How to prepare to celebrate the life of a loved one

Saying goodbye to a loved one isn’t easy. Whether it was a sudden death or the topic wasn’t approached beforehand, if they didn’t make prior arrangements, it can make planning and grieving harder for everyone. From choosing how, where, and when to celebrate their life to creating a lasting, final memory, the process can be overwhelming to say the least.  

Decide on the type of service 

Cremation can provide a wider range of options for the interment of ashes and the memorial service. Traditional memorials are held in funeral homes and can cost thousands of dollars. Additionally, you can have services at your loved ones’ home or another location. Laws vary by state, and some require the involvement of a funeral director for transport and burial. 

You can choose to celebrate their life in a space that was meaningful to them during their lifetime. If the deceased loved the beach or had a favorite spot to fish along the pier, consider holding a small gathering at one of these locations if possible for a proper goodbye in a place that showcases their life.  

When do you hold services?

There isn’t a specific time-frame for celebrating the life of a loved one and saying goodbye. Families can choose to have a gathering following the traditional funeral, or instead of a farewell in a church setting, they may decide to have a private or public service where friends, family, and others can give their condolences and help provide the deceased a proper remembrance ceremony. 

Do you want a celebrant?

You don’t need to have a priest, rabbi, or funeral director organize and coordinate your loved one’s final goodbye. However, services, even small gatherings, can be overwhelming. If you choose to have assistance, it will allow time for you to grieve with other family members and friends. 

Another option or along with a celebrant, life celebrations can give time for you and anyone who knew and cared about the deceased to speak about them in front of the group. For example, they can read poems, share memories, or just talk about what they will miss about them. 

Creating a photo memorial and other service ideas

Set up a memorial board for the deceased in place of a casket, but along with the urn. If you don’t have many pictures, consider reaching out to other friends and family members to get copies of their pictures. These should showcase their life, relationships, accomplishments, and bring fond memories for mourners. Following the service, if you use copies of the photos, you can cut the poster board into individual pages for a memory book of your loved one. 

Along with speeches, prayers, and poems, music can help give the deceased a proper farewell. Either through recordings of their favorite songs or ones that are appropriate for saying goodbye. Additionally, live music is a long-standing tradition throughout the world at funeral services. 

More recently, dove releases are becoming popular for closing a celebration of life. It’s thought to be a symbolic release for family members, helping everyone “let go.” 

Another option is to add an area for life donations to celebrate the life of your loved one. This idea is gaining in popularity as a way to raise awareness when a person dies from a specific disease, such as cancer, AIDS, and heart failure. You can seek donations at the end of the service or make it a charity event theme by partnering with a related nonprofit group. 

The Interment of ashes

You don’t need to place your loved one’s ashes in a nondescript urn to put on a mantel. Themed cremation jars, such as golf urns for the father that went golfing every Sunday or lighthouse themes for a mother that adored the coastline structures, help keep loved ones’ memories alive. Other ideas include motorcycle styles for the avid biker, guitar urns for musicians, and fisherman ones for the father that always took you fishing.

Present these themed cremation jars at the deceased’s memorial service as part of the celebration of their life and give comfort to family and friends that you’re keeping their loved ones’ memory alive. If possible, surround it with pictures of your loved one. 

Don’t worry about everything being perfect. The celebration of life is about the positives your loved one brought to those around them. Make it a gathering of love and remembrance. Encourage attendees to share happy memories and celebrate the life of their friend, family member, and loved one, while they say goodbye one last time.