The gifted poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson penned a famous line in the wake of his beloved friend’s death that has lasted through the ages. “‘Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” It speaks to the pain of losing someone but the importance of opening one’s self up to love. When we lose a loved one, it’s imperative we honor their life as part of the grieving process. Memorial candles can play a significant role in marking the life and memory of someone. Let’s look at the origins of memorial candle lighting for lost loved ones and get ideas on how to incorporate it in our own respective grief journeys.
Why Do People Light Candles in Memory of Loved Ones?
Throughout history, people of various faiths have used memorial candle lighting as a way to honor a life passed as well as prayers for the future. Many Catholics light candles as they enter church. The light symbolizes prayers offered in faith. In Jewish culture, Yahrzeit is the yearly anniversary of a loved one’s death that involves lighting a candle and letting it burn for 24 hours.
Although you can light a candle in church, you don’t have to be in a place of worship to light a memorial candle. Anywhere meaningful to you or the person you are honoring would be appropriate. It could be your home, their favorite park or even by their gravesite.
During a trip last fall to Strasbourg, France we saw many candles being lit in the cathedral as we entered.
What Kind of Candles Can You Light?
Again, what type of memorial candle you light depends on you and your preference. Whether you choose specific remembrance candles, personalized candles or even just plain candles, they all are supposed to offer peace and comfort to you as you light them. It could depend on the occasion you are marking. There are different candles available to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. The loved one’s personality could also factor in. I personally love bright colors and have made it a well-known request in my family that at my funeral I don’t want anyone showing up in black. To that end, I hope my family would pick a fun Lilly Pulitzer candle to light for me!
Personalized Candles and Remembrance Gifts
As you consider different memorial candle options, consider a personalized candle to honor your loved one. There is something about seeing your loved one’s name written out that brings peace and the assurance that their life, whether far too short or lasting decades, was real and valuable. Personalized in memory candles can feature names, photos or even a special message to commemorate your loved one’s life and legacy. Laurelbox offers a variety of beautiful memorial candles that can be personalized to your liking. They even offer a Yahrzeit candle for the Jewish ritual.
How to Light and Use Candles for Remembrance
There is no set protocol on how to use and incorporate your memorial candle in your grief process. Every March, we stop and honor our second son Cooper who we lost at full term in the delivery room. On the anniversary of his death, we light a Shining Bright Birthday candle and look through the box of keepsake items like photos and handprints the hospital gave us. Taking time to honor his brief life by lighting a memorial candle is both sad and special.
Every March, we mark Cooper’s heavenly birthday by looking through mementos from that day as well as lighting the Shining Bright Birthday candles we’ve been given from friends.
If you are marking your wedding anniversary but your spouse is no longer alive, you could light an anniversary candle while eating your spouse’s favorite food and looking through photos of your years together. If you recently lost a loved one and the pain is still very raw, consider lighting a custom memorial candle with Their Light Remains matches while you journal your thoughts and feelings. The simple act of lighting a memory candle and taking time to pray, meditate and reflect could be very healing. As always, be careful when handling matches and make sure to safely extinguish any flames once you are ready to!
To summarize, the point is to figure out what works for your family as you remember your loved one’s life. Memorial candles are great gifts in that they don’t even have to be lit to be special. If you are supporting a friend who lost someone, consider gifting them a keepsake remembrance candle that will provide comfort, peace and acknowledgement of a life lost. There’s still time to order a remembrance candle ahead of Mother’s Day for that grieving friend or family member in your life. Don’t wait!
Lanna Britt was a national news producer in Washington DC for nearly a decade covering politics, breaking news and current events. She now lives with her husband and three children in Richmond VA. She has two sweet babies she’ll meet again in heaven.