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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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Allison Gilbert’s 2019 Gift List for Grievers

Do you know anyone who could use a little extra TLC this holiday season? Of course you do. So do I. To make it easier for all of us to be the kinds of friends or relatives we most want to be, I’m launching my first Gift List for Grievers. And because self-care following loss is so important, I encourage you to put yourself on your holiday gift list, too.

Here’s my 2019 Gift List for Grievers.

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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 use on their refrigerators or washing machines. This simple project takes just a few minutes to do. Learn how by reading this.

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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. Cooking also connects us to loved ones. Make a cherished dessert or frame a love-worn handwritten recipe card, using it as a sentimental centerpiece. As Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow explains in one of her cookbooks, “I always feel closest to my father…when I am in the kitchen.”

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

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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 OptionB 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, I’m not getting paid to say any of this!

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Memorial Day: Make This Year Really Count

I’ll be celebrating Memorial Day in Washington, D.C. this year. In honor of our nation’s fallen heroes, I’ve been asked to speak at the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar. There is no greater honor than helping more than 2,000 military family members remember their loved ones — the husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters left behind. I’ll be including new creative and uplifting strategies I’ve discovered since writing Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive. I can think of no place I’d rather be.

If you’re looking for meaningful ways to commemorate Memorial Day, the following idea is one of my favorites.

This picture is of an army jacket refashioned into a duffle bag. There are dozens of upcycling projects you can do, either by yourself (if you’re handy with needle and thread!), or with the help of a local tailor. I’ve had great success finding creative partners online.

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Rachel Thomas, President of LeanIn.Org and OptionB.Org, Discusses Sheryl Sandberg, Helping Grieving Friends During the Holidays, and #OptionBThere

What an honor it is for me to feature this conversation with Rachel Thomas, President of LeanIn.Org and OptionB.Org. Rachel works side by side with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on these two groundbreaking, sweeping initiatives. Ever since I heard about OptionB (the online community) and Option B (the book, co-written by Sandberg with bestselling author and psychologist Adam Grant), I’ve been awestruck by Sandberg’s indefatigable commitment to empower and lift individuals up. In particular, I’m deeply moved by her readiness to harness personal loss (her husband died suddenly while they were on vacation in 2015) into a global movement helping those who are grieving and suffering other forms of life-altering adversity. I’m proud to have written this piece for the launch of OptionB, as well as this post on my blog.

OptionB.org has just launched a new initiative, #OptionBThere. The program is the first of its kind. The goal of #OptionBThere is to help individuals be there for friends and family facing setbacks of any kind this holiday season. Rachel says the program has helped her personally.

“I’ve often worried about offering support in the wrong way,” she admits. “Getting this campaign off the ground has been a real eye opener for me. Even if my words are clumsy, I realize now I don’t have to be perfect. I feel freer to offer support because I don’t worry about getting it wrong. I just have to acknowledge what would otherwise be the elephant in the room.”

I’m so thrilled Rachel joined me for this Q & A on my grief & resilience blog. Oh, and did I mention we went to Georgetown University together?!

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Celebrating the Holidays with a Very Special Keepsake

My aunt died not too long after my mother passed away. Dying relatively young (my mother was 56; Ronnie was 60), neither woman had the chance to meet her grandchildren. It’s a loss my cousin’s children (pictured above with their dad as well) won’t fully appreciate until they’re older and begin to ask questions about their Grandma Ronnie.

This holiday I’m going to celebrate my aunt’s memory by helping my niece and nephew slowly get to know their maternal grandmother. I’ve decided to surprise my cousin with a very special and meaningful gift. (Do me a favor? Don’t send her this post!)

Legacy Republic, where I work as Executive Family & Memories Editor, has created the below keepsake for me. The charm features a picture of my aunt taken at my cousin’s wedding. I think my cousin will enjoy wearing it, keeping her mother close to her heart. But she may choose not to wear it at all. Instead, my cousin may wrap the chain and charm around the handlebars of her stroller or perhaps the base of a lamp in her living room. Any way she enjoys it, one upside is certain: the charm will spark conversations about Ronnie, and opportunities to gradually, and age-appropriately, share stories about her, too.

Legacy Republic is busy creating photo charms and other customized photo gifts for the holidays. The deadline to send along a photo to ensure on-time Christmas delivery is this Sunday, December 10th. View Legacy Republic’s many other wonderful present ideas here.

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.