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Passed and Present
By Allison Gilbert
Seal PressCopyright © 2016 Allison Gilbert
All rights reserved.
In my experience, one of the most difficult parts of coping with the loss of a loved one is how to manage the years that follow. Most of us receive the immediate help we need friends attend funerals, relatives pour over photographs and reminisce, colleagues send emails expressing sympathy. But
consider the vacuum that happens later. I’ve never met anyone who’s stopped completely thinking about the person he or she loved, our memories flood in and out and wash over us at anticipated and unexpected times. Yet for the most part, a year after, five years later, 15 -- the outreach that once provided so much
comfort is mostly gone. How odd is it that despite how connected we are today, finding meaningful ways to celebrate those who have passed away can be so hard to do?
The reason it’s often frustrating is because there are so few guidelines to follow. A search on Amazon offers thousands of books on grieving, but hardly anything on concrete steps for remembering. And think about your local bookstore or library. Usually there are two or three shelves devoted to coping
with death, many offering helpful advice and specific guidance for moving on. But when it comes to identifying explicit ways to keep the memory of loved ones alive? I can’t say I’ve come across a satisfying option.
And there’s another explanation why it’s challenging. Mourning generally follows a precise choreography. Between the rituals of burial and the recitation of certain prayers, between the wakes and shiva calls -- the bereaved, and those who console them, know their role and take their place. To say it another way, when someone we love dies, we usually benefit from being the passive recipients of support. But when it comes to sustaining connections after loss, that work is up to us.
Not long ago hundreds of people attended the memorial services for my parents. Both times, in those first awful days and weeks that followed, I never had to look far to share a memory or hear one. Conversations were effortless. In some ways, looking back, mourning was made slightly easier because it
seemed I’d always have the opportunity to talk about my mom and dad. But a few years after they were gone, that cozy cocoon burst open.
While I no longer needed traditional grief support, I craved a new and different type of advice. How could I recognize their absence without making my family and friends uncomfortable? And what should I do with their belongings, not just the clothing and furniture, but all those pieces of paper the ticket stubs, the
birth certificates and marriage licenses, the emails and letters they wrote me? In some respects, because strategies like these are seldom discussed, I felt lonelier than when my parents died.
This is the experience of nearly every mourner not just those who’ve lost a parent. Despite our social media circles, news feeds, and virtual support groups, ensuring those closest to us aren’t forgotten is often an isolating task. And while it feels good to make a donation or run a race in their memory, we
have opportunities to do so much more. What’s become pressing to me is finding and sharing tools for
remembering that can be incorporated into anyone’s life, whenever or however suddenly the mood strikes.
Excerpted from Passed and Present by Allison Gilbert. Copyright © 2016 Allison Gilbert. Excerpted by permission of Seal Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter One: Repurpose With Purpose. Mementos become clutter when they no longer bring us pleasure. In this chapter, the focus is on transforming inherited objects. Give yourself permission to get rid of them (don’t worry, there are suggestions about how to do that meaningfully) or to reimagine how they are used so they bring you joy.
Chapter Two: Use Technology. Ideas in this chapter encourage remembrance in a contemporary context. By incorporating memories into your digital life, you can both reflect and receive: You can share memories with others while simultaneously taking comfort in the stories and support that they send back.
Chapter Three: Not Just Holidays. There's no reason remembering should be limited to a particular season or date on the calendar. Ideas in this chapter will encourage you to transform routine and ordinary experiences (such as getting together with friends) into memory-preserving opportunities, and to have tools for remembering loved ones during those non-holiday times.
Four: Monthly Guide. While Forget Me Not presents ideas for remembering any time of year, calendar-specific dates are especially helpful for encouraging opportunities to remember together. These moments and seasons offer unique opportunities for honoring loved ones, and each deserves special recognition and treatment.
Five: Places to Go. Why not plan a vacation around honoring our connections to the past? This chapter includes suggestions for commemorative travel to local and international holiday and cultural events built around remembering loved ones.