About Me

My wonderful husband died when I was 44 years old. Being widowed this young happens to less than 3% of married people. Writing through this loss one word at time helps me understand what I've lost and helps me continue to grow. It is how I have gradually recovered from such a severe loss. Research shows that you can benefit from taking just 15 minutes a day to write out your deepest feelings as a way of healing. On the right side of this blog, you'll see a tag for Exercises to Try. If you need some help knowing how to use writing to help heal yourself, I suggest you start there.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

A Priceless Gift You Can Give To Your Children After the Death of a Parent

When Ken died, our children were little. I didn't want them to forget the memories that belonged to them of their father; not just the stories others would tell them about him, but their very own personal memories. So, night after night, in the days following his death, we'd sit together on one of our beds and we'd each tell one of our favorite stories of Ken. Natalie, who was 10 at the time, was the official scribe who would write our memories in a special journal. Alec, who was six, would struggle more with coming up with a memory night after night, but he did it, and now they are all written down for him.

Natalie told the story of what her dad sometimes did when he put her to bed:  he would take off his glasses and try them on all of her different stuffed animals. That was news to me, and I loved hearing it. Alec recalled that Ken would call him "my bestest buddy" and how they would play a wrestling game at bedtime that involved lions and cubs and a scoring system. I talked about the delight I would feel every time Ken would drive his old Saab down the alley toward our garage as the kids and me played in the park next door,  knowing he would soon be joining us there with his open arms and open heart wearing his long brown trenchcoat.

This ritual helped us manage the early, surreal days after Ken died. We'd all gather together on one of our beds, snuggle up, talk and write. We were connected by our home, our warm bodies, our memories and each other.

In the early days and months after the death of someone you love, you are not at all ready to let them go. You're barely ready to admit they are, in fact, gone. By getting your family together to write down the little and big things you remember and love about the person who has died, especially early on, you are accomplishing a lot of important work including holding the person close to you before you are ready to let them go, and valuing the memories they left in your care.

Natalie and Alec lost their father five years ago. While there are many different ways we can remember him, one of our favorites is to take out that journal of memories we wrote together so many years ago when we were raw and sad and grieving hard. Today we can read those memories with a lighter heart. We remember how hard it was back then. We see how far we've come. We're reminded of how what we did together as we wrote made us stronger.

As hard as it is to admit it, when children lose their parents at a young age, there are many important facts and intangibles they either will not remember or will never be given because of their father or mother's absence. By helping your children unearth and write down their authentic memories before they slip away, you are giving them a priceless inheritance that could otherwise disappear forever.


Debbie said...

Great idea, Jill. I wish I had thought of it two years ago...

Janice Badger Nelson said...

Great idea...I will share this post with our hospice team. Thanks.

Alicia said...

I'm glad you commented on my blog.

One of the ways I have for my boys to know their dad -- since they were so young when he died -- is through the "joyful" and "terrible" stories that I have posted on my blog. I keep meaning to use a blog publishing service and actually preserve them in a meaningful way.

Your comment, and this post, nudges me to look into that some more.

(And as an NU alumna, I'm glad to know who it was from Evanston who'd been spending so much time reading everything!)

Alicia said...

An aside ... which you should feel free to delete.

Is there a reason you don't have an "archive" list on your page? I like to read through blogs I've discovered more or less chronologically -- see what the first post was, then watch as the writing/emotions/etc changes over time.