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my favorite poem

After my mother died, I found this typewritten poem stashed in a book that had belonged to her. Reading it, so deep in my grief, I felt equal blows of tough-love and compassion. My mother’s parenting style was steeped in that dichotomy: She loved me so fiercely, so unconditionally, she’d sooner let me fail than rescue me. I’d learn best, she might have said, if I understood life as a case study in cause and effect. Reading the poem that day, attributed to Elsie Robinson, it was my mother’s voice that filled my ears. And that felt welcome, needed, and healing.

But who was Elsie Robinson? I had never heard the name before and have spent much of the last 20 years finding out. In my research for my forthcoming book, the first biography of Robinson (1883-1956), I’ve learned she was once the highest paid nationally syndicated female columnist at Hearst. She was a writer who gave a voice to a generation of women and launched a movement that decades later included Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and Dorothy Pitman Hughes. Researching and writing this biography has created a new, living connection to my mother, as if she’s sitting next to me as I type. 

Below is the poem I found more than 25 years ago. I’ve written it out for you, in its entirety. I hope it brings you as much comfort as it’s brought me. To learn more about Robinson and keep up to date on the book’s progress, please join my newsletter list. I promise not to bombard you; I send notes only once a month.

 

PAIN by Elsie Robinson

Why must I be hurt?
Suffering and despair,
Cowardice and cruelty,
Envy and injustice,
All of these hurt.
Grief and terror,
Loneliness and betrayal
And the agony of loss or death –
All these things hurt.
Why? Why must life hurt?
Why must those who love generously,
Live honorably, feel deeply
All that is good – and beautiful
Be so hurt,
While selfish creatures
Go unscathed?
That is why—
Because they can feel.
Hurt is the price to pay for feeling.
Pain is not accident,
Nor punishment, nor mockery
By some savage god.
Pain is part of growth.
The more we grow
The more we feel –
The more we feel – the more we suffer,
For if we are able to feel beauty,
We must also feel the lack of it –
Those who glimpse heaven
Are bound to sight hell.
To have felt deeply is worth
Anything it cost.
To have felt Love and Honor,
Courage and Ecstasy
Is worth – any price.
And so – since hurt is the price
Of Larger living, I will not
Hate pain, nor try to escape it.
Instead I will try to meet it
Bravely, bear it proudly:
Not as a cross, or a misfortune, but an
Opportunity, a privilege, a challenge – to the God that
gropes within me.

2020 Gift List for Grievers

Facing the holidays without your loved one is hard. Covid-19 makes it harder. Our inability to gather with friends and family, to receive hugs and kisses, is leaving too many of us feeling unmoored and alone. 

So, here’s what I’ve done:

I’ve created a holiday gift list for grievers and those who love them. What will you find below? Presents that demonstrate you understand this holiday season is unlike any other. And because self-care following loss is so important, I encourage you to put yourself on your holiday gift list, too. Please know I’ve personally curated the ten unique gift ideas, and I hope they’ll bring a measure of joy and meaning to your holiday season.

Here’s my 2020 Gift List for Grievers.

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why bereavement care should receive federal funding

As Covid-19 deaths continue to rise, a conversation is bubbling up in Washington about what kind of support is available to grieving families, and whether bereavement care, like other forms of healthcare, should receive federal funding, and if so, how much.

In March, as much of the nation was shutting down due to the coronavirus pandemic, nine key U.S. Department of Health & Human Service agencies, including National Institutes of Health, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were pushed by Evermore, a non-profit advocacy group, to report to Congress what grief-specific resources are available right now to Americans in need. Follow-up came Sunday evening, July 12 when the House Committee on Appropriations made the same request as lawmakers debate the 2021 federal budget. Both requests are historic, marking the ​first attempts to get f​ederal agencies to report on the state of bereavement care in the United States.

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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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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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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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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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The Upside of Getting Dirty: How Gardening Boosts Memories of Loved Ones

Getting outside is healing. In fact, being outdoors has been proven to increase creative thinking, decrease stress, and heighten our senses.

With this in mind, why not take advantage of the sights and smells of nature to honor and celebrate the friend, spouse, parent, or sibling you never want to forget? Below are four of my favorite ideas for doing just that.

Create a Memory Garden. First, visit your local nursery to buy your loved one’s favorite herb, plant, or flower. Or, simply pick combinations of these that feature his or her favorite colors, tastes and smells. Second, add several “Love Rocks” to make this space even more special. …Continue Reading