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How Letting Go of Cherished Items Can Still Pay Tribute to a Loved One’s Memory


By Debbie Reslock
The design of rings, necklaces and bracelets can change significantly through the years. And this is often never more apparent than when you’ve received jewelry as part of an inheritance. You may find yourself with pieces that aren’t your style or that you would never be comfortable wearing. When this happens, they are typically put safely away, stowed in a box or drawer, rarely to be seen again. And most likely, there they will stay.
The emotion can be strong when we’ve lost someone we loved. Since we don’t want to also lose the memory, we often hold on to any inherited item. Or we feel guilty if we let go. But the mistake is believing that the sentiment is attached to the actual object instead of residing within us.

The mistake is believing that the sentiment is attached to the actual object instead of residing within us.

The relationship and memories you had remain, although many may feel they’re not honoring the person if they don’t keep the inherited pieces. Yet for others, hanging on to jewelry that is never worn and rarely seen is not the way they wish to pay tribute to their loved one either.
What to do with your inherited jewelry is a personal choice. There may be pieces that you’ll wear, even if only on special occasions, or that you cherish and want to pass down. But for the ones that will only be stored in a box, there are other ways to honor your loved one’s memory. Here are seven options you might want to consider.

Alternative ways to create remembrances

  1. Is there someone in your family who would wear the jewelry? If so, you could pass it along to them, if this would make you happy knowing that it’s being worn.


  3. Redesigning or having the stone put into another setting could result in a piece that you would enjoy wearing.


  5. You could also choose to keep one piece and distribute or sell the remaining jewelry. This option can actually give you more freedom in finding a way to commemorate the life of your loved one.


  7. There often isn’t an equitable approach to distribute jewelry if you’d like to pass it down to your heirs. If you choose to sell, the proceeds could be used in a way that makes the original inheritance a living gift.


  9. Instead of material possessions, some say they’d rather have an experience that they could share. The money could be used to travel to a place that is meaningful or holds family significance or history.


  11. Donating the money to a cause that’s important to you and your loved one is another way to pay tribute.


  13. Using the funds to purchase a memorial plaque, bench or other acknowledgment located at their favorite place can create a beautiful lasting remembrance.

Steps you can take to keep the memories

If the decision is to let go of some of your jewelry but you’d like to make sure a reminder of the person is preserved, here are a few suggestions.

  • Take time to look at each piece of jewelry and relive any memories you may have of the person wearing it.


  • So much of a family’s story often ends because it’s not told. If there are special recollections connected to the jewelry or your loved one, don’t forget to pass them along.


  • Better yet, write down any remembrances so the history can be shared through the generations.


  • Take photos of the jewelry if you’d like to have a physical image of the pieces.


Why you shouldn’t feel guilty

When deciding what to do with inherited jewelry, it can help to think of how your loved one would want to be remembered. Would they be pleased that through their gift, they were able to bring you or others joy?
Most likely they’d want you to be happy and enjoy thinking of them instead of feeling guilty for your choices. Unless specific instructions that you were not to sell or change came with the inherited item, hanging on to something that you never wear but feel guilty for letting go isn’t fair or a tribute to their legacy.
READ ALSO: 6 Ways To Turn Inherited Jewelry Into Meaningful Tributes
We need to realize that what we don’t want to let go of are our loved ones and the memories they left behind. But if we can repurpose or sell the jewelry and use the money to find another way to remember or bring enjoyment, surely that is an acceptable gift that we can give back to them.

Letting go of the jewelry doesn’t lose the memory

The sentiment isn’t lost because you let go of a physical object and for many, keeping jewelry that will never be worn is not how they want to remember their loved one. Any choice that brings joy is a tribute. And regardless of what you decide to do about the jewelry, don’t forget that you can always honor them by reminiscing about times you shared or doing things they loved.
Whether to hold on or to let go is a decision that deserves careful thought but your answer shouldn’t be motivated by guilt. There is nothing wrong with letting go because it’s only the jewelry, not the relationship that you had or the memories. Those will always be yours to keep.
About the Author

Debbie Reslock writes about and for the baby boomer and 55+ market, including the amazing journey of aging itself. Her blog, The Third Act, can be found at


What to do with your inherited jewelry is a personal choice. But for the items that will only be stored in a box, there are other ways to honor your loved one’s memory.
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