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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.

[Read more…]

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…]

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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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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Five Ways to Use Social Media to Remember Loved Ones

Technology is the low-hanging fruit of memory-keeping. Emails, texts, social media and apps allow us to work virtually and socialize remotely. The power of these devices can easily be harnessed to keep your loved one’s memory alive. The tools are already in your pocket and on your desk. By incorporating memories into your digital life, a dual opportunity exists to reflect and receive: You can share memories while simultaneously taking comfort in the stories and support that ricochet back.

I encourage you to integrate your loved one into the rich and varied digital life you already lead—whether at home, work, or on the go. The Forget Me Nots below are my top five ways to use social media to remember loved ones.  

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Parenting Magazine: Grief – Death of a Child

When it was revealed yesterday that 8-year-old Martin Richard was one of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, Aren Almon Kok felt an immediate, sickening tightness in her gut. She’s never met the Richard family and lives nearly two thousand miles away.

But she may understand more than most of us what Martin Richard’s father is likely going through right now while his wife and daughter remain severely injured following the attack….Continue Reading

 

HuffPost: Parentless Parents – Why Writing About Grief Makes Me Happy

Several weeks ago my new book, “Parentless Parents,” was published. This is the third book I’ve written that deals with mourning and loss. And while you might assume I’d be the last person you’d want to meet at a cocktail party, I’ve been told otherwise. I smile; I laugh. You might even call me “bubbly.”

Each book I’ve written is the result of successfully pushing through an unwanted and unanticipated experience, and using that experience for something more powerful than anger and self-pity….Continue Reading