Continuing the Legacy of Love

Author: Audri Beugelsdijk

You may have heard it said that to love someone means to forever have a piece of your heart existing outside of your body. When that person dies, it can naturally leave us feeling a lack of wholeness. That hole in our hearts calls out to us and can only be occupied by the person who created it because it is shaped just like him or her. Honoring the love and life that created this space in your heart doesn't mean trying to fill it with other things. Our loved ones can still live on in that space, albeit in ways that are different than before.

Frequently, others tell us that we need to “let go”, sometimes making statements like, “Aren’t you over that yet?” Getting over the loss of someone so central to our existence is simply not realistic. They are inextricably linked to us - past, present… and, future. 

Photo display of Fallen Heroes at TAPS Seminar

Within the TAPS family, we have always leaned into continuing bonds - acknowledging that while our loved ones are physically absent, they continue to be a powerful part of our daily lives, along with an enduring part of who we are and who we are becoming. It is in this spirit that we strive to know them in a new way and be their footsteps in the world. We are their legacy of love, even if the love we shared was complicated, as love frequently is.

It may sometimes feel scary when we let ourselves feel that love, as the pain can penetrate so deeply that it may seem hard to cope. TAPS founder and president Bonnie Carroll is often quoted as saying, “We only grieve because we love.” Special days such as birthdays, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day can feel especially difficult, yet they provide natural opportunities to maintain a bond to our person through intentional acts of connection. Whether a special day or every day, we can reinforce this relationship in healthy ways.

What it means to carry on a relationship with a loved one who has died can (and should) look different from person to person, as we all have a unique bond and experiences with our loved one. Much like snowflakes, no two relationships are alike. 


Ways to Remain Connected to Your Loved One

There are many ways to approach remaining connected with that person you loved so dearly… and always will.  We share a few of those for helpful consideration below.

  • Seek out others who knew your loved one and would like to share the stories of who they knew them to be.

  • Display a favorite picture, artwork, or quote loved by your person.

  • Volunteer for a cause that was close to their hearts and commit your time in their name.

  • Engage in an activity your person loved or finish a project they started.

  • Wear a favorite item of their clothing or a piece of jewelry that holds special significance.

  • Make their favorite meal or eat at your loved one’s favorite restaurant.

  • Write them a letter to share about recent events and how they were remembered or their presence was felt.

  • Use pieces of your loved one’s clothing to have a special item created (quilt, bag, doll, etc.). 

  • Find ways to say their name and bring them present into your day.     

  • Establish a new tradition with your person in mind.

  • Create a peaceful outdoor space where you can go to process your thoughts and even speak thoughts out loud to your person.

  • Build a memory container to hold special items and plan time to visit those memories.

  • Schedule time to connect with memories around your loved one. It is helpful to schedule a follow-on activity, as well, to help you transition out of memory mode to the next thing you will do to step forward in your day.

  • Live our best lives in tribute to them.

Heart around photo of loved one

Giving ourselves the freedom to show love for our person in new ways can keep them close to us, helping us remember and honor everything that made them the incredible people we have known. They are part of the fabric of our being, intricately woven into the beautiful and complex tapestry of who we are. They lived remarkable lives, left indelible marks on those who loved them, and will live on through each of us as we remember and continue to embrace them.


Love lives on.  

Audri Beugelsdijk is the surviving spouse of Navy Seaman Jason Springer and serves as TAPS Vice President, Survivor Services.