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Grief and Remembrance During Summer

That’s a picture of my mother and me on Fire Island, a popular car-free summer vacation spot off the coast of Long Island, New York. I’ve always cherished this photo but appreciate it even more now that I’m a mom.

Looking at it lately, I see things that were invisible to me before I gave birth: I notice my mother carrying our towels and I’m just carefree, riding my tricycle. I’ve also come to recognize the way I’m dressed reflects the outsize love my mother had for me. With red hair and pale skin, she has me absolutely covered — a straw hat to keep the sun off my face, and a long-sleeve shirt so large it goes to my knees.

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What One Mom Learned After the Death of Her Son

This piece was written in partnership with Nisha Zenoff.

Not too long ago I came across The Unspeakable Loss: How Do You Live After a Child Dies?, a thoughtful and necessary book by Nisha Zenoff. The heart of the book is not the death of Zenoff’s 17-year-old son Victor who was killed in a hiking accident; rather, it’s the urgent set of universal questions such as the ones below that Zenoff poses and then answers summarily for her readers:

  • “Will my tears ever stop?”
  • “Who am I now without my child?”
  • “How can I help my other children cope?”
  • “Will my marriage survive?”

The structure of The Unspeakable Loss is what makes the book such essential reading. Each Q & A is a quick and satisfying read and every section provides a soothing Band-Aid of support and information. Zenoff’s warm and welcoming approach acknowledges the outsize pain of losing a child, yet offers the kind of opportunity that gives permission to other bereaved parents to embrace life, love, and joy again.

For Zenoff, the decision to move forward involves honoring Victor’s love of the outdoors. She and her husband sprinkled his ashes along a dirt trail in the woods. Zenoff’s daughter named one of her daughters Victoria, in honor of her brother. Opportunities for remembering like these are just the types of meaningful strategies I share in Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive.

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