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“Open your arms to life! Let it strut into your heart in all its messy glory!”
 
–Deborah Wiles

Keeping Your Loved One Present – Learning #3 of 5 Helping Others Grieve and Ongoing Presence

After our Mom’s tragic death in 1970, we just didn’t talk about her. My six siblings and I each struggled alone and didn’t share how we were feeling. We were all trying so hard to “move on.” We let her fade into the background. Not forgotten, ever, but too painful to be part of our daily lives.

The 2017 animated Pixar Disney movie, Coco, is based on the Mexican holiday, The Day of the Dead. It conveys the Mexican belief that the dead must be remembered, or they will not pass into their next life. A beautiful tradition that keeps their ancestors alive, loved and present in their minds. There is so much to be learned about grief from other cultures.

Our family recently lost my nephew, Luke. We are trying to take a page from the Mexican tradition and keep him present with us. We have photos of him up and we try to talk about him – how he’d laugh at this or criticize that. But I find it hard, even being mindful to do so. 

Like with many things, there is help right on my smartphone. With apps like Timehop, we can be reminded of past memories of our loved ones and share them. On Facebook often, there are posts about loved ones, remembering them on special days. I liked this reminder to keep their memory alive:

There are lots of other low-tech ways to keep our deceased loved ones present with us, too.  In We Lost Her, we suggest a few on page 176:

“…keep the deceased alive through talking about them, remembering them, honoring them.  Memorials that are tangible, like our picnic bench for Mom, can help a grieving heart hold onto the memory of their lost loved one.  …There are a host of scholarships and memorial donations from which to choose in honor of lost loved ones, and they make the giving party feel better too. Taking action can give us a different kind of strength in our grief.”

The picnic bench was a project my family did to honor Mom. Placed in the Gardens at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville in 2012, it combined nicely her love of education, gardening, and cooking. I’ve been at ceremonies where a tree was planted or a special plaque placed in a celebration of their life as it lives on in the memories of their loved ones.

Scholarships seem to be a favorite way to keep loved ones present in our town, Okawville.  At the local high school graduation, there are dozens of college scholarships in honor of so many, including Roland Barkau, Kathy Shubert, Nick Bledsoe and Justin Eldridge, Jimmy Glynn, Tom Herman and Mark Wienstroer, to name a few. As the scholarships are applied for and awarded, the memories of those they are honoring are kept alive and deserving young people given a hand up.

Memorials are another wonderful, meaningful way to honor our deceased loved ones. Giving money to memorials at the funeral services shows respect for the deceased and are priceless to help fund their favorite not for profit organization. Heartlinks Grief Center and their parent not for profit organization, Family Hospice of Belleville, IL, are frequently the beneficiary of memorials and the donations are so appreciated.  They help fund the important work these organizations do. 

So, your challenge this week, dear reader, is to remember and act. To hold those that you’ve lost, not just in your heart and mind, but in your life. Talk about what they loved, how they would have enjoyed this day or what they’d think about an issue. Keep them alive for those who knew them and paint the picture of them for the generations who did not.

And, maybe go see Coco

Be Blessed,

Ellen

“We Grow Stronger Together”

Ellen Krohne, author of We Lost Her, available on Amazon.com

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