Eventually everyone will experience a season of grief after the loss of a loved one. The multitude of emotions that we experience can be quite overwhelming. It takes time and energy to process the loss. It also takes time to sort through all the possessions left behind. It isn’t possible or necessary to keep it all. The challenge is to find the treasures—the items that truly reflect the essence of your special loved one.
Allison Gilbert offers a magnificent guide to doing just that in her unique book, Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive. She shares over 85 creative ways to remember and honor the memory of our loved ones. She compassionately encourages her readers to consider fresh ideas. She empowers those who are grieving with engaging activities and projects. The best part is that she offers so many wonderful choices. And the result is a user-friendly handbook that leads the grieving reader gently through a difficult season of life. The message is this: it is OK to let go and keep only what matters most to you.
Too often, in the midst of grief, we reluctantly accept the responsibility of trying to keep all of the possessions left behind by our loved ones. It seems like the way to show love. However, filling up basements, attics, garages, and storage units with stuff doesn’t really ease our grief. What we thought would be a blessing eventually becomes a burden. It simply is too much.
Gilbert’s book offers an eclectic assortment of ways to keep the memory of loved ones alive so that we are nurtured and comforted by those memories. I love that she calls her strategies Forget-Me-Nots! Some are quick and easy; others require more time and expense. Some may not appeal at all; others will be spot on special. Perhaps the reading will inspire completely different ideas. What matters most is that we become aware of the many ways to remember and honor loved ones.
The first chapter, “Recycle with Purpose,” deals with the reality that “mementos become clutter when they no longer bring us pleasure.” These projects highlight ways to transform objects such as photos, letters, books, fabric, clothing, dishes, or decorative items. The result showcases the items in a new way.
The second chapter, “Use Technology,” introduces ways to create digital memories. She refers to these as “low-hanging fruit of memory-keeping” because they are already part of our daily lives. These projects include making a digital scrapbook, digitizing old home movies, digitizing family recipes, engraving handwriting or fingerprints onto jewelry, or posting favorite photos on Throwback Thursday on Facebook. How about personalizing a deck of cards with photos of all your family members?
The third chapter, “Not Just Holidays,” states that remembering our loved ones does not need to be confined to certain holidays and anniversaries. These ideas include taking advantage of all the senses. Enjoy playing your loved one’s favorite music, cooking their favorite meal, planting their favorite flowers, or volunteering at their favorite charity. Give yourself permission to devote an entire day to remembering everything about your loved one.
The fifth chapter, “A Monthly Guide,” organizes special “Forget-Me-Nots” by the month. These activities are short and simple. The last chapter, “Travel,” showcases what she calls “Commemorative Travel.” This may seem out of reach, but she graciously encourages readers to choose aspects of these ideas and use them in ways that are individually meaningful.
There may be some ideas and suggestions that just don’t click with you or don’t align with your values. No problem! Choose the ones that nourish your heart and honor your loved one.
The best part of this book is that it clearly demonstrates that there are so many unique ways to honor the memory of your loved one without filling up every space of your home with all of their stuff. Letting go of the excess stuff, holding on to the treasures, and creating new ways to preserve memories are essential actions that bring comfort and healing to anyone in a season of grief.
How will you honor the memory of your loved ones?