Interested in learning new and creative ways to remember your loved one?    |    Sign Up for My Newsletter.    |   View Newsletter Archive

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 is why I devote an entire chapter in Passed and Present to finding even more solace in the valuable curios and inexpensive tchotchkes our family and friends leave behind.

For all of these reasons, I’m thrilled to share with you a book I recently discovered, What We Keep. Bill Shapiro, former editor-in-chief of LIFE, and Naomi Wax, a writer and editor based in New York, reveal the personal treasures (and the stories behind them) of some of the world’s most famous and influential people, including Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of the bestselling books The Beautiful StruggleWe Were Eight Years in Power, and Between The World And Me, which won the National Book Award in 2015.

…Continue Reading

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 was especially thrilled she agreed to do this Q&A with me.

…Continue Reading

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 living in her grandparents’ mansion above Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard, surrounded by mementos of their far-flung travels. Our Q&A includes private aspects of Kathryn’s life she’s never revealed before (quite a feat after writing four memoirs!), such as how gardening has taken on special meaning since her grandfather died.

…Continue Reading

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 Day are often so challenging for individuals, like me, who’ve lost their parents.

…Continue Reading

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 least in part, by the death of her father. Our conversation is especially meaningful to me because not only have Alysia and I both lost our dads, but we also went to high school together.

…Continue Reading

Claire Bidwell Smith Shares the Everyday Ways She Honors Her Parents

Claire Bidwell Smith is an author and grief therapist based in California. Her latest book, Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief, is an important exploration of how grief and anxiety are so commonly intertwined. Claire approaches each chapter from a raw, intimate vantage point: her parents were each diagnosed with cancer when she was 14, and by the time she was 25, they were both gone. Along the way and later, she developed severe, life-altering panic attacks.

Claire says she felt life was wholly out of her control. An only child, she felt alone and afraid and turned to alcohol to calm her anxiety. She eventually took leave from college. For our Q & A, Claire discusses the strategies that helped her heal, including keeping her parents’ memories alive. (Spoiler Alert! There’s a section in Anxiety called, “Allison Gilbert’s Suggestions for Keeping Memories Alive.) Claire also asked me to share a personal experience with anxiety following the loss of my mother and father. (Hint: My son was a new driver and missed his curfew by a few minutes. How did I react? Not well.)

Read my far-reaching Q & A with Claire here.

…Continue Reading

Secrets Revealed in My Father’s Handwriting

I was 31 when my father died, just beginning to know him as an adult gets to know another adult. We had a tumultuous relationship. My dad and I loved each other completely yet we got into more than our fair share of arguments. The most memorable happened in Moscow, in the middle of Red Square, when I was 17 years old. We were at the end of a peace march, during the height of the Cold War, and I wanted to go to a party. He was not going to let that happen. He roared his disapproval. I exploded. So did he. Our fight was so epic it would later become #1 in my Top 10 Memories of Dad I shared at his memorial service.

My father died of cancer when he was 63. He was always short-tempered, but I didn’t know why. I never got to know what truly made him tick because I was too young to ask the right questions, and I was his daughter, after all, not his confidant. So when an opportunity showed up a few weeks ago to get to know him a little better, nearly 20 years after his death, I was very excited and intrigued.

…Continue Reading

Author and Poet Meghan O’Rourke on Living Life in Honor of Her Mother

Award-winning author, editor, literary critic, and poet Meghan O’Rourke‘s work has appeared in Slate, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, and many other publicationsWhile pursuing her extraordinary career, O’Rourke was faced with traveling back and forth from home to care for her mother, who died at age 55 of metastatic colorectal cancer. My mother also died young (57), and also from cancer (ovarian). And similar to Meghan, I was a journalist (working as a television news producer) while helping to care for my mom in her final days.

After Meghan’s mother passed away, she found solace writing her poetry collections, Once and Sun in Days (to be published in paperback this fall), and her gripping memoir, The Long Goodbye. She is currently working on a nonfiction book about chronic illness.

In our interview, Meghan discusses the many ways she keeps her mother’s memory alive, including safeguarding a lock of her hair. I’m thrilled Meghan joined me for this revealing Q & A.

…Continue Reading

The Upside of Getting Dirty: How Gardening Boosts Memories of Loved Ones

Getting outside is healing. In fact, being outdoors has been proven to increase creative thinking, decrease stress, and heighten our senses.

With this in mind, why not take advantage of the sights and smells of nature to honor and celebrate the friend, spouse, parent, or sibling you never want to forget? Below are four of my favorite ideas for doing just that.

Create a Memory Garden. First, visit your local nursery to buy your loved one’s favorite herb, plant, or flower. Or, simply pick combinations of these that feature his or her favorite colors, tastes and smells. Second, add several “Love Rocks” to make this space even more special. …Continue Reading

How to Make Sense of Life’s Highs and Lows

The last several days have been a whirlwind of emotion for my family. My beloved father-in-law passed away within the same week my son was heading out to prom and graduating from high school.

The juxtaposition of such highs and lows was remarkable but hardly unusual. Perhaps you’ve had to navigate such emotionally complicated terrain, too. My husband and I decided the only way to move through this time was to address each experience completely yet separately, giving ourselves permission to be wholly invested in each one. This allowed us to be fully present at my father-in-law’s funeral, keeping thoughts of Jake’s end-of-year celebrations at bay. And the next day, switching gears, we were able to rejoice in Jake’s big moment, while keeping our sadness – and Jake’s too — in check. …Continue Reading