Memories can be triggered at any time and if you’ve recently lost someone, you may want to know how to keep memories alive. After losing my dad, sometimes a song on the radio makes tears fill my eyes, and other times, I’ll see or smell something and a previously forgotten memory will pop into my head. These “new” memories are like gifts, and four years after my dad has been gone, sometimes they even make me smile instead of cry (though not very often).

We recently went exploring at the cottage and came across a bear carving. When I was a kid, my dad and I always used to go for drives along the lake and my favourite house had a giant wooden bear on the front lawn. My dad was a craftsman and he loved making things with wood. James and I priced out getting our own carving, which I’d love to put my dad’s name on. We would probably choose a bear and a replica of Buster. It’s crazy expensive because they use chain saws and it takes a crazy amount of skill, but one day we will have one!

Dealing with grief

It would, of course, be impossible to forget my dad. However, memories are like pennies – some of them are bright and shiny and others are dull (and get duller) over time. Unfortunately you can’t control the ones your mind plays on loop (there are certain ones from his illness that I’d rather forget), but you can find ways to keep memories alive. Here are my best strategies to do exactly that so your loved one always stays top of mind, no matter how long they’ve been gone.

How to keep memories alive

Make a scrapbook. Did you travel with your loved one or share a hobby? Those are great focused topics for a scrapbook, which you can use to tell a special narrative that embodies some of your favourite things about the person you lost. I haven’t made one yet, but if I did, I would focus on Christmas with my dad because that time of year used to be my favourite and is filled with memories of him.

Display pictures in your home. One of the best ways to remember someone is to look at their picture. The first Christmas after I lost my dad, James put together special gifts for me and my mom that honoured my dad’s memory and mine was a large collage that featured images of me and my dad and a small stuffed animal he gave me. Even just one of your favourite images would do the trick though!

Fill a memory boxTangible items, such as a watch, that remind you of your loved one are a great way to remember them. If you put all of your special keepsakes into a memory box, then they are consolidated and available for you to look at any time!

Write down memories in a journal. Memories are sometimes triggered by sights, sounds or smells, and suddenly, something that I haven’t thought about in years (like looking at a bear carving with my dad!) become top of mind. Write memories down in a journal dedicated to the purpose as soon as they come to you so that you can look back whenever you want to (and never forget them again!).

Have a quilt made. I attended one grief session with a large group of people shortly after my dad died. One of the suggestions the facilitator made was to use old clothes to have a quilt made. This prevents any negative feelings from throwing things away and allows you to give them new life.

Talk to others who knew the deceased person. Of course my mom has her own set of unique memories of my dad and we also have shared ones as a family. We start many sentences with, “remember when” and “Dad would really like” and it’s a way to keep him with us even though he’s physically gone. My mom has reminded me about memories I’ve forgotten and I’ve done the same for her. No matter how much time has passed, keep talking! Don’t let anyone tell you that you should be over it. Everyone processes grief differently and people should keep their opinions about your story to themselves.

How do you remember your loved ones who have passed away?

James’ photography essentials 

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