5 Special Ways to Honor Lost Loved Ones

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U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Leandra Stepp
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Leandra Stepp

5 Special Ways to Honor Lost Loved Ones

by: Nina Corin | .
DCoE | .
published: May 23, 2015

Before Memorial Day, there was Decoration Day, a day when families decorated the graves of service members lost in the Civil War. It was celebrated in May to ensure the availability of ample flowers to decorate graves.

Today, 150 years after the end of the Civil War, we still lay wreaths to honor those who lost their lives while in service to our nation.

Taking flowers to a gravesite isn't the only way to commemorate our fallen. Perhaps you remember waking up on Memorial Day to an American flag "planted" next to every mailbox in your neighborhood, serving as a reminder of what the day was really all about. Decorating the neighborhood with American flags is a tradition that continues all around the country.

Additionally, people will participate in religious services, official ceremonies, parades or sporting events, and pay respect by flying the flag at half-staff from dawn until noon, or observing the National Moment of Remembrance (a minute of silence at 3 p.m. (ET) on Monday).

For the families, friends and colleagues of service members who have died, Memorial Day may bear significantly more importance. Celebrating a person's memory can help ease your pain and bring some joy to temper your sorrow. If you are seeking a more personal or lasting way to honor your loved one, consider these ideas:

1.Share memories. Talk to other family members and friends of the deceased to share anecdotes, stories, photos and objects with special meaning. Children who did not have as much time to get to know their parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle may especially appreciated this.

2.Establish a ritual. Celebrate your lost loved one’s birthday or arrange a public remembrance in his or her honor. It could be an elaborate celebration, such as organizing an annual get together at a favorite restaurant. Or it can be something simple, like carrying a small token of remembrance in your pocket, lighting a candle or placing an "in memoriam" ad in your local newspaper.

3.Create something lasting. Plant a garden or tree in your loved one’s honor, dedicate a park bench, order an inscribed brick or paver for a sports or arts venue, or memorialize a page on Facebook.

4.Do something that was meaningful to your loved one. Make a contribution or volunteer at your loved one's favorite charity or set up a scholarship fund for his or her children. You could also further a project the deceased was working on — finish a photo album or art project, coach a sports team or lead a scout troop.

5.Take a trip. A visit to a monument, cemetery or memorial is not only significant to you, but you also may find solace in sharing the experience with the families of others who were lost in similar circumstances. Washington, D.C., has many national war memorials, but there are other monuments and cemeteries for American service members across the country — even some abroad.

No matter how you choose to observe Memorial Day this year, it’s important we all remember who this day is for. As President Obama said, "Everything that we hold precious in this country was made possible by Americans who gave their all. And because of them, our nation is stronger, safer and will always remain a shining beacon of freedom for the rest of the world."

If you are grieving a service member or veteran, Military OneSource offers a number of grief counseling options, including direct contact information, for military survivors. If your child or grandchild has lost a military loved one, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) offers camps at locations across the country. As always, the DCoE Outreach Center is available 24/7 to connect you to psychological health and traumatic brain injury information and resources.

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