Remembrance ceremonies: tributes, memorial services

Remembrance ceremonies and rituals performed to honour the dead vary considerably from country to country and across different cultures and religions.

But one aspect of all ceremonies of remembrance, worldwide, remains constant, namely the universal human need to order and make sense of the grieving process, going forward.

In this respect, one might bear in mind the fact that remembrance ceremonies are essentially symbolic and structured in such a way as to bring comfort to the bereaved. The practicalities involved and the format of these ceremonies are merely part of the process.

The universal language of remembrance

From traditional remembrance ceremonies to mark significant dates and the anniversaries of the death of a loved one, to private meditation and posting lasting tributes on a dedicated remembrance website, it is comforting to know that our dearly departed are always in our thoughts.

Meaningful ways to remember

No hard and fast ‘rules’ exist as to the format and time-scale for holding a ceremony of remembrance, or for that matter, whether a ceremony would be appropriate, at all. The decision should be entirely personal and based on individual circumstances.

Timing, too, follows no pattern, although memorial ceremonies are usually held a few weeks or months after the funeral or perhaps to mark the anniversary of the person’s death.

For those who choose to hold a memorial ceremony, multiple options exist, including:

Organising a gathering of family & friends:

An informal gathering, perhaps several weeks or months after the funeral, when family and friends come together to remember and celebrate the life of the deceased is particularly relevant for those who, for whatever reason, were unable to attend the funeral. The format could consist of a special meal, with favourite music playing in the background, the sharing of anecdotes, poetry readings, story telling, spontaneous reminiscing, etc.

Dedicating a tree:

A wonderful way to remember someone who has died, planting a tree is also a generous eco-friendly gesture that will benefit the living for years to come. The Woodland Trust: provides a tree dedication service, complete with a personalised certificate of dedication.

Creating a remembrance book:

A creative ‘act of remembrance’ in itself, the process of compiling a remembrance book can also help heal the bereaved. Significantly, the celebration is on-going and can be added to or referred to, especially in times of emotional need. Treasured memories of the deceased could include pictures, prose, writing samples, poetry, favourite sayings, wise words or any other fond reminders of the deceased - all will add to the richness of meaning contained within this very precious book or album.

Participating in activities once enjoyed by the deceased:

Choose an activity or a location that you associate with the person who has died and one that will trigger fond memories, maybe even laughter and, of course, much reminiscing. A favourite sport, perhaps, a visit to the theatre, their favourite pub, or a day trip to somewhere significant; all would serve as a fitting, yet informal ‘ceremony’ of remembrance. You may wish to coincide with observing a loved one’s birthday or anniversary.

Attending a religious service:

If the deceased was a follower of a particular faith or attended a certain place of worship, on a regular basis, then it would be fitting to do likewise to mark a specific occasion, even if you are not an adherent of the same religion.

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