Try to give guests plenty of time to make travel arrangements.
Give some thought to what kind of memorial would be appropriate for your loved one. You can plan whatever event you would like, from an informal garden celebration to a formal church service. Invite the number of people you would like--- from just a small intimate group of close family and friends, to everyone who knew him or her.
What location for your memorial service? The number of guests may well help decide this for you. Is there some place that your lost one loved? Would it be most appropriate to gather at the beach or lakeside? In the cemetery? On a deckboat at sunset? In a park where he used to jog or on a favorite golf course? Was there a beloved forest or mountainside in her life?
It will take some of the pressure off of you to select a clergyman, or master of ceremonies to do most of the speaking and presentation. You may also ask family members or friends to speak. Decide how many you want and then think about who would be the most appropriate and comfortable with public speaking. Ask them each to plan on giving a eulogy or tribute for about 2-5 minutes.
Look for favorite poems or quotes the deceased loved, or even letters or essays he wrote himself. Inspirational readings, poems, quotes or prayers would add depth to the ceremony; you may find something here: Grief Poetry or Bereavement Quotes.
Music can add an emotional dimension to your service and is highly recommended. Most churches or meeting halls have a music/speaker system you can use. Or have live music in the form of a choir, soloist or a talented musician. For an informal or outdoor gathering, take a portable CD player and play your loved one's favorite songs, or choose one of these traditional favorites: Grief Music.
I have been to a couple of memorial services where a slide show of photos throughout the lost one's life were projected on a screen. These visuals, accompanied by appropriate music, were very poignant. Everyone was totally focused on the show. You can create a memorial slideshow yourself if you have the software and skills, or Google for a local provider.
Decorate the church or hall with flowers, potted plants, and candles. Provide a memory table to display photos, mementos, military ribbons and medals, flags, hobby items, toys or sporting equipment of the deceased, awards, newspaper articles, and artwork. Bereaved children might find comfort in helping to arrange the display.
Sharing food during times of bereavement is an ancient practice that endures today. Choose light snacks and drinks or have potluck or even a catered dinner for a formal affair. One idea is to serve the loved one's favorite foods. Avoid serving alcohol at a memorial service. (This is very good advice).
Explore this site for some very attractive funeral Service Program Templates: Creative-funeral-ideas.com.
We have seen this lovely tradition at a memorial service recently and were impressed with how it touched the visitors and made a treasured gift for the bereaved after the service ended. We searched for such a "Gathering Bowl" and finally found this lovely set:
This set consists of a large (9 by 10 inches) pewter bowl in a swooping shape, 50 vellum papers and pewter gray ribbons, three pens, and two poem cards, packaged in an attractive navy box with sheer silvery ribbon.
One poem card instructs the guests to write personal messages which become scrolls in the bowl, and the second poem card is for the recipient of the completed bowl.
Cards read: "To celebrate the joy of a life lived and then released we share our love and gratitude. This bowl we fill with love, memories, appreciation, And the certainty that a very precious life has touched many hearts. May these scrolls keep alive the joy, beauty, and wonder of the one who lived and loved with you".
Inside Card: "Please write upon this paper a thought or memory you have of this precious person who has left this life, or a way that you have been blessed by their very existence. When scrolled and tied and joined with the many others in this bowl, your words will forever be a gift to those who are left behind. Thank you for this gift".
Plan a memorial service...
We present here some ideas for a few special ceremonies you might want to consider: a church candle-lighting, a sunset gravesite service, or a dove release.
If your loved one was cremated, you might give some thought to a special ceremony for the scattering of the ashes.