Coping With Emotions

Celebrating a Loved One’s Life at Milestone Events

At milestone events like graduation, take a moment to remember the loved ones who helped you get to where you are, especially those who have passed away. Embrace their memory, and feel their love, even if you can't embrace them in person.

Life is full of big and little milestone events. Weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, holidays, first steps, first jobs and so many more moments are opportunities to embrace our loved ones and reflect on those who helped us get to where we are. When one or more of those important people in our lives have passed away, their absence may be felt even more powerfully during these special moments.

These events may naturally lead to moments of grief and dwelling on how much you miss your loved one, but they’re also opportunities for celebrating a loved one’s life. You can take these milestone events and turn them into a time to honor the memory of a loved one who has died.

Give a Toast

A very simple and elegant way to include the memory of your loved one in your big moment is to acknowledge their importance in your life with a toast. Simply raise your glass, and say you’d like to toast the memory of your loved one, and maybe say a few words about what they meant to you and how they helped you get to this point.

There is a very good chance that many of the people around you are also thinking of this person as well, and wishing there was a way to acknowledge their importance on this occasion. A toast opens the door to allow others to also recognize and honor the loved one’s influence during their life.

Tell a Story

Family gatherings are a wonderful time for older generations to share stories with the rest of the family about loved ones who have died. Stories specific to the event, such as holiday stories at holiday time and school-related stories at graduation, are a wonderful way to pass on stories about your loved one to the rest of the family and keep memories of them alive.

Display Photographs

A special table or shelf dedicated to displaying photos and mementos of a loved one who has died is a beautiful way to honor their contributions to your life. These photographs can also be passed around during story time to help people picture the loved one while the story is being told.

Posing for a photograph with a photograph is another beautiful way of celebrating a loved one’s life during your big event. If the father-of-the-bride is the missing loved one, a photograph of the bride in her gown holding a photo of her dad is a lovely way to remember him and include him in her wedding album.

Gift a Memento

An item that was important to the loved one who passed away would be a poignant and precious gift to offer someone on a special occasion. Gifting your son his father’s watch to mark his graduation would honor both father and son, and make his memory a powerful part of a meaningful day.

However you choose to remember loved ones who passed away, remember to embrace joy — even as you miss those who are gone. Your happiness can be a part of honoring their memory.

UVA Cancer Center provides supportive resources for those who have lost loved ones to cancer.

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Judy Schwartz Haley
Judy Schwartz Haley