There is no one way to grieve. This is fact. Grief does not come with a rule book. We are not meant to judge the grief experience of another. However, there is one grief practice that I would like reconsidered–the balloon release.
Many people choose to release balloons to memorialize their deceased loved ones. Often adorned with messages, the balloons will float toward the sky as a symbol of love going heavenward. It’s a beautiful gesture, but unfortunately those balloons will not reach our loved ones and when they land there will be damaging consequences.
According to environmental scientists, balloon releases have a dangerous environmental impact. They are harmful to the animals who ingest them, creatures can become entangled in their strings, and when they land they litter the ground and water.
We can do better. Balloon releases may seem like a touching tribute, but there are more sustainable ways to memorialize the ones we love.
Make a donation. Find an organization that is meaningful for you and make a donation in the name of the person you are missing. Donate their favorite book to your local library or donate your time to someone in need.
Plant a tree. By planting a tree or garden in rememberance you are doing more than honoring the one you love. Your eco-friendly tribute will provide resources to wildlife and will contribute clean air to the environment. It also provides a place for you and others to visit and think of the one you are missing.
Write their name in the sand or the dirt. This is a personal favorite of mine because you can do it over and over again. Pick up a stick and trace the name of your loved one in the sand or dirt. If you are by the water, you may feel some comfort as you watch their name slowly drift away in the waves. If you are in the woods, it might be comforting to think of them surrounded by such beauty. You could even take a picture to remember their special spot.
Perform a Random Act of Kindness in their memory. You can organize family and friends to perform Random Acts of Kindness on the same day or you can go about it on your own. Tape a dollar bill to a vending machine or drop quarters into a stranger’s parking meter. Pay for the coffee of the person behind you or shovel a neighbor’s walkway. Random acts of kindness can be a very comforting honor of the one you love.
Participate in a memorial or awareness walk. Find a walk in your area and join together with others or go on your own. Maybe it’s an awareness walk for an organization that connects to the death of your beloved. You could also find a remembrance walk where you can join others who are grieving. It is very possible that a balloon release will be an event at one of these walks. If it is, speak to the organizer and ask them to reconsider or simply opt out of participating in this part of the event.
There are so many ways we can remember the ones we’ve lost. The person who is grieving needs to find the tribute that feels best for them.
However, it is possible for us to find ways to memorialize that will not have damaging effects on the environment.
When we choose sustainable memorial options, we honor our grief AND honor our environment.
What are some of the sustainable ways you honor your loved ones?