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Inspiring Celebrations of Life and One-Year Anniversary

  • Traditionally, we relied on religion to provide a playbook for commemorating loved ones. Today, we often borrow from other cultures and religions. Some of the gatherings you may want to consider: 

    • Jewish: Shiva house (7 days of open house after a memorial) or 30-day gathering called Shloshim
    • Eastern Orthodox: 40-day gathering
    • Buddhist: 49-day gathering
    • One-year anniversary


    As the one-year anniversary of a loved one’s passing approaches, you may want to commemorate the date with a gathering. Some religions mark the one-year anniversary with the unveiling of the grave, the spreading of ashes, or even a celebration that would be meaningful to the deceased. This milestone offers an opportunity to get creative and plan an event that’s personally meaningful to you.

    Here are some creative ways to bring everyone together:


    Meaningful Places

    Visit a place that was important or special to your loved one, or a place they wanted to go. You could make it an all-weekend getaway, a “destination memorial.” Do a yoga retreat in the Colorado mountains or a beach resort.  Or take a hike to that bend in the river that they loved so much. Such a getaway by no means has to be all about the deceased, but could provide some meaningful opportunities to share memories, walk paths they once took, or reaffirm your loved one’s place in your community members’ hearts.


    Events with Purpose

    Get your family and friends moving with an annual walk-a-thon to raise money for a cause your loved one cared about. Create a team and invite everyone to sign up for a walk-a-thon for a personally meaningful charity. After the walk or run, finish with a ceremony or meal.  Many organizations have tools to help get the word out (like banners and signs), but even on a lean budget, a fundraiser can extend the purpose and commitments of your loved one for years to come.

    The circumstances of a loved one’s passing sometimes means people don’t know what to say to memorialize them. Physical activities, such as a volunteer work day or tree planting give everyone something to do and a way to bond that doesn’t require words or speeches, yet adds clear meaning and purpose. The physical exertion also helps us process the energy and emotions of the day. 

    Consider raising money for a memorial bench or engraved stone in a park, or plant a tree.  Or finish a project they were working on, like a house they were building or an art project. 


    Ashes Ceremonies

    You may be wondering what to do with the cremation ashes. Consider dispersing them at sea or plant in a reef or tree. A simple ceremony of spreading ashes with loved ones offers a chance to remember the good times, and to make sacred a specific place, giving everyone a location for mourning and remembering.   Nowadays you can spread the ashes in meaningful places like by the roots of a redwood tree with Better Place forests or Let Your Love Grow kit in your backyard, or in a renewing coral reef with Eternal Reefs.  You can go even further by sending your ashes to space with Celestis Memorial Flights.


    Estate giveaway or sale

    Often times, the immediate family doesn’t have the space to keep all of their loved one’s belongings, or doesn’t want to keep them all, yet those things have meaning and we don’t want to throw them all away. Consider inviting the larger community to sort through the person’s belongings, and keep what they want. You can make this into an actual “estate sale” and use the proceeds to pay for funeral expenses or donate to a cause that was meaningful to your loved one. 

    Whatever you do to memorialize your loved one, you can make it special and meaningful, and even fun.  Here are some other activities to consider having at whatever event you plan:

    • A sharing: ask everyone to bring a memory to share, and go around the circle
    • Postcards or photos: if there are too many people at the event for a sharing, bring postcards and ask everyone to write a memory, so you can read them at a later time
    • Door Prizes: give away your loved one’s possessions as door prizes
    • Custom tattoos
    • Crying station
    • Custom cocktails named after their favorite hobby or interests
    • Livestream the event so remote friends and family can join, and you can watch the video again at a later date
    • Theme or karaoke: were they a big 80’s fan or they loved U2? 
    • An Irish wake with your signature cocktail
    • Sunset bonfire at a favorite beach.



    Find more articles on working through grief here.

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