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How do you celebrate the life of a departed loved one?

By on Feb 1st

Sometimes a religious service, or flowers, or candles aren't enough. But sometimes they are. How do YOU find comforting in celebrating ones life? (Photo by Medill News21CC BY 2.0

This past Sunday night my mother lost her life to Kidney Cancer. She was a wonderful person and I want to throw a celebration of life for her in the coming month. We are having a traditional Catholic mass for her but since that is not my faith, I know that it will not be a satisfying goodbye for me.

The Offbeat Empire has been there for many of my life stages, I hope the community can be here for me now as well. I'd love any advice and guidance from those who have lost a loved one and have chosen to do an event to celebrate their life. — Liset

Many traditions and faiths honor the passing of loved ones with rituals and celebrations. These are meant to help friends and family mourn by enjoying happy memories. A celebration of life is a wonderful way to say goodbye.

When my grandmother passed, we held a Catholic mass for her, too. It was beautiful to see how many people came to pay their respects and how many lives she'd touched. At the same time, it wasn't really closure for me, either. That came later.

Our family gathered at my uncle's home and settled into couches and familiar stories, tall tales and tearful laughter, recalling many cross-country moves as a military family, her trademark no-nonsense wit, and times she'd put each of us in our place with humor and grace. It was healing for all of us to share our stories, laugh, and remember so many bright spots in our lives with her. As the afternoon turned into evening, we ate together, a potluck of extended family specialties that were truly comfort food, and broke out the Irish whiskey.

All this is to say that celebrating life is exactly what you make of it. There are no set guidelines or rules to follow — whatever you and your family are comfortable with is just right. Some people gather at a familiar hearth and share stories. Others rent out a hall and throw open the doors to colleagues and far-flung friends. Favorite foods, music, or drinks may be shared in memory of your loved one.

You might decide there are words you need to say, or you might just let the words of others comfort you. If you're inclined to collect photos and pass them around to set the scenes for your stories, do just that. If you'd rather set them in a display, do just that. If a guestbook of some kind would give you more comfort later, consider the kinds of alternatives that have been meaningful for people in other life stages. Autographing a treasured recipe book, signing an old guitar, or scrawling memories onto squares for a quilt might give you a tangible keepsake from the celebration of your loved one's life.

Finally, find a release to help you find your goodbye. Maybe it's sealing a letter, letting go of a balloon, burning a candle, or just saying it out loud. Maybe it's something else entirely. Your release is a personal expression, and it's ok to make it a private one if that's your comfort zone.

Homies, let's help each other heal — how do you celebrate the life of a departed loved one?

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