Shrines and altars have been associated with ancient religious and spiritual practices worldwide. The terms “altar” and “shrine” carry great historical and symbolic significance but we use the terms here to describe a personal memorial you create in your home. The place you select for your memorial can be a table, mantle, chair, corner, shelf or any place that feels right. It could even be a place in your yard, porch or garden. Decide if you prefer that it always be within sight or someplace you can close off with a cover or door between visits.
Begin the process by clearing the space you have chosen and leaving it empty. The empty space represents the void that is felt when there is loss. Think of the void as the vessel which cradles grief. It is up to you how long you need to leave the space open. The space also signifies the opening of the heart and creates a welcome energy to receive the objects you place there. The first object to consider would be a candle to signify the spirit or the light your loved one represented in life. You can burn sage or incense as an offering or expression of gratitude. Choose any objects to place on your altar that are meaningful to you. These can be photographs, drawings, or poems that bring you pleasant memories. They can be something you found in nature or came across during your day such as a colorful leaf, stone or feather that you want to “share”. Include some personal items that belonged to your loved one. A bell or singing bowl can be used to sound the beginning and ending of any ritual you want to create with your memorial.
Your altar is a sacred space, a place to offer up your emotions and also to honor the continuing presence of your loved one in symbolic form. Once completed your memorial can remain untouched or you may decide to change it seasonally, or as often as you feel called to. Honor the space by setting aside a specific time to clean and dust the objects. By handling each item and focusing in on the details you may find it helps you to process your deepest feelings as they become revealed.
Find more info about the history of altars used in religious practices:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altar
A great resource for creating memorial altars and shrines in more detail:http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/shrine-altar-grief-healing/