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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…]

Making and Sharing Halloween Memories

Yup, that’s me. A little devil. This photo brings back joyful memories of Halloweens past. I’ve tried to make October 31 equally special for my kids. Part of this effort was taking them to a jaw-dropping event when they were small (they’re teenagers now and generally prep themselves for the big day). Recently, my best friend from high school visited me with her two young sons. Their stay was the perfect excuse to revisit this enormous, one-of-a-kind Halloween extravaganza.

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Robin Romm Discusses the Loss of Her Mother and How Writing and Having a Baby Keeps Her Memory Alive

I’ve had a writer’s crush on Robin Romm ever since I read her scorching memoir, The Mercy Papers. The book is about the last three weeks of her mother’s life. It is unsentimental and raw, ricocheting furiously between anger, sadness, love, and humor. I’m always asked to recommend books on mother loss. The Mercy Papers continually tops my list.

Robin has just published another work and it’s altogether different. It’s called Double Bind: Women on Ambition. Featuring essays written by writers, actors, professors, and CEOs, the anthology explores the complicated relationship women have with professional striving.

In our conversation about grief and resilience, Robin returns to the subject of loss and reveals the most satisfying and empowering way she keeps her mother’s memory alive.

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Father’s Day Musings: Thoughts On Remembering Dads Gone Too Soon and One Exceptional Idea for Celebrating Fathers Still With Us

This post was created in partnership with NFDA.

Ten years ago on The Huffington Post, I shared the eulogy I gave at my father’s funeral. The speech was unusual – a Top 10 List of our most unusual father-daughter relationship quirks. I was moved to share my reflections because I hoped they’d stir future conversations with my children. When my dad died, just three days after September 11, my son was 18-months-old. My daughter wasn’t born.

In my book, Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive, I reveal 85 ideas for remembering and celebrating the family and friends we never want to forget. Writing stories down (and making sure to share them, too) is just one powerful tool. My son and daughter, now teenagers, have read my reflections and have a better sense of their grandfather as a result. Other strategies include Building a Refuge and Turning My Father’s Ties Into a Quilt.

With Father’s Day upon us, here are a few more creative and uplifting opportunities for remembering and honoring our dads.

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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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Surprising Fall Opportunity

One of the most uplifting gifts I’ve ever heard of giving someone in a time of loss is a wicker basket full of daffodil bulbs. The idea is for the recipient to plant 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. And, the best time of year to plant daffodils is the fall!

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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…]

Share Your Love Story and Tell Theirs

Love is in the air, and everyone loves a love story. In the movie industry, that quirky moment when the two main love interests are introduced to one another is called a “meet cute.” They might be rather predictable in film, but real life often has more intrigue and romance. After all, when you meet a new couple, don’t you often ask, “How did you meet?” I find the same question one that helps us share the love stories of our loved ones who have passed away.

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