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Transitioning from passive mourning to active remembering is key to building resilience after loss

Option B Journalism piece by Allison GilbertIf you’re lucky, like me, soon after your loved one dies, a swarm of friends will embrace you in all sorts of meaningful ways. They’ll pack the funeral home, attend the wake or shiva, and a few may even leave homemade meals wrapped in tin foil by your front door so you won’t have to cook for a while. Rituals surrounding loss tend to kick into gear automatically and I benefitted from being the passive recipient of support when each of my parents passed away. Yet my greatest fortune ultimately caused me the most pain…Continue Reading

5 Ways Spring Cleaning Can Help You Build Resilience After Loss

After my parents died, I felt a responsibility to hang on to nearly all their belongings – my father’s neckties, my mother’s scarves, their mortgage records, car titles, passports, books, home videos, photographs, and more. For a while, keeping these possessions made me feel closer to my mom and dad. But years later, doing so became a burden and certainly didn’t bring me pleasure. Over time, I figured out that repurposing objects, or simply parting with them, made me feel happier and more connected.

Purging objects (and upcyling others) enhances our connection to loved ones and drives our sense of resilience…Continue Reading

O, The Oprah Magazine: Why Looking at a Photo Can Ease Loneliness and Grief

o-mag-november-coverIn the photograph, my mother and I are sitting on the stone lip of a large circular fountain in Paris. Shoulder to shoulder, we’re leaning into each other, fingers interlaced, my head tilted toward her cheek. It’s Saturday, August 31, 1985, and I’m 15 years old. We are in the Tuileries Garden, giddy tourists on a mother-daughter adventure that began just that morning when we landed in France from New York.

Studying the photo now, I see not just that moment, but so many other joyous times I shared with my mother: horseback riding in Central Park, the raucous annual holiday parties she hosted.    Continue Reading or View on Oprah.com

Top 4 Ideas for Remembering Mom

My mother died when she was 57. In the two decades she’s been gone, I’ve discovered a critical lesson for healing: The more I take steps to actively remember her — the more I acknowledge what she still means to me — the happier I am. This is because remembering is essential for healing. Absence and presence can coexist and fully embracing this concept is what gives us the greatest strength to move forward. Especially if you’ve lost your mom and Mother’s Day fills you with unease. There are plenty of uplifting ways to celebrate her memory and doing so can bring you a terrific amount of joy.

Here are four of my favorite Forget-Me-Not ideas for remembering and honoring moms who are no longer with us, taken from my book, Passed and Present:

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Top 6 Ideas for Repurposing and Upcycling Clothing

Turning clothing into objects you can appreciate every day is a poignant way to keep the memory of loved ones alive. A few years after my father died, I made a quilt out of his colorful assortment of neckties. You can undertake this kind of project by yourself or with the help of others. For the quilt crafted out of my dad’s ties, I worked with the online company, The Gazebo. Below are six more of my favorite ideas for repurposing jackets, shirts, pants, and other articles of clothing:

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Join the #MemoryBash Movement

Today begins a national movement to make remembering loved ones as fun and joyful as a birthday party or wedding. Come join individuals across the country — in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, Minneapolis, among many other cities — for a MEMORY BASH. Together, we’ll celebrate and learn new ways to remember the family and friends we never want to forget.

What Is A Memory Bash?
A Memory Bash is an excuse to get together as a group — eating, drinking, and having a great time — while celebrating loved ones who have passed away in the company of others drawn to do the same. It’s a joyful, innovative idea I write about in Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive. There are Memory Bashes taking place coast to coast. Locations and times can be found by going to my website, www.allisongilbert.com. Even more information is available in this very short video.

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3 Ways to Use Warmer Weather to Strengthen Memories of Loved Ones

The bright yellow pop of daffodils around my neighborhood reminds me of one of the most creative ideas I’ve come across for keeping memories of loved ones alive. Read on for this innovative springtime strategy and two others.  

Grow Daffodils. In a time of loss, give a wicker basket full of daffodil bulbs. The strategy here is for the recipient to plant, if possible, one bulb for every year the loved one lived. Daffodils are the perfect flower for such a happiness-inducing project: as perennials, they’ll come back spring after spring—and they’re virtually indestructible.

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Memory Bash: A Celebration of Loved Ones and What They Still Mean to Us

It’s my birthday this week! I still love my birthday. The day brings back wonderful memories of my mom and dad who always made the day special. In the years since they’ve passed away, I’ve continued making the day extraordinary — not just for me, but in celebration of their memory. I do this by taking extra care of myself, carving out time to see friends and indulging in foods that make me happy (slice of chocolate cake, anyone?).

It’s in this mindset — celebration over sadness — that I wrote my forthcoming book, Passed and Present. It’s full of fun, innovative ideas for keeping the memory of loved ones alive. I call these ideas Forget Me Nots. One of my favorite Forget Me Nots is hosting a Memory Bash. Similar to a birthday party or book club, a Memory Bash is an excuse to get together as a group — eating, drinking, and having a great time — but in this case, the focus is celebrating loved ones who have passed away in the company of others drawn to do the same. It’s a joyful concept I simply love!

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On Your Wedding Day: Five Ways to Honor Loved Ones Who’ve Passed Away

My mother was losing her battle with ovarian cancer when Mark asked me to marry him. Because she likely wouldn’t make it to our wedding, my thoughtful husband-to-be went out of his way to include her in every secret and elaborate strategy he had for his proposal. Mark made sure my mom knew exactly where it was going to happen and when, and he lovingly elevated her role in the planning to full-on co-conspirator by involving her in the ruse to get me exactly where I needed to be that day. Mark and I celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary this year and I remain just as grateful today as I did back then for what he did for me, but especially my mom, two decades ago.

Mom didn’t live to see us get married but she was very much part of the wedding. Most couples also want their loved ones to be part of the ceremony and celebration. Below I share five opportunities for including those you’ve lost in your special day.

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Teaching Their Daughter About the Grandparents She Never Met

David Alan Basche and Alysia Reiner are a Hollywood power couple. You know Basche from the TV Land comedy, The Exes, and he’s starred in shows like The Starter Wife and Lipstick Jungle, and appeared in such films as United 93 and War of The Worlds. What you likely don’t know is that he lost his father when he was six and makes the conscious decision nearly every day to bring him up in conversation. Basche wants to make sure his daughter knows the grandfather she never met. More on his amazing wife Reiner in a bit.

For Basche, the key to keeping his father’s memory alive is a tiny hourglass he’s saved all these years, a cherished object from his childhood. Here’s how he explained the loss of his father and this sentimental object to me:

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