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Planning a Memorial Celebration
By Roberta Temes Ph.D.,
Author of Solace: Finding Your Way Through Grief and Learning to Live Again

What is it?
A memorial celebration is a meeting or party that celebrates the life of your loved one. It is usually held weeks or months after the death, after the funeral. You can invite people by telephone or by email or snail mail or by placing a notice in appropriate publications.

Where is it?
Typically, there are brief speeches, food, music, photos, and actual memorabilia from the person's life. You may decide to hold the memorial celebration in your home or in a place meaningful to the deceased. Memorials have been known to be held at a golf course, a swim club, a movie theater, a restaurant, and at a school auditorium.

If some guests wish to speak, ask them to time their speeches at home and adhere to your time limit. One minute is usually sufficient to convey any message, anecdote, or remembrance. Be strict about this. If someone is not an accustomed public speaker they may attempt to ramble on and will surely bore the audience.

A Memory Table
Assemble memorabilia on a table or shelf. Select items that represent passions of the deceased. A playbill, a golf ball, a favorite worn-out tee shirt, a particular book, a cell-phone, a calculator, and a cap often find their way on to memory tables.

Food can be a snack, a full meal, drinks only, coffee and cake, or a recipe associated with the deceased. If your loved one was known for his love of Scotch or her fabulous apple pie you know just what to offer your guests.

You don't need to be elaborate with your music. But do be precise in choosing music linked to the person. It can be songs sung by his/her favorite singer or lyrics describing either the deceased or the feelings the guests share about the deceased.

In my book, Solace: Finding Your Way Through Grief and Learning to Live Again, I talk about a memorial service where grandchildren wrote an original song in their grandfather's memory and then sang it for the guests at the memorial party.

Create a photo area showing the life of your loved one from childhood until death. Some folks make a slide show of significant life events and either project it at the memorial or let guests know where to find it on the Internet.

If there is a particular poem that your loved one enjoyed, or a poem that represents your loved one, it's a good idea to have someone read it. A quotation that is fitting may also be read at this time.

For the Attendees
Give something to your guests to take home. You can use your computer to create a photo montage, a small booklet of appropriate poems or quotations, a copy of all published obituaries, and any other personal tributes. Guests will appreciate just one page, with the name of the deceased, the dates of birth and death, and a photo. As a final honor to the deceased, consider giving guests balloons that they can release as they leave the memorial celebration.

©2009 Roberta Temes Ph.D., author of Solace: Finding Your Way Through Grief and Learning to Live Again

Author Bio

Roberta Temes, Ph.D., author of Solace: Finding Your Way Through Grief and Learning to Live Again, is a noted psychotherapist who has taught classes in death, dying, and bereavement at schools such as Downstate Medical School and CUNY. She is the author of several books, including the award-winning Living with an Empty Chair: A Guide Through Grief and The Tapping Cure. She lives in Scotch Plains, New Jersey.

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