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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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Secrets Revealed in My Father’s Handwriting

I was 31 when my father died, just beginning to know him as an adult gets to know another adult. We had a tumultuous relationship. My dad and I loved each other completely yet we got into more than our fair share of arguments. The most memorable happened in Moscow, in the middle of Red Square, when I was 17 years old. We were at the end of a peace march, during the height of the Cold War, and I wanted to go to a party. He was not going to let that happen. He roared his disapproval. I exploded. So did he. Our fight was so epic it would later become #1 in my Top 10 Memories of Dad I shared at his memorial service.

My father died of cancer when he was 63. He was always short-tempered, but I didn’t know why. I never got to know what truly made him tick because I was too young to ask the right questions, and I was his daughter, after all, not his confidant. So when an opportunity showed up a few weeks ago to get to know him a little better, nearly 20 years after his death, I was very excited and intrigued.

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Author and Poet Meghan O’Rourke on Living Life in Honor of Her Mother

Award-winning author, editor, literary critic, and poet Meghan O’Rourke‘s work has appeared in Slate, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, and many other publicationsWhile pursuing her extraordinary career, O’Rourke was faced with traveling back and forth from home to care for her mother, who died at age 55 of metastatic colorectal cancer. My mother also died young (57), and also from cancer (ovarian). And similar to Meghan, I was a journalist (working as a television news producer) while helping to care for my mom in her final days.

After Meghan’s mother passed away, she found solace writing her poetry collections, Once and Sun in Days (to be published in paperback this fall), and her gripping memoir, The Long Goodbye. She is currently working on a nonfiction book about chronic illness.

In our interview, Meghan discusses the many ways she keeps her mother’s memory alive, including safeguarding a lock of her hair. I’m thrilled Meghan joined me for this revealing Q & A.

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The Most Important New Year’s Resolution You Can Make

One New Year’s resolution often overlooked is making the commitment to keep our loved one’s memory alive. Being proactive is critical. Taking steps to remember builds our capacity for happiness. Loss is out of our control. Knowing we have the ability to ensure our family and friends won’t be forgotten restores some of the power we need for joy and healing.

To start 2018, here are three easy, no-cost ideas from my book, Passed and Present, to help you remember, connect, share, and embrace memories of your loved one:

1. Say Their Name Out Loud – How we talk about loved ones plays a critical role in the way we and others remember them. The more we share our memories, the more our recollections have the capacity to bring us joy. Preparing simple foods that prompt conversation is a great way to begin. A sentimental cookie recipe works just fine! The point is to lower the bar and embrace even the smallest tidbits of opportunity.

2. Celebrate Their Words – Buy a small notebook, one you can carry with you wherever you go. Jot down your loved one’s funny or poignant sayings as soon as they come to you. Consider ways you can make some of these words or phrases an indelible part of your home. Paint a little sign using those words and display it on a bookshelf. Stencil a word or saying directly on a wall.

3. Keep Doing It – What activities did you and your loved one do together? Did you enjoy hiking, cooking, skating, or visiting museums? Don’t also grieve the hobbies you and your loved one shared. Keep doing them. Try to feel your loved one with you.

And there’s always the opportunity to perpetuate your loved one’s passions. Was there a cause that brought meaning to his or her life? Volunteering is a powerful way to bring you closer to the family and friends you never want to forget.

Illustration by Jennifer Orkin Lewis

Dani Shapiro on Loss, Religion, and Honoring Her Father Through Writing

As I sit down to write this blog, it’s odd for me to admit that I don’t remember when I met Dani Shapiro. I just know I’ve admired her work for a very long time. Her writing is provocative and elegant. There are few authors I admire more.

Dani is the bestselling author of numerous books, including Still Writing, Devotion, and Slow Motion. She’s been a guest on Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday. Her most recent book, Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage, has received significant attention and praise. Cheryl Strayed has said she was “absorbed by Hourglass and consoled by it too.” I’m honored Dani joined me for this discussion on my grief and resilience blog.

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Robin Romm Discusses the Loss of Her Mother and How Writing and Having a Baby Keeps Her Memory Alive

I’ve had a writer’s crush on Robin Romm ever since I read her scorching memoir, The Mercy Papers. The book is about the last three weeks of her mother’s life. It is unsentimental and raw, ricocheting furiously between anger, sadness, love, and humor. I’m always asked to recommend books on mother loss. The Mercy Papers continually tops my list.

Robin has just published another work and it’s altogether different. It’s called Double Bind: Women on Ambition. Featuring essays written by writers, actors, professors, and CEOs, the anthology explores the complicated relationship women have with professional striving.

In our conversation about grief and resilience, Robin returns to the subject of loss and reveals the most satisfying and empowering way she keeps her mother’s memory alive.

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Father’s Day Musings: Thoughts On Remembering Dads Gone Too Soon and One Exceptional Idea for Celebrating Fathers Still With Us

This post was created in partnership with NFDA.

Ten years ago on The Huffington Post, I shared the eulogy I gave at my father’s funeral. The speech was unusual – a Top 10 List of our most unusual father-daughter relationship quirks. I was moved to share my reflections because I hoped they’d stir future conversations with my children. When my dad died, just three days after September 11, my son was 18-months-old. My daughter wasn’t born.

In my book, Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive, I reveal 85 ideas for remembering and celebrating the family and friends we never want to forget. Writing stories down (and making sure to share them, too) is just one powerful tool. My son and daughter, now teenagers, have read my reflections and have a better sense of their grandfather as a result. Other strategies include Building a Refuge and Turning My Father’s Ties Into a Quilt.

With Father’s Day upon us, here are a few more creative and uplifting opportunities for remembering and honoring our dads.

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Why Writing About Grief Is An Uplifting Experience

You might assume I’d be the last person you’d want to meet at a cocktail party. And, really, who’d blame you? I’ve written four books about grief and loss, and yet I’ve been told, quite lovingly, I’m really fun to be around. My husband has often said that if he had to sum me up in one word he’d choose, “passionate.” I really like that description. You might even call me bubbly.

Each book I’ve written is the result of successfully pushing through an unwanted experience and using that moment for something more powerful than anger and self-pity. …Continue Reading