Traditional funeral services offer a gathering place for family and friends to come together to remember, mourn, give and receive comfort, and celebrate the life of the deceased. If there are no formal or traditional services planned for your loved one, you may wish to consider other opportunities to have a memorable celebration in a way that speaks to you and your family. 

Below are some ideas of how you may wish to honor your loved one with a special goodbye when there are no services planned. 

Gather at a favorite spot

There is no rule about how big or small your gathering should be. Perhaps you’d like to have an intimate gathering with close family at your loved one’s favorite restaurant where everyone orders his or her favorite dessert. Or, maybe you’d like to opt for a larger, more public gathering with family and friends at your loved one’s favorite park, where you could host a picnic or barbecue with everyone bringing a favorite dish to share. If the beach was a favorite spot, you may wish to plan a day in the sun and gather together and tell favorite stories as the sun sets over the water. If your loved one was a nature enthusiast, organize a walk on his or her favorite trail. If he or she was an avid sports fan, gather around a television for the big game or get tickets to their favorite team to come together at a best-loved spot. 

Decorate to reflect your loved one’s life 

Wherever you decide to gather, consider different ways to decorate the space to reflect your loved one’s passions, interests and hobbies. Incorporate favorite colors and music. Display photos in a collage, slideshow or in frames. Serve your loved one’s favorite food and drinks. Bring hobbies and passions to life by bringing treasured belongings for family and friends to see.

Encourage guests to participate 

Think about giving family and friends a chance to participate by sharing favorite memories and qualities about the deceased. Ask guests to share their best stories aloud. You can provide flat stones, colorful paper, a large canvas, or another medium for family and friends to write down their favorite things about your loved one. Memories written on rocks or paper can be gathered in a glass jar or vase, which can be a beautiful keepsake to remind you of special things about your loved one as time moves forward. If your loved one had a favorite color, hobby, or sports team, consider asking guests to dress in recognition of this. Guests can get involved by wearing a certain color, jersey, or other attire that reflects a theme you choose to celebrate. 

Create a special memorial 

Find a meaningful place to establish a lasting memorial for your loved one. You may wish to plant a tree, have a bench or plaque made with a special inscription, or create a garden in memory of your loved one. Consider gathering close family and friends to share special stories or make a toast to acknowledge this meaningful space. This can be a wonderful place to visit to connect with and remember your loved one in the future. 

Ask for help from close family and friends

Planning a memorial or celebration in the midst of loss and grief can feel overwhelming if you try to do it all on your own. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Friends and family often appreciate the opportunity to provide support. Now is the time to let those around you help with whatever tasks need to be done and give yourself time to rest. 

There are many ways to honor your loved one, even when there are no formal services planned. Consider what speaks to you and your family, and decide what feels like the most authentic way to celebrate the life of your loved one. 

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