Today marks the fifteen year anniversary of my mom’s passing. Fifteen years! It seems like so much longer, and yet in other ways it doesn’t. Grief is like that. It seems like forever since I gave my mom a hug or heard her voice ask, “Whatcha doin’, Darlin’?” I’m sick with a terrible cold and it’s raining. As a kid these were the top two reasons I got to stay home from school. Today I stayed home from work to rest and heal, and I bet my mom is happy about that!
It’s not easy to lose a parent or anyone you have loved. It’s also not easy to sit with the grief we may feel at the times these loved ones come to mind. Yet it’s important to feel our grief so that we can heal through it and live more fully in the present. As a psychotherapist and one experienced in grief, I know that the more we push our feelings of grief away, the longer they lurk in the background, wanting to be expressed in one way or another, healthy or unhealthy.
Today I offer you 10 different ways to consciously choose to connect with and remember those you have loved and lost. During these times of remembering it’s important that you treat yourself with love, kindness and compassion, and allow whatever feelings come up for you to be okay. Can you welcome all your feelings like you would welcome a guest in your home?
1. Do the thing that they loved to do. My mom loved to garden so whenever I am gardening or at a nursery, my mind goes back to the times I helped my mom in her garden and went to the nursery with her to buy her favorite flowers to plant. I feel my mom’s presence and connect with her strongly during this activity. What did your loved one enjoy doing? Go do that thing and see how quickly you connect with them. Know that you are doing the thing that they enjoyed doing and try to feel the same joy that they once felt.
2. Eat their favorite food or go to their favorite restaurant . As a kid, we would often go to Kasper’s Hotdogs as a treat. As an adult, I often picked up a Kasper’s hotdog for my mom on my way to see her and we’d enjoy them together. It’s a wonderful way to connect with the fun and easy times I remember with my mom and family. What are some of your loved one’s favorite foods or places to eat? Go have a meal and remember the times you spent there together. You can even imagine what you might say to them if they were sitting with you.
3. Visit their gravesite or niche. My husband also lost both of his parents and he has the tradition of visiting his family’s niche on special days of the year like their birthdays, Mother’s Day, etc. He faithfully brings bouquets of flowers and arranges them into 4 smaller bouquets to put at each of his family member’s niche. He finds great comfort in this ritual and it helps him connect with his family that has passed on. If you don’t feel comfortable visiting your loved ones gravesite or niche alone, invite a family member or friend to go with you for support. If you’re not comfortable visiting at all, then buy some flowers and have them at home in remembrance of them.
4. Light a candle in their honor. My mom was a very devout Catholic and she’d always have a Virgin de Guadalupe candle burning on the mantle. I now make sure I have a Virgin de Guadalupe candle in my home and I light it on the anniversary of her death or whenever I want to feel close to her. There are so many beautiful candles with different scents to choose from. Maybe you can find one with your loved one’s favorite scent or color. Just be sure not to leave the candle unattended!
5. Wear a piece of their jewelry or clothing if you have it. A dear, close friend who also lost her mom the same day I lost mine wears her mother’s engagement ring all the time and during Christmas she wears her mother’s Christmas pins. This brings back memories of her mother and the Christmases they spent together.
6. Celebrate their birthday or anniversary of passing by spending it with others who knew them and share memories, photos and stories. As long as we share stories and memories, those who have passed on will always live in our hearts and minds. You may be surprised and hear something new about your loved one. My siblings are older than me so the stories that they share about my mom are ones that I didn’t always witness (or was too little to remember) and I enjoy hearing them. What are some of your favorite memories? Who can you invite to celebrate your loved one with?
7. Remember them in prayer or meditation. If you have a spiritual practice of prayer or meditation, you can say a prayer for your loved one or call them to mind during meditation. I have an altar in my home and on it is my mom’s rosary. I will sometimes meditate while holding her rosary and I feel instantly connected to her, knowing that she held the rosary so often that her cellular imprint is embedded it.
8. Write a letter to them. Another friend of mine likes to write letters to her mother and father. She’ll tell them about her life now or share something that is bothering her. This process makes her feel connected to them and she can imagine what their responses might be to what she shares in her letters. This can be an especially helpful exercise if you have any unfinished business with your loved one and would like to say something you never got to tell them.
9. Listen to music or watch a movie that reminds you of them. The song Angel by Sarah McLachlan always reminds me of my mom and I play it over and over again during times I just want to feel my mom’s support. Are there songs or movies that help you feel more connected to your loved one?
10. Write a blog entry in their honor. This year my family had to let go of our family home. It was a difficult thing to do and it stirred up a lot of grief. Our home was a strong connection to my mom as many of our family memories were made there. Letting go of it didn’t mean we let go of my mom, but we did say goodbye to a physical place in our family history. This home that felt like an instant connection to her is no longer available for us to go to. This blog entry is in memory of my mom and all of those we have loved and lost.
I hope this entry can serve as a reminder to you of how we can consciously choose to stay connected in many ways to those we have loved and lost, no matter where we are or what we have. This list is by no means exhaustive, so please add to it and let me know in the comments section below some of your favorite ways of connecting with those you have loved and lost. If you’ve found this blog helpful, please share it with others.
I will leave you with this quote by Chilean-American novelist, Isabel Allende and the wisdom her mother imparted to her before her death,
“There is no death, daughter. People only die when we forget them,’ my mother explained shortly before she left me. ‘If you can remember me, I will be with you always.”
Until next time, aloha!