How can we nurture relationships with the people we love, long after they have passed? In our society, we want to pack away memories of our loved ones lost; just like our attitudes toward grief, we want to stuff it away in a perfect and neat little box. Storing their belongings and shutting the door on their memories has often seemed like the safest way to protect us against the pain. Yet, the truth is that our memories and stories of our loved ones are the true pathway to connection and healing.
Allison Gilbert, the critically acclaimed author of Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive, has shared the importance of finding new ways to creatively honor the people who have left us too soon. One of the beautiful messages Allison shares is that repurposing mementos can help us reconnect and find resilience.
In the book, Allison states that Passed and Present is “not about sadness and grieving—it is about happiness and remembering. It is possible to look forward, to live a rich and joyful life, while keeping the memory of loved ones alive….We can all live our fullest lives when we accept that absence and presence can coexist.”
I was lucky enough to be able to connect with Allison Gilbert, and I am thrilled to introduce her to you as the first guest in our interview series.
Here, she shares some of the things that can help you find ways to reconnect, find strength through creativity, and joyously keep your loved one’s memory alive.
Q: You say remembering is key to healing after loss. Can you explain?
Allison Gilbert: There is a craving so many of us share to celebrate our loved ones. The challenge is finding meaningful and not so difficult opportunities for doing so – ideas that can transform us, make us feel uplifted and empowered. So much of grief is debilitating because loss is out of our control. Being proactive about remembering loved ones restores that missing power and makes individuals feel stronger. The act of doing something helps us regain that lost footing.
Q: You have spoken about the many ways individuals can find resilience after loss. One surprising strategy is to fully embrace our memories by reviewing and preserving photographs. Why are pictures so critical?
AG: Photographs tend to make us feel nostalgic, and nostalgia, the sentimental longing for the past, has the surprising capacity to make us feel happier and more connected – not just to people and places in our past, but to family and friends in our present. (If you want to read more about the amazing power of nostalgia, read my essay in O, the Oprah Magazine.)
The upbeat nature of nostalgia is why I have partnered with Legacy Republic, the largest and most innovative memory preservation and memory sharing company in the world. Legacy Republic not only digitizes photos, slides, VHS tapes, and film reels – the company also makes it possible to upload pictures directly to Facebook. This has made sharing stories with my son and daughter about my mom (she died before they were born) super easy and contemporary. I’m able to post recollections about their grandmother in a way that feels breezy and fun. Making it possible to share our most precious stories is at the heart of everything Legacy Republic does.
Q: You have stated that ‘nostalgia is where the healing happens.’ Do you believe the more we share our stories the better chance we have at growth and healing?
AG: Yes, 100%! One of the easiest opportunities for sharing stories is saying the name of your loved one out loud. Oftentimes we worry this will make other people uncomfortable. But I encourage you to give it a shot. See how it makes you feel. Editing what you say to make other people comfortable can fuel isolation. Bringing them into conversation allows stories to be shared and drives happiness.
Q: What are some simple ways a griever can connect or create a new memory of their loved one?
AG: Celebrate the hardest days. For example, my father loved lemon. On his birthday or the anniversary of his death, I enjoy a little lemon sorbet or a few lemon drops. The flavor always makes me smile.
To learn more uplifting ways to remember and celebrate the family and friends you never want to forget, I highly recommend you pick up Passed and Present: Keeping Loved Ones Memories Alive here. To learn more about Allison Gilbert, please visit her popular Grief & Resilience Blog