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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.

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

Peggy Orenstein 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 our conversation, Orenstein struck me when she admitted to feeling a special connection to individuals who find themselves in similar positions. “I feel I have an ongoing relationship with people who’ve also suffered the loss of a parent because I’ve survived. Because I didn’t die.” I’m especially grateful to bring you our Q&A.

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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 absolutely thrilled she agreed to talk with me about another deeply personal part of her life — the loss of her parents. In our Q&A, Laurie shares the lessons grief has taught her about living life to the fullest.

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

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Meaningful Ways to Remember Loved Ones on Graduation Day

In 2014, I shared on Facebook how my parents would have been so proud of my son when he graduated from 8th grade and was inducted into the National Junior Honor Society. In the photo I posted back then, he’s shaking hands with the principal and assistant principal of his middle school.

Fast forward nearly four years and Jake will be graduating high school in just a few weeks. My parents would have been overjoyed now, too. Perhaps even more so.

While I wish my mom and dad could be part of this special occasion, I recognize there are opportunities for seamlessly incorporating their memory into our special day.

Consider the below ideas for your upcoming celebrations.

Meaningful Opportunities for Remembering Loved Ones on Graduation Day

  • Consider engraving a new or existing piece of jewelry with their loved one’s handwriting. Simply take a note or letter with their loved one’s signature and bring it to a jeweler. Jewelers can etch names and shapes (smiley faces and hearts they may have drawn) into virtually anything — charms, cuff links, and bracelets. I discuss this idea and other great strategies in my book, Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive.

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The Most Important New Year’s Resolution You Can Make

One New Year’s resolution often overlooked is making the commitment to keep our loved one’s memory alive. Being proactive is critical. Taking steps to remember builds our capacity for happiness. Loss is out of our control. Knowing we have the ability to ensure our family and friends won’t be forgotten restores some of the power we need for joy and healing.

To start 2018, here are three easy, no-cost ideas from my book, Passed and Present, to help you remember, connect, share, and embrace memories of your loved one:

1. Say Their Name Out Loud – How we talk about loved ones plays a critical role in the way we and others remember them. The more we share our memories, the more our recollections have the capacity to bring us joy. Preparing simple foods that prompt conversation is a great way to begin. A sentimental cookie recipe works just fine! The point is to lower the bar and embrace even the smallest tidbits of opportunity.

2. Celebrate Their Words – Buy a small notebook, one you can carry with you wherever you go. Jot down your loved one’s funny or poignant sayings as soon as they come to you. Consider ways you can make some of these words or phrases an indelible part of your home. Paint a little sign using those words and display it on a bookshelf. Stencil a word or saying directly on a wall.

3. Keep Doing It – What activities did you and your loved one do together? Did you enjoy hiking, cooking, skating, or visiting museums? Don’t also grieve the hobbies you and your loved one shared. Keep doing them. Try to feel your loved one with you.

And there’s always the opportunity to perpetuate your loved one’s passions. Was there a cause that brought meaning to his or her life? Volunteering is a powerful way to bring you closer to the family and friends you never want to forget.

Illustration by Jennifer Orkin Lewis

Father’s Day Musings: Thoughts On Remembering Dads Gone Too Soon and One Exceptional Idea for Celebrating Fathers Still With Us

This post was created in partnership with NFDA.

Ten years ago on The Huffington Post, I shared the eulogy I gave at my father’s funeral. The speech was unusual – a Top 10 List of our most unusual father-daughter relationship quirks. I was moved to share my reflections because I hoped they’d stir future conversations with my children. When my dad died, just three days after September 11, my son was 18-months-old. My daughter wasn’t born.

In my book, Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive, I reveal 85 ideas for remembering and celebrating the family and friends we never want to forget. Writing stories down (and making sure to share them, too) is just one powerful tool. My son and daughter, now teenagers, have read my reflections and have a better sense of their grandfather as a result. Other strategies include Building a Refuge and Turning My Father’s Ties Into a Quilt.

With Father’s Day upon us, here are a few more creative and uplifting opportunities for remembering and honoring our dads.

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Make This the Year to Remember Intentionally

The clock struck midnight a week ago and just like that we got 365 new days full of promise. I’m a resolution person. I’m grateful for new beginnings. This year, I’ve decided to double down on my efforts to celebrate and honor loved ones intentionally.  I’m on a mission. Join me!

Whether it was last year or decades ago that you lost someone close to your heart, make this the year to do something that is a purposeful act remembrance.  On April 12, 2016 I’ll launch my book, Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive, which is full of eighty-five ideas to commemorate those we never want to forget. I call these strategies Forget Me Nots. I’ve shared a few in my previous blogs and on Facebook, which I’ll continue.

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CNN.com: Foods every breast cancer survivor should know about

Women checking in for appointments at the Comprehensive Breast Center at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York this month are being offered more than a pre-op or post-op surgical visit.

On the reception desk, inside a large plastic frame, is a colorful flyer decorated with pictures of luscious-looking fruits and vegetables. It’s an invitation to attend “Superfoods and Super Habits for Super Health,” a seminar that promises to teach patients the foods they should eat to boost their immunity and — not in so many words — reduce their chances of dying of breast cancer….Continue Reading

HuffPost: Parentless Parents – Strategies for a Better Mother’s Day

It’s often difficult to remember your mother and rejoice over your life as a mother at the same time. From nursery school on, we are trained to celebrate this holiday, first by making our parents cards out of construction paper and pipe cleaners, and later by buying them gifts. Our role as sons and daughters is clearly defined. And when we become parents, we also know what we’re supposed to do: receive all the attention and smile…Continue Reading