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NY Times: How New York Changed After the Worst Tragedy Too Few Remember

Thirty years ago, an arson fire at the Happy Land Social Club left 87 people dead. The effects are with us still.

Before the fire was out and the smoke had lifted, Ruben Valladares was already in the emergency room with second- and third-degree burns covering half his body. The ambulance call report, handwritten at 3:47 a.m. and updated several times over the next hour, detailed the locations of this injuries. …Continue Reading

NY Times: Rejecting the Name My Parents Chose

I was named for the main character in “Little Women.” Changing my name may be the most Jo March-like decision I could have made. Despite the byline you see on this article, the name my parents gave me was Jo. Not Josephine, just Jo. Inspired by the main character in “Little Women,” they dreamed I’d grow to become every bit as norm-bashing as Louisa May Alcott’s fictional character, Jo March….Continue Reading

NY Times: Gilding the Gutters

MONTCLAIR – JESSICA de KONINCK knew that when she put her home of nearly 21 years on the market, she would need some help. “If I ever have any free time, the last thing I’d ever want to do is spend it decorating,” Ms. de Koninck admitted.

Lack of time and interest had indeed taken a toll on her house. Ms. de Koninck had never redecorated while raising her two children, now grown, and her inclinations certainly did not shift after her husband became ill and died three years ago….Continue Reading

 

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 was one of the lucky ones. I survived.

…Continue Reading

Option B: Transitioning from passive mourning to active remembering is key to building resilience after loss

Option B Journalism piece by Allison GilbertIf you’re lucky, like me, soon after your loved one dies, a swarm of friends will embrace you in all sorts of meaningful ways. They’ll pack the funeral home, attend the wake or shiva, and a few may even leave homemade meals wrapped in tin foil by your front door so you won’t have to cook for a while. Rituals surrounding loss tend to kick into gear automatically and I benefitted from being the passive recipient of support when each of my parents passed away. Yet my greatest fortune ultimately caused me the most pain…Continue Reading

MariaShriver.com: 5 Ways Spring Cleaning Can Help You Build Resilience After Loss

After my parents died, I felt a responsibility to hang on to nearly all their belongings – my father’s neckties, my mother’s scarves, their mortgage records, car titles, passports, books, home videos, photographs, and more. For a while, keeping these possessions made me feel closer to my mom and dad. But years later, doing so became a burden and certainly didn’t bring me pleasure. Over time, I figured out that repurposing objects, or simply parting with them, made me feel happier and more connected.

Purging objects (and upcyling others) enhances our connection to loved ones and drives our sense of resilience…Continue Reading

O, The Oprah Magazine: Why Looking at a Photo Can Ease Loneliness and Grief

o-mag-november-coverIn the photograph, my mother and I are sitting on the stone lip of a large circular fountain in Paris. Shoulder to shoulder, we’re leaning into each other, fingers interlaced, my head tilted toward her cheek. It’s Saturday, August 31, 1985, and I’m 15 years old. We are in the Tuileries Garden, giddy tourists on a mother-daughter adventure that began just that morning when we landed in France from New York.

Studying the photo now, I see not just that moment, but so many other joyous times I shared with my mother: horseback riding in Central Park, the raucous annual holiday parties she hosted.    Continue Reading or View on Oprah.com

CNN.com: How celebrating deceased loved ones can make you happier

After several family members died in rapid succession, including my parents, I struggled with knowing how to keep their memories alive.

In the days and weeks immediately following their deaths, I never had to look far to tell a story or hear one. But all too soon, I hesitated to bring them up in conversation. Anecdotes I told my children seemed heavy or forced, and I didn’t want to make my friends uncomfortable. …Continue Reading

CNN.com OPINION: What I share with Angelina Jolie

In 2007 I had my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to prevent my getting ovarian cancer.

It was a surgery of the kind that Angelina Jolie recently underwent, as she revealed Tuesday in a New York Times op-ed. Two years ago, Jolie divulged that she’d had a prophylactic double mastectomy — I had done this as well, in 2012.

Along with the effects of the surgeries themselves, we now also share a related fallout: surgical menopause. Continue Reading

Daily Beast: Motherless Daughters and Parentless Parents Trek to the Andes to Aid Orphans

When author Hope Edelman and I started planning a trip that would take 16 of our readers to Peru to work in an orphanage and hike the Andes, we ignored concerns about bringing together a group of women who didn’t know each other and convinced ourselves it was a great idea. Our confidence bubbled up partly because our readers share an important bond that links them to each other and us: We’ve all lost our mothers, and many of us have lost our fathers, too. It also seemed like an exciting way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hope’s pioneering book, Motherless Daughters. But mostly, we just took an enormous leap of faith. Continue Reading