Reflection: The symbols we use to remember our dead


I think of my grandmother every time I go to the beach by our summer house in north east Jutland. She died before I was born, but I have a vague memory of being told the story of how they spread her ashes in the cold Atlantic oceans outside.

When we lose someone close to us, we feel the need to remember them. To adjust to a reality without them we create artefacts and rituals to still feel connected to them. A funeral is the ritual of saying goodbye and accepting death. These artefacts and rituals are about the next step in mourning. Creating a new story of a reality without our loved physically present, but still a part of our life.

    But we also create this new story by using online tools such as memorial websites, or Facebook. Here some people encourage others to be a part of telling the story of the deceased's life. New anecdotes surface from people who wasn't necessarily part of the inner circle.

    A while after our loved one has passed away, some people have created rituals to remember and feel a connection with the deceased. This could be lighting a candle, visiting the tombstone, or going to a location special to the deceased.

    I can't think of many of these rituals in my family. Maybe they are kept private, between each person and the deceased? I have a silent ritual of noting every time I drive through the tunnel between Lillehammer and Oslo where a childhood friend drove his car into the wall and committed suicide.


    Examples of remembrance artefacts

    • Memorial tattoos
    • Memorial books
    • Photos
    • Urn
    • Tombstone
    • Personal objects from the deceased
    • Objects that the deceased had physically touched
    • Handwriting
    • House

    Examples of remembrance rituals

    • Lighting a candle
    • Pausing at special location to the deceased
    • Posting happy birthday message on the Facebook page of the deceased
    • Pouring an extra, untouched glass for the deceased
    Phase 1Jens ObelReflection