Dr. Gloria Horsley is Founder of the Open to Hope Foundation, an open community where people can find hope after loss.
Loss is not an easy thing to go through. Besides the seemingly infinite amount of emptiness, heartbreak and loneliness we feel, there’s also a significant amount of stress from the planning that has to take place after loss. Depending on your relationship with this person, this can be anything ranging from planning an immediate memorial service, managing their belongings or even discovering new ways to honor them long after they are gone. Regardless of what happens after loss, you can still honor them by remembering these three things: Live for them, live for others and help their legacy to live on.
During the pandemic, many of us — including business and NPO leaders — are contending with loss. I’ve made it my mission to cultivate a community that inspires people to seek hope after loss. Based on my experience, I’d like to share some ways we can honor someone we have lost. Even though as nonprofit leaders we are always focused on serving our communities, many of us are still finding our way — especially in the wreckage of the pandemic — and are looking to honor those we’ve lost.
Live for them.
No one expects people to go on to do great things after losing someone, and that is understandable. It’s difficult to convince yourself to even continue your daily routines and practice self-care. However, there are many reasons you can find to live on for them, though the road may seem dark. And, while it can sometimes seem easier to just hibernate and grieve, it’s very important to continue to live as you normally would.
As hard as it is to just “go on,” you have to remember that they would want you to. It’s OK to grieve, and you need to take the time to do so. But just don’t get caught in the rut, and remember that there are so many ways to live on for them after this loss. Remembering that this is what they would want is the key to achieving this goal.
Live for others.
Others are struggling too. The person you lost might be a brother to you, but they could be a nephew to someone else in the family or even a co-worker. Everyone around you that has also lost this person is also grieving. The people we lose in life played a different role in so many other individual lives. I often find purpose in knowing that through loss, we can support each other.
Being strong for someone else can give you a sense of purpose and help them get through this tough time as well. Think about who that person was to the grieving individual, and talk about the good times and memories they had together. It brings joy to all to remember the time we spent with loved ones. You may even hear new stories about this person, which gives you a new perspective on how they may have impacted others who are grieving. Regardless of the relationship they had with this person, just remember that they need your support too.
Help their legacy live on.
While death may be final, legacies are not. Legacies can live on forever if we give them the means to do so. Recall things in their life that were important to them. Consider ways you can help to honor them through those things. Whether it is a tribute event, a fundraiser for the family, a local memorial, a song, a short story or novel, or something else, it gives hope and inspiration to others to learn about how others remembered them.
A famous artist called Banksy, who — to this day — remains anonymous and has not yet been identified by name, is often attributed to having said a famous quote summarizing how people don’t really die until someone speaks their name for the last time. This quote is a great example of how legacies live on. This can fuel a chain reaction that happens for years, decades or even generations. How will you remember your loved one and teach others to do the same?
While loved ones may not be known by everyone in the world when they pass on, it’s important to find ways to remember them and for your actions to reflect their honor. No matter what purpose or inspiration you find after their loss, remembering to live for them, for others and by supporting their legacy can truly inspire others to do the same. Whether it’s for your loved one or for someone else’s, honoring a person in these ways can help the families, friends and others whose lives were impacted by this loss.