Grief & Remembrance

My Favorite Poem

After my mother died, I found this typewritten poem stashed in a book that had belonged to her. Reading it, so deep in my grief, I felt equal blows of tough-love and compassion. My mother’s parenting style was steeped in that dichotomy: She loved me so fiercely, so unconditionally, she’d sooner let me fail than rescue me. Reading the poem that day, attributed to Elsie Robinson, it was my mother’s voice that filled my ears….

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5 Amazing Photo Gift Ideas

Too early to think about the holidays? I think now is the perfect time! COVID-19 has sharpened my focus on what’s most important to me. Without the ability to do much of anything in public these last few months, I’ve spent most weekends tidying up my home, getting rid of clutter, and organizing and digitizing family photographs. And it’s all been making me feel stronger and boosting my appreciation for all that’s still positive in…

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Why Bereavement Care Should Receive Federal Funding

As Covid-19 deaths continue to rise, a conversation is bubbling up in Washington about what kind of support is available to grieving families, and whether bereavement care, like other forms of healthcare, should receive federal funding, and if so, how much. In March, as much of the nation was shutting down due to the coronavirus pandemic, nine key U.S. Department of Health & Human Service agencies, including National Institutes of Health, Substance Abuse and Mental…

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Modern Loss Cofounder Rebecca Soffer Shares Stories From Her Post-loss Life

After losing both of her parents, Rebecca Soffer started having monthly dinner parties with a group she named WWDP (Women With Dead Parents). These raw and often irreverent gatherings eventually became Modern Loss, a vibrant community that offers support and validation via blog posts, advice columns, and events. Its most enthusiastic supporters now have the opportunity to become Patreon members, receiving access to exclusive benefits.

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Judith Warner Shares Memories of Her Dear Friend, Gone Too Soon

Judith Warner is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and a frequent contributing writer for The New York Times. Her latest piece, “The War Between Middle Schoolers and Their Parents Ends Now,” shares how the coronavirus lockdown is an opportunity for a reset with your children. She and I met in 2011 when she did a book talk for We’ve Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication, which followed her best-seller,…

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Before Covid-19, General Martin Dempsey Remembers Soldiers Who Died

General Martin Dempsey, the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, keeps a special walnut box on his desk at home. It is full of photographs of soldiers who died under his command in Iraq. General Dempsey says the box is a tangible reminder of each life that was lost, and the pictures push him to always consider what’s really important. A few years ago, I was honored to meet General Dempsey as part…

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When Grief is Overwhelming

Grief can be overwhelming, leaving many of us feeling 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%….

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New York Times Bestselling Author Peggy Orenstein on Whether Grief Ever Goes Away

is out with her latest book, Boys & Sex, an analysis of young men and their views on relationships, porn, love, and consent. The book is a follow-up to her New York Times best seller Girls & Sex. And because Orenstein is still on tour promoting her book, I was thrilled she agreed to sit down with me to reveal her thoughts about a much different, equally intimate topic: the death of her mother. During…

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New York Times Bestselling Author Laurie Halse Anderson Reveals the Lessons Grief Teaches Us

In her memoir, Shout, New York Times bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson turns away from her career as one of America’s most acclaimed authors of historical fiction and writes about being raped when she was 13. The experience transformed her adolescence and framed her emotional life well into adulthood. I’ve known Laurie for a while now. We both went to Georgetown University, and since we met, I’ve always been impressed by her wit and generosity. I’m…

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Three Ways to Boost Memories of Loved Ones This Thanksgiving

Holidays can be challenging for individuals who’ve lost loved ones, but they also offer unrivaled opportunities for keeping memories of family and friends alive. Below are three of my favorite ways to honor and celebrate the special people we never want to forget. Make Memory Magnets Rather than using conventional place cards at your holiday gathering, create memory magnets featuring images of your loved ones. Encourage family members to take these sentimental favors home to…

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What You Can Do Right Now to Remember Loved Ones This Holiday Season

I know, I know. It’s only October. But with the holidays coming fast, it’s the perfect time to strategize how you’re going to honor and celebrate the family and friends you never want to forget. How? Keep reading. Halloween Stir recollections of Halloweens past and make new memories by attending unusual events. You can also give cherished heirlooms a creepy Halloween makeover. Thanksgiving Set your holiday table meaningfully and carve out time to create a special holiday playlist….

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Remembering Loved Ones Through Their Handwriting

This photo highlights such an innovative idea – using a loved one’s handwriting to decorate a kitchen wall. In this picture, a cherished recipe takes center stage. What do you think? Handwriting is such a personal and intimate tether to our loved ones. Whenever I see notes written by my mother or father I feel an extra surge of connection. Here are a few additional ideas for keeping family and friends close by harnessing the…

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Grief and Remembrance During Summer

That’s a picture of my mother and me on Fire Island, a popular car-free summer vacation spot off the coast of Long Island, New York. I’ve always cherished this photo but appreciate it even more now that I’m a mom. Looking at it lately, I see things that were invisible to me before I gave birth: I notice my mother carrying our towels and I’m just carefree, riding my tricycle. I’ve also come to recognize the…

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Melinda Gates, Cheryl Strayed Reveal the Sentimental Objects That Bring Them Joy and Meaning

Objects take on greater meaning when a loved ones dies. It’s why my mother’s chopper has moved with me from home to home since I was 25, the age I was when she passed away from ovarian cancer. It’s the reason so many readers have shared with me over the years the ordinary items that bring them the most comfort – a set of measuring spoons, a teacup, a sweater. Our connection to unobvious heirlooms…

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Author Susan Orlean on Giving Herself Permission to Repurpose Her Mother’s Jewelry

Author Susan Orlean is popping up everywhere these days: the New York Times Book Review has featured her latest work, The Library Book, and she was Pamela Paul’s guest on The Book Review podcast. She was also given a well-deserved spotlight in The Washington Post, USA TODAY, and The National Book Review. And of course, she remains a staff writer at The New Yorker, a role she’s held since 1992. Because of her hectic schedule, I…

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Kathryn Harrison on the Loss of Her Grandparents and How a Figurine and Louis Vuitton Luggage Keep Their Memory Alive

New York Times bestselling author Kathryn Harrison was raised by her maternal grandparents. The tragic relationship she endured with her parents was heartbreakingly chronicled in her memoir, The Kiss (about her father’s sexual abuse), and her collection of essays, Seeking Rapture: Scenes From a Woman’s Life (various stories, including recollections of her mother’s anger and absence). Kathryn’s grandparents died decades ago, and in her latest book, On Sunset: A Memoir, she recalls her unusual childhood…

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Supporting Widows and Widowers on Valentine’s Day

Not too long ago, I featured a Q & A on my blog with New York Times bestselling author Joyce Maynard. We discussed the death of her husband, the isolation she felt afterward, and ultimately, how she grew from the experience, feeling more joy than she ever thought possible. We never spoke about Valentine’s Day, but I’ve learned over time this holiday is particularly charged for widows and widowers, just as Mother’s Day and Father’s…

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How Orange is the New Black’s Alysia Reiner Uses Her Star Power to Honor Her Father’s Memory

What a thrill for me to feature actress Alysia Reiner in this Q & A! You no doubt know Alysia from her role as “Fig” in Orange is the New Black. She also stars in the movie Egg, alongside her husband David Alan Basche (The Blacklist, NCIS), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), and Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect). During our talk, Alysia revealed that her decision to sign on as one of the film’s producers was prompted, at…

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Artist Emily McDowell Reveals the Deeply Personal Reasons She Launched Her Empathy Cards Collection, What Spurred Her Relationship With Sheryl Sandberg’s Option B Team, and the One Memento That Reminds Her Most of a Very Dear Friend

Pinch me! I am super excited to share my latest Q&A with you – a conversation with the incomparable Emily McDowell. Don’t know her name? I can nearly guarantee you know her artwork – fun, whimsical, and often sassy and irreverent. Slate named her Empathy Cards, a line of greeting cards crafted to help family and friends connect around illness and loss, one of the top designs making the world a better place. And no,…

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Making Meaning and Purpose Out of Tragedy

On 9/11, I was a television news producer for NBC New York. Dispatched to the World Trade Center, I was covered by debris when the second tower collapsed and taken to Bellevue Hospital. ER doctors cut off my clothes to assess my injuries and tubes were put down my throat to help me breathe. I thought I was pregnant. (To round out the week, my father died of cancer that Friday, September 14, 2001.) Yet I…

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