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NY Times: Rejecting the Name My Parents Chose

I was named for the main character in “Little Women.” Changing my name may be the most Jo March-like decision I could have made. Despite the byline you see on this article, the name my parents gave me was Jo. Not Josephine, just Jo. Inspired by the main character in “Little Women,” they dreamed I’d grow to become every bit as norm-bashing as Louisa May Alcott’s fictional character, Jo March….Continue Reading

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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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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Remembering Loved Ones Through Their Handwriting

This photo highlights such an innovative idea – using a loved one’s handwriting to decorate a kitchen wall. In this picture, a cherished recipe takes center stage. What do you think?

Handwriting is such a personal and intimate tether to our loved ones. Whenever I see notes written by my mother or father I feel an extra surge of connection. Here are a few additional ideas for keeping family and friends close by harnessing the power of their own words:

Jewelry
Engrave a piece of jewelry. Create a one-of-a-kind charm, pendant, even a pair of cufflinks. Simply take your loved one’s signature to your local jeweler and he or she will do the rest!

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How Lee Woodruff’s “Ambiguous Loss” Became a Mission to Help Others

Lee Woodruff and I got know each other through several shared passions – giving voice to the complexity of grief, building resilience in the face of adversity, and supporting veterans and their families in whatever way we can.

For me, I became interested after the loss of my parents. Lee’s attention was sparked in 2006 when her husband Bob Woodruff suffered a traumatic brain injury. The celebrated journalist was in Iraq covering the war for ABC News when his armored vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. He was placed in a medically-induced coma for 36 days. During Bob’s recovery, Lee met many families of service members and learned even more about brain injuries, post-traumatic stress, and depression. The entire experience inspired the couple to create the Bob Woodruff Foundation, supporting America’s sick and injured service members and their families.

I am honored to share the details of Lee’s extraordinary journey in my latest Q&A.

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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.

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Making Meaning and Purpose Out of Tragedy

On 9/11, I was a television news producer for NBC New York. Dispatched to the World Trade Center, I was covered by debris when the second tower collapsed and taken to Bellevue Hospital. ER doctors cut off my clothes to assess my injuries and tubes were put down my throat to help me breathe. I thought I was pregnant. (To round out the week, my father died of cancer that Friday, September 14, 2001.)

Yet I was one of the lucky ones. I survived.

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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.

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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

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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