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Here are some ideas for organising a memorial event to celebrate the life of someone you’ve lost. 

By Hannah Jackson-McCamley, Funeral Celebrant

Hannah is an experienced celebrant who specialises in unique services that truly reflect the person that has died and the needs of those left behind. She is passionate about people, music, literature and travel and is training to be a psychotherapist.

What is a memorial ceremony?

While a memorial honours the life of a person who has died, it tends to be a much more joyful and uplifting event than a funeral.

The ceremony can be as simple or extravagant as you want. I’ve led very formal events, casual and relaxed ones. The tone is set by the person being remembered and the people attending. 

Memorials don’t have to be expensive or involve lots of work. Always ask for help – many people like to be involved and show that they care. 

Here are some ideas to think about (these might be useful for planning a funeral too):

Timing

Tone and structure

Venue and decorations

A memorial doesn’t need to be sombre – let your loved one’s personality guide you. 

Speeches and tributes

Rituals

Music

Food and drink

Invitations

This isn’t a wedding so an email will do fine. You could include a picture of your person, plus:

Whatever you decide, the most important thing is to feel that you are memorialising your loved one in a meaningful way that brings you and your family comfort as you navigate life without them.

It can be hard to think of meaningful present ideas for a friend or relative who has lost someone they love. Here are our ideas for ways to show you care.

  1. Languages of Loss is psychotherapist Sasha Bates’s painfully honest and funny book about making sense of life after losing her husband Bill, helped by her psycho-analytic training.
  1. Express your sympathy with Bloom & Wild, from subtle potted ferns and rubber plants to beautiful bunches of flowers to suit different budgets.
  1. ‘Porter’ means ‘to carry’, and the Porter Pendant allows you to carry the ashes of a lost loved one with you on a necklace. This long-lasting but slightly pricier gift will be sensitively handmade to order by designer Kirsty Maclaren.
  1. A proper cup of high quality hot chocolate can be oddly comforting when times are tough. Try this award-winning 71% cocoa variety from Land, a small ethical chocolatier based in Hackney, London.
  1. The Present Tree allows you to cherish the precious memory of a loved one by planting a memorial tree in their name, each with its own symbolic meaning.
  1. Buy a life-changing gift from Freedom From Torture for someone who has lost everything, in the memory of the person who has passed away.
  1. This scented soy candle by the Lollyrocket Candle Co comes with a consoling message and can be personalised.
  1. In her book This Too Shall Pass, acclaimed psychotherapist Julia Samuel draws on conversations with her patients to show how we can adapt and thrive during our most difficult and transformative experiences.
  1. Wildflower Favours offer personalised seed packet memorial gifts to remember a loved one as spring and summer return.
  1. Apply for a Tribute Tile celebrating the life of someone special at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire – the UK’s year-round, 150-acre Centre of Remembrance.
  1. Caitlyn Minimalist creates custom jewellery engraved with the handwriting of your special someone.
  1. From memorial baubles to special lanterns and ornaments, the Lovely Keepsake Company offers a range of bereavement gifts to help people hold their memories close at Christmas and beyond.
  1. The Heavy Bag is a beautifully illustrated children’s book by Sarah Surgey about Enid, a little girl who has lost her grandad. By reading it together, adults and children can open up conversations about different kinds of grief.
  1. Create a WWF Tribute Fund page in a loved one’s memory and fight for a world where people and nature can thrive.
  1. This pack of three linen-bound journals from The School of Life is designed to help people find therapeutic solace and inspiration by writing down their ideas, aspirations and worries.
  1. Help your friend or relative keep going with award-winning, sustainably sourced coffee delivered to their door by Pact Coffee – you can even design a plan especially for them.
  1. The Treasured Memory Box is designed for saving precious keepsakes, letters and photographs in memory of a special event or person in a beautiful handmade box.