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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. [Read more…]

Emily Rapp Black on Losing Her Son and How Grief Fuels Her Creative, Writing Life

Emily Rapp Black lost her son when he was nearly 3 years old. Ronan died of Tay-Sachs disease, a rare genetic disorder that slowly and irreversibly destroyed his nervous system. Emily wrote her New York Times bestselling memoir, The Still Point of the Turning World, as a means to grapple with her unimaginable grief.

I first met Emily when she responded to a guest blog post I wrote about my book Parentless Parents.  Emily’s son had been diagnosed with this always-fatal illness when she told me she’d already discovered an unexpected and extraordinary lesson. “As a writer,” she reflected, “I was shocked to discover that the experience of horrible grief actually galvanized me to write in a way I had not in years.” Emily, without warning, had hit on an essential truth about grief and resilience: our deepest sorrow can spark tremendous creativity and fuel our capacity to rebound and move forward.

Emily is now an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at UC-Riverside and her latest book, Casa Azul Cripple, is coming out in 2018. The book explores the intersection of pain, art, and disability through the life and work of Frida Kahlo.

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Christina Baker Kline on Losing Her Mom, Leaning on Her Sisters, and Why Talking About Complicated Relationships Helps

This month’s Q&A on grief and resilience is very special to me. I got to speak with #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline. Her latest book, A Piece of the World, is out right now. Go get a copy! This fantastic story is about the relationship between the artist Andrew Wyeth and the subject of his best-known painting, Christina’s World.

Christina and I have been friends for more than a decade. We worked together on my second book, Always Too Soon, and it’s her name alongside mine on the cover. Ever since that exciting time, I’ve been in awe of Christina’s writing (she’s also the author of The Way Life Should Be, Sweet Water, Bird in Hand, and Desire Lines) and thrilled to be part of her life.

In our conversation, Christina talks about the loss of her mother and how traveling, purchasing art, and eating cornbread and grits keeps her memory alive. These themes echo the essential lesson in Passed and Present: that being proactive about remembering loved ones drives resilience, sparks creativity, and brings remarkable joy.

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My 5 Favorite Ways to Remember Loved Ones

I’ve discovered fantastic opportunities for remembering and celebrating my loved ones. And I want you to know them, too. My search for fun and practical ideas started because my mom and dad died pretty young, and then my aunt and uncle passed away a few years later. The strategies I’ve found take advantage of every sense — concepts that harness the power of what I taste, see, smell, touch, and hear.

Whether it was last year or decades ago that you lost someone close to your heart, there are numerous concrete ways to celebrate what they still mean to you. In my book, Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive, I reveal 85 fun and innovative strategies for remembering and honoring those we never want to forget. I call these uplifting concepts Forget Me Nots. Here are five of my favorites.

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Caroline Leavitt on Loss and a New Sense of Purpose

Caroline Leavitt has always occupied a special place in my heart. This incredible author has written 11 books and happens to live in the same town where I got my feet wet being a new mom, Hoboken, New Jersey, a fabulous city outside New York City. I asked Caroline to participate in my Q & A series on grief and resilience because she understands rebounding from adversity from two distinct vantage points – the death of her fiancé and the slow loss of her mother to dementia.

Caroline’s newest book, Cruel Beautiful World, has been praised by NPR Weekend Edition, New York Newsday, Marie Claire, and more.  It’s also been named an Indie Next Pick.

Now, let’s dig in. Nostalgia, the sentimental longing for the past, boosts resilience and makes us happier. This essential realization (that finding ways to stay connected to friends and family makes us stronger) is at the heart of my book, Passed and Present, Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive. So, it wasn’t surprising to me that an inexpensive figurine Caroline’s fiancé gave her as a present (a Bullwinkle Moose!) doesn’t bring her down; It lifts Caroline up. [Read more…]

Gretchen Rubin Reflects on Memories, Resilience, and Happiness

Perhaps you wouldn’t expect me to feature New York Times bestselling author Gretchen Rubin on my blog.  After all, I focus on grief and resilience and Gretchen tackles all facets of habits and happiness.  Gretchen’s written the groundbreaking books, The Happiness Project, Happier at Home, and Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, and she also hosts the popular podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin.  Her forthcoming book, The Four Tendencies (about the personality framework she’s discovered) comes out September 12, 2017.  Mark your calendars!  But Gretchen is actually the best person to highlight this time of year!

Being proactive about remembering loved ones can make us happier.  I call this positive and transformational concept the “Reflection Effect” and I write about it in O, the Oprah Magazine, and it’s at the heart of my book, Passed and Present, Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive.  So, it’s with this in mind that I turned to Gretchen to find out how she’s derived joy and meaning from life after the loss of her beloved grandparents.  As we spoke about resiliency and overcoming her personal losses, she also shared the importance of keeping a few cherished mementos and how certain smells (hot dogs!) spark comforting memories. [Read more…]

Ann Hood Talks About Grief and Resilience

I first became aware of New York Times bestselling author Ann Hood after reading her deeply stirring book, Comfort: A Journey Through Grief, a memoir about losing her 5-year-old daughter Grace to a severe form of strep. My interest in her work only grew when I pored over her novel, The Knitting Circle, a work that cuts through many themes including “loss, hope, love, knitting, friendship, and the power of stories in our lives.”

Ann’s latest work, The Book That Matters Most, is a must-read. The story centers on a book club, but the novel is also about the accidental death of the protagonist’s sister and her mother’s suicide one year later. I could not put this book down.

Ann and I met at Spoken Interludes, a literary salon where celebrated and emerging writers read their work and answer questions from a large and enthusiastic audience. If you’ve never been to one of these events, I highly recommend carving out the time, if at all possible. Below, Ann and I talk about grief and resilience. We also discuss how music (the Beatles) and food (plain pasta with butter) have brought her unexpected joy.

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Arianna Huffington Helps Me Launch New Q & A Series

I’m thrilled to announce a new Q & A feature on my blog, a series of interviews with luminaries around the world.  And I’m overjoyed to reveal my first conversation is with the incomparable Arianna Huffington!

The focus of every discussion will be grief and resilience.  I’ve always been fascinated by the many ways loss can fuel enormous change and personal growth.  My interest soared even more when I was named a contributor to the November issue of O, the Oprah Magazine and wrote an essay about the power of nostalgia to transform lives.  If you’re curious about this topic, you can read about The Reflection Effect here.

Arianna and I met five years ago in the hair and make-up room at CNN. We were getting ready to appear on different shows and we briefly talked about my new book at the time, Parentless Parents: How the Loss of Our Mothers and Fathers Impacts the Way We Raise Our Children. My memory of that discussion is generally a blur. I mostly recall being in awe of her. Her work founding The Huffington Post had always inspired me, but it was her outsize warmth and generosity to everyone around her that afternoon, including me, that sparked my deepest admiration. And now, with the launch of her latest endeavor, Thrive Global, just a few weeks away, I am once again amazed by her singular kindness.

I’m so grateful that even with her new company’s November 30th start, Arianna took the time to reflect on the uplifting and empowering lessons revealed in my latest book, Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive. Indeed, there’s a connection between the lessons in Passed and Present and the mission of Thrive Global. Loss is part of life, but it’s how we choose to harness these setbacks that can reduce burnout, spark creativity and productivity, and improve our health at home and in the office. Growth and resilience are driven by these unexpected factors.

Here’s my full interview with Arianna Huffington.

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Preparing Your Best Holiday Playlist Ever, and a Secret About My Family

Now is the perfect time to create your best holiday playlist ever, songs to accompany all your upcoming dinners and celebrations. “Music is one of the strongest tethers we have to the past,” Kenneth Bilby, a former director at the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago in Chicago, tells me. “It’s a critically important carrier of memory.” It’s with this notion in mind that I’m revealing a story about my family I’ve never shared. I hope you find it helpful as you plan your holiday playlist.

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Making Meaningful Halloween Decorations

After my grandfather died, my grandmother took a ceramics class.  She got out of it exactly what she needed — distraction, friendship, and a sense that she could be happy and engaged once again.  Grandma made more than a dozen pieces, and not too long ago, I did something I thought I’d never do:  I gave them a creepy Halloween makeover.

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