Love and Honor: How to Set Up an Altar for a Deceased Family Member

Losing a loved one can be devastating and it can reshape your life either positively or negatively. However you decide to let the death of a loved one impact you, you should make sure that it helps you to grow. The hardest part of dealing with the aftermath of the death of a loved one is how to cope with their absence or how to continue on without having them present in your life.

The easiest way to circumvent this inevitable, misery is to set up an altar, or a shrine if you will, that can help you to commemorate them and to help to keep their spirit and memory alive.

Source: Goldsteins’ Rosenberg’s Raphael-Sacks PA

Set Up an Urn on The Mantelpiece

Setting up an urn with the ashes of your dead relative beside a photograph can be a great way to commemorate your relative and have them physically there with you despite not actually being there. Having an urn set up can be a really, really brilliant, and much recommended way, of staying in touch with your dead relatives despite their seeming absence. Cremation has seen a huge rise in popularity over the last few years, with many people choosing to return to nature in a sense; the use of wicker caskets and urns have really seen a surge. It can be difficult finding a suitable urn; the professionals of specialize in urns that can be personally adjusted to your family members taste, or your own. An urn can be a fantastic way to feel their presence all of the time and can be a brilliant centerpiece of a memorial or an altar dedicated to the memory of your loved one who has unfortunately departed for the time being.

Put Up Photographs and Burn Incense

An altar should always be aesthetically pleasing and should always mean something personal to you and something to your loved one. Perhaps putting your loved ones favorite scented incense on the altar would be a great way to honor their memory and to continue to feel their presence in your home. As humans, we often always associate specific smells with people or places, so having your loved one’s favorite incense burning is a great way to feel as if they are near and to remember their presence always. Make sure to get a proper incense tray so you do not burn the altar or scatter ash anywhere!


Photographs can also be a great way to accentuate an altar. Putting a photograph of your loved one up can be the best way for you to constantly remember them. Unfortunately, with age, we begin to forget those who we have loved, places we have loved, and familiar smells; the photograph of a loved one can serve to immortalize them in your memory and the memory of others. Providing you keep the photograph in good condition it could last more than a lifetime.

Treat Your Altar Respectably

Whenever you set up your altar you should make sure you treat it with the utmost respect and keep it clean. Treating your altar with no respect is like treating your loved one with no respect; it is an abhorrent thing to do and you must make sure that you do not do this. It is unforgivable to erect an altar and then treat it with disrespect. That means if you burn incense you should always keep trays around to keep ash off of the rug or the blanket and away from the photographs. At the same time you should make sure that if you burn candles you should not let the wax drip onto the cloth, as then you are making the altar dirty and unsightly; the altar must be in perpetual good condition and should be revered and treated as if it is sacred.

You made the altar to commemorate your loved one so by treating it contemptuously you are directly disrespecting your loved one’s honor. Being so cruel to a loved one, especially after their death, is terrible and bad conduct that cannot be forgiven. It is very easy to keep your altar in pristine condition, just maintain it every day, dust it, and keep it in good nick. If you have pets, you should endeavor to keep them away from it and make sure that they don’t damage or knock it over, especially if there is an urn on there. Try to keep children away, too.

Source: Sphere + Sundry

How to Get Started with an Altar

The best way to get started with an altar is to put up a table or chairs so you can properly support your photos and urn. It is important to get sturdy equipment so that you do not damage your urn or photographs. If you do not set it up properly, you risk potentially damaging the altar, so it is important you endeavor to purchase the highest quality of equipment for your altar and continue to maintain it and keep it in good condition. You can start by going down to a local thrift store or a furniture store and purchasing a desk or a slim table that you can erect; following this it is suggested you get a tablecloth so you don’t scuff the table. The presentation is key.

For each individual item on the altar, you should provide respective ceramic plates to keep them supported and stop them from damaging your surface, whether it be a table or a stool. The ceramic plates should preferably match the urn and photo frames so that you have a running theme on your altar. Everything should match, this is key to a well-presented altar. If you subscribe to a particular religious denomination, then you could think about putting an idol of your particular deity on the altar to provide your loved one with blessings in the afterlife from your chosen deity.


When setting up an altar you should be sure that your loved one would have liked the idea of having an altar set up in their time; some people become incredibly sheepish when it comes to things like this. Even if you do not set up an altar, you should always cherish and revere the memory of your loved ones. While they may not be physically present, their memory will serve a lifetime.