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Julia Scheeres on the Loss of Her Brother and the Healing Power of One Very Special Stuffed Animal

November 18 marks the anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre.  In 1978, Jim Jones orchestrated the deaths of more than 900 people, all Americans.  The individuals who built Jonestown, the Peoples Temple settlement in Guyana, went to South America in search of a better life. But over time they were held against their will as Jones urged them to commit “revolutionary suicide.” He denied them access to the outside world and eventually, food, sleep, and any dream of escape.

The tragedy was first considered a mass suicide.  But author Julia Scheeres, in her gripping book, A Thousand Lives, reports that the children living in Jonestown were given no choice and that many adults felt pressured to take their own lives and didn’t do so voluntarily.

Julia came to this book from a rather unique vantage point. When she and her adopted brother, David, were teenagers, they were sent to a Christian boarding school. In Jesus Land, her memoir about the experience, Julia recounts the abuse they suffered in the name of religion.

A few years after Julia and her brother were released from the school, David was killed in a car accident. Her journey finding resilience after this unimaginable loss is illuminating and inspiring. I’m so honored Julia joined me for this Q &A on my grief and resilience blog. [Read more…]

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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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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Celebrating Dads Gone Too Soon on Father’s Day

After my father died, my stepmother longed for a quiet place outdoors to think about my dad. Cheryl’s ideal spot ended up being a secludedBuild a Refuge Wrought Iron Bench_blog spot right in her backyard. She cleared out a few weeds, bought an iron bench at a garage sale, and that was about it. A refuge was born. You can read more about this idea and many others in Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive

My favorite part of Cheryl’s retreat is the path she made to get there. She gathered a large number of medium-sized stones and carefully positioned them one after the other until a line of rocks stretched from the side of the house to the bench.  [Read more…]

Gwyneth Paltrow and Lessons I’ve Learned From Her Kitchen

Gwyneth Paltrow has a lot to teach us about food and using it to keep the memory of loved ones alive, especially important I think around the holidays.

In her cookbook My Father’s Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness, the Oscar-winning actress writes why cooking is so important to her: “I always feel closest to my father, who was the love of my life until his death in 2002, when I am in the kitchen,” she explains.

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Parenting Magazine: The Granny Gap

What happens when Grandma and Grandpa aren’t around by the time you have kids? Here’s how to introduce your children to their memory.

My mom and I had a ritual when I was young. After I was packed for school, I’d help her get ready for work. READ MORE

HuffPost: The Dangers of Having a Baby After 35 – What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You

If you are over 35, you’re probably aware of the increased risks of having a baby. Older women are more likely to have miscarriages, c-sections, suffer high blood pressure, and develop gestational diabetes. Your child is more likely to be born too early, not weigh enough, have chromosomal birth defects (most commonly Down syndrome), and other serious, potentially life-threatening conditions. Women are familiar with these hazards because their doctors talk about them routinely….Continue Reading

HuffPost: Parentless Parents – Strategies for a Better Mother’s Day

It’s often difficult to remember your mother and rejoice over your life as a mother at the same time. From nursery school on, we are trained to celebrate this holiday, first by making our parents cards out of construction paper and pipe cleaners, and later by buying them gifts. Our role as sons and daughters is clearly defined. And when we become parents, we also know what we’re supposed to do: receive all the attention and smile…Continue Reading