Saturday Morning Message: Personalized Memorials Express Your Special Relationship

Author: Carol Lane

Good Morning,

There are days during the year that commemorate the special connection we have with our loved ones. Last week Dianna, wife of Thomas, wanted to know what others do on those days. In addition to the responses from other survivors, I wanted to share what we do. My husband and I joined a gardening group in our town. This picture is the garden we tend which was started as a memorial to the three members of our town who died in active military service to our country. On those difficult days, we go to the garden and weed it or just sit beside it and talk about the life our son lived.

Flowers from the Community Garden near Carol's home

I also found a helpful article in the TAPS Magazine archives, written by Betsy Beard, mother of Bradley, titled “Anniversary Blues: Handling the Most Dreaded Day of the Year.” Here are a few of her ideas: 

  • Plan a memorial ceremony. The creation of memorial rituals can be part of the ongoing healing process, and these remembrances can take many forms. In the first weeks of loss, rituals helped to carry us through the pain-filled days and brought some meaning and stability to our otherwise chaotic lives.
  • Take a personal day off work to sleep and rest. Grieving is hard work and takes its toll on your mind, body and spirit. Do what you need to do to care for yourself. You will be better able to function in the future when you take time to be kind to yourself.
  • Engage in one of your loved one’s favorite activities. It could be watching the latest movie, going bowling, boating, gaming, hiking or even skydiving.
  • Visit and tend to the gravesite. Some survivors bring chairs, food, books and music and spend the day there. One tradition is to scatter rose petals over the grave. Another is to pour their favorite drink there or ‘share’ it with them.

Remember, you can write to me anytime just to communicate or if you have thoughts on what could make the Saturday Morning Message more helpful. I look forward to hearing from you. My email address is

Carol Lane
Mother of Bryon


Question for Next Week’s Saturday Morning Message 

When your loved one dies, everyone says to you, “Let me know what you need and I will be there for you!” Nice, but do you ever take them up on that offer? This week let’s share: What was something comforting someone did for you after the death of your loved one? You can also share what you would have liked someone to do. In this way, we will have ideas to help others who are also grieving. We look forward to reading your thoughts. 

Would you like to share a question or read how other survivors respond to a topic or question you have? I would love to gather some thoughts for future Saturday Morning Messages. It can be helpful to read and hear how others cope. I encourage you to reply to the Saturday Morning Message by emailing I directly receive all responses that are sent to this address. In order to have your reply included in the next week’s message, it is best to send your answers to me by Tuesday morning of the following week. Thank you to everyone responding this week and those who read this message.


♫ Song for the Week

This week’s song, “Take Me Home” sung by Pentatonix is sent by Caryn, mother of Nathan. Caryn wrote, “This one reminds me that regardless of anything, love is everlasting and we will be back together again someday.”

You can send me favorite songs for this song of the week section at



Responses from Survivors to last week’s question: What do you do as a yearly memorial for your loved one?

From Samantha, fiancé of Preston: I just passed the one year anniversary of Preston’s death and I really struggled with what to do. He passed away three days before Christmas, so the reality of the situation was that it was going to be hard to get everyone together in one place. Everyone was on leave, vacation and with their family. So instead, I wanted something in which his friends and family could participate no matter where they were.

We came up with the idea to do “pay it forward for Preston.” I created cards and mailed them out to anyone who wanted one. The idea was that you would do something kind for someone (pay for their coffee, shovel their driveway, etc.) and hand them the card. They would then pay it forward to the next person and it would keep going.

It was important for me to do something for other people, because that was the best thing about Preston. He’d give you the shirt off of his back. I plan to do this every year and hopefully it will grow with time.

From Leslie, mother of Eugene:  My favorite years of memorializing my son was when friends and family got together. I just told stories about funny things that were favorite things that happened when they were with my son. It was enlightening, funny and sad, but mostly comforting.

I am a musician. A couple of times I gave recitals. This year we happen to be selling and buying apartments on the day of his angel anniversary. I am giving a recital this year in May in memory of my dad, who died this past August and was in the United States Navy as was my son. I will be performing my dad’s favorite piano pieces.... solos, duets and two pianos.

Some years it is fun and some years it’s overwhelming. This year I hope it’s going to give peace.

From Samira, mother of Andres: I go to the cemetery and do a Mass for more for this dark day. For Andres’s birthday, April 22, I go to all the Disney theme parks, eat what he liked, go to the cemetery and sing happy birthday with flowers and a cupcake.

From Amanda, sister of Michael: I played this game on one anniversary with friends/family when we gathered to remember Michael. If you have a crowd that enjoys friendly competition, this could be a twist on the relay race. The stages of the relay could include activities that fit all capabilities and ages. People from the teams can be designated to their particular stage. It could be an activity that’s more stationary, maybe something like stacking solo cups on a table? So from Station A, someone runs to Station B. At B, there is a person at a table. Once A arrives, they stack the cups as fast as they can. Once they are done, maybe another person runs to station C or Station C is just set up close by and it might another game, maybe a toss game with two people? So it’s a team working together to do a race, but you can integrate different activities that meet the abilities.

From Sandra, mother of Joshua: I think that holding a memorial service at a park or graveside, having a dinner, building a scrapbook or creating a quilt of memories would be a beautiful tribute to honor a loved one. I am only two years in. I do not want to plan anything that will be too overwhelming or cause me too much anxiety. I have given money and fixed up a package for Bobbie, a homeless man, whom Josh helped one day when we were on our way to pick up his girls. I have placed a cement angel at the base of a tree behind the Texas-shaped stepping stone that Josh bought and placed there for me. Both are in my backyard and I can look at them out of my window as I type on my computer on my desk. I sometimes go out and touch the stepping stone that Josh touched with his own hands and pull the grass up away from it.

This year on February 6, I will hang a white plastic spinner with red flowers on the tree. I bought the Hawaiian souvenir at the flea market during my trip to Hawaii where I visited Josh and his family. It was the best trip of my life. I will donate $25 to the Marines’ Toys For Tots, because Josh used to volunteer for the organization. I will post some pictures of my son on Facebook to honor him. I will give a toast to Josh with Guinness beer, his favorite beer, and tell him that I love him and miss him so much.

My advice would be to not get too busy. Keep your eyes open and be on the lookout for the unexpected. A cardinal sitting on a fence post, an unexpected phone call, some long forgotten photos in a drawer, or the discovery of old letters or birthday cards from a loved one. Just sit still and breathe and think about your loved one. Be inspired by your thoughts.

If you would like to send a message thanking one or all of those who participated in this week’s Saturday Morning Message, send it to me at and I will make sure your thoughts are passed along to them.

Other Items and Events of Interest

Arlington Cemetery family at headstone

Join us on Memorial Day Weekend, May 28 to 30, for our 27th Annual National Military Survivor Seminar! We will be live streaming all of our general sessions with guest speakers.

Important Note: In-person registration is still open, but we are in a waitlist situation due to COVID occupancy restrictions in the State of Virginia. 

If you have any questions, email or call our Helpline at 202.588.TAPS (8277).

Learn More and Register


▶▶  Connect With Your TAPS Family 

You can discover all the opportunities to connect with your TAPS Family on our website at the TAPS Event Calendar.

About the Saturday Morning Message

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication contributed by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer-based connections for support and encouragement. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive place where we can openly share in a nonjudgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable. Content submitted for the SMM is edited for space considerations and may be used in other TAPS publications. The loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please call 202-588-TAPS (8277).