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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.

Grief experts agree the key to healing after loss is creating meaningful rituals of remembrance. Focusing on practical ways to remember loved ones is why Passed and Present is truly a how-to guide for celebrating the family and friends we never want to forget. When we create authentic opportunities for remembering we honor what our family and friends still mean to us.

If you’re seeking a way to help a friend grieving the loss of a child, Zenoff’s book is a powerful gift. If you’ve lost a child, do yourself a favor — buy this book.

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

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.

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