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When Grief is Overwhelming

These are truly unsettling times. While many of us feel powerless, there is healing power in doing whatever we can to regain a measure of control, no matter how small that step may seem. One strategy is to set aside a few minutes each day (or maybe just a few minutes every week) to grieve and reflect. In my book, Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive, I call this strategy Give Memories 100%. It may include carving out a moment to linger over photographs or re-read old letters, emails, and birthday cards. Devoting uninterrupted time to remembering is healing. It gives emotions their due. We are able to move forward without guilt or reservation because no emotion is given short shrift.

Here are eight stay-at-home projects to consider doing right now. They offer opportunities for a real emotional boost and include links to helpful blog posts that explain each one in detail.

Create a Google Doc for Cherished Recipes. Sharing family recipes can make us happier and feel more connected to those we miss most. Using Google Docs, create a recipe archive and invite relatives to contribute their favorite dishes and desserts. I’ve often written about the empowering nature of cooking on my grief and resilience blog. In two posts, author Benilde Little shares why one particular recipe makes her especially happy and I reveal what I’ve learned from Gwyneth Paltrow’s kitchen.

 

 

Get Outside. Use the extra time at home to enjoy the spring weather. I write about the emotional benefits of spending time outside in Passed and Present, and the healing power of gardening is a topic I explore at length in several posts on my blog. For example, I share how gardening boosts memories of loved ones and three ways to use warmer weather as a way to strengthen memories of loved ones.

 

 

 

Start Spring Cleaning. We all know being tidy sparks joy. Just ask authors Marie Kondo and Gretchen Rubin! Yet what we don’t often talk about are the many ways getting rid of clutter can help us heal after loss. I hope you’ll be inspired by these posts about using spring cleaning to increase resilience after loss and five of my favorite ways to remember loved ones.

 

 

 

 

Upcycling Objects & Heirlooms. Transform t-shirts and jeans into throw pillows and beanbags. Turn fleece jackets and sweatshirts into cozy teddy bears. If you don’t have the skillset to pull these projects off on your own (neither do I!), consider setting aside a few items now and finding a local tailor to help you later. Some popular ideas I’ve written about include ways to upcycle clothing and repurpose unusual fabrics like tablecloths and linen napkins.

 

 

 

Create a Biographical Scrapbook. A biographical scrapbook is different than a typical scrapbook because it is about another person. To create one, gather snapshots of your loved one. Then locate a few pieces of flat memorabilia that conjure positive memories — ticket stubs, for example, are great for this purpose. Finally, find images online or in magazines that put these objects and photos into historical context. Read more on my blog about biographical scrapbooks and how photographs fuel happiness, plus innovative ways to use photos to remember loved ones.

 

Put the Social in Social Media. Update your Facebook status with a memory of your loved one and ask friends to share a favorite memory, too. Another meaningful idea is to temporarily swap your profile picture for a photo of your loved one. This small change will give friends a visible cue that you’re open to conversation and support. I share more on my blog about using social media to remember loved ones, including how I gained tremendous joy through social media on the 20th anniversary of losing my mom.

 

 

Celebrate Words. We always think we’ll remember our loved one’s funny or poignant sayings. Grab a small notebook and write these special words down. Once they’re on paper, you can get creative in how you preserve them. You can even explore your loved one’s handwriting. All you have to do is locate one of their old letters or postcards and send copies to a handwriting analyst. I’ve written about these possibilities on my blog and introduce you to an expert in New York who can help.

 

 

Support Small Businesses. Unemployment numbers are skyrocketing, but many people who own small businesses are still working from home. I am pleased to shine a spotlight on a few of these entrepreneurs like artist Emily McDowell, who makes unique empathy cards, and others who create one-of-a-kind designs from unusual objects like guitar picks and playing cards. Support them, if you can.

 

 

 

Stay safe – and please send me an email with your favorite stay-at-home, memory-boosting activities. Love to hear from you!