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uncertainty distress. yes, it’s a thing.

Like so many parents who’ve had the opportunity to drop off kids at college these past few weeks, I’m wrestling with familiar empty nest questions about what’s ahead for me. But I’m also struggling, because of the anxiety brought on by Covid-19, with a new type of syndrome, more akin to the phantom pain we associate with the amputation of a limb than letting go of a burgeoning adult. 

The first few nights without my children at home I was jolted awake by imaginary text messages. But each time there were no new words written by my son worried about a rising fever or my daughter concerned about a tickle in her throat. So far, they are fine. It was me who’d become temporarily unable to sleep through the night. 

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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

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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5 Meaningful Gifts for $100 or Less

This post was created in partnership with NFDA.

Giving gifts to help friends remember loved ones is especially thoughtful. Far from being an unwelcome reminder of loss (during the holidays it’s likely to be top of mind anyway), offering presents that acknowledges their grief demonstrates incredible kindness and compassion. It shows you recognize the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day can be especially difficult.

So what kinds of gifts are most meaningful? Here are five ideas, all $100 or less:

1. Create a Memory Garden

Help your friend start a Memory Garden in honor of their loved one. First, buy packets of seeds. Flowers, plants, and herbs all work. Second, place the envelopes inside a wicker basket, adding several “Love Rocks” to make the presentation even more special.

“Love Rocks” are easy and inexpensive to make. All you have to do is take a piece of fabric and cut it into the shape of a heart. Next, glue the fabric heart onto a smooth stone with craft adhesive. If the stones are likely to be used outdoors, make sure to use acrylic sealer. Make the entire project even more poignant by using cloth that once belonged to their loved one – strips of fabric taken from a favorite shirt, pair of jeans, even a necktie. For more ideas on using flowers to strengthen memories of loved ones, please read these posts. I also write about the concept in, Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive.

2. Preserve Their Handwriting 

Forget Me Not 31

Locate a handwritten recipe or letter written by your friend’s loved one. Get it framed or transfer the image onto a piece of pottery. You can find lovely options at Prairie Hills Pottery. The accompanying photograph is the plate Prairie Hills made for me by using my grandmother’s “famous” coffee cake recipe. I adore it!

Preserving handwriting is a nod to a loved one’s enduring legacy. The additional upside of designing a decorative piece is that it doubles as a great conversation starter. Whenever company visits, your friend will have the opportunity to talk about his or her loved one and say their name out loud.

3. Embrace the Present

We honor loved ones by talking about them. We also pay tribute by celebrating the loving relationships that remain.

One great way to embrace family and friends after a significant loss is to use the National Funeral Directors Association and Funeral and Memorial Information Council’s Have the Talk of a Lifetime Conversation Cards. There are 50 cards to a deck and each one is printed with a different question. Questions like: Who has been the most influential person in your life? For what are you most grateful? The cards facilitate meaningful discussions and create unrivaled opportunities for sharing stories.

The best part?! Thanks to the Funeral Service Foundation, the Have the Talk of a Lifetime Conversation Cards are FREE. The deck makes a perfect stocking stuffer or small holiday gift. Request your free deck of cards here.

4. Preserve & Share Memories

Loss can be overwhelming… so is deciding what to do with all those VHS tapes, slides, film reels, scrapbooks, and photo albums. Help your friend remember and celebrate their loved one by preserving and sharing their memories.

Legacy Republic has created several Memory Makeover Kits to make digitizing media as simple as possible. The “Shoebox Kit” is $100 and holds up to four items, including videotapes, film reels, slides, photos, and negatives. All your friend has to do is put the items in one of Legacy Republic’s packing boxes and ship it off to one of its Memory Factories. In just a few weeks, your friend will be able to access their memories on a secure online account and order beautiful, decorative keepsakes for their home.

For more on Legacy Republic and how photographs fuel happiness and healing, read these blogs.

5. Make Sculptures from Meaningful Objects

If your friend’s loved one adored painting, gardening, or cooking, take one of their old paintbrushes, gardening tools, or kitchen gadgets and transform it into a permanent sculpture. The design process is straightforward: an artist drills a hole into the bottom of the object and then a steel rod with an attached base is screwed into place. One sculpture works well. A cluster makes a statement.

Create a custom gift by visiting 106 Vintage Co. on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/106vintageco.

Make gift-giving this holiday season an opportunity to support friends and family members who are grieving. Acknowledge their losses. Invite them to share their memories. They will feel loved, understood, and validated. And of all the gifts you can give them, that may be the greatest one of all.

Preparing Your Best Holiday Playlist Ever, and a Secret About My Family

Now is the perfect time to create your best holiday playlist ever, songs to accompany all your upcoming dinners and celebrations. “Music is one of the strongest tethers we have to the past,” Kenneth Bilby, a former director at the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago in Chicago, tells me. “It’s a critically important carrier of memory.” It’s with this notion in mind that I’m revealing a story about my family I’ve never shared. I hope you find it helpful as you plan your holiday playlist.

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