After her own mum and dad died, writer Allison Gilbert wanted to show other people how keeping the memory of loved ones alive can bring us happiness.
People can be supportive and respectful when you are deeply grieving, she says, but as time goes on, they often don’t really know how (or when) to talk about someone you’re missing.
“When it comes to keeping the memory of our loved ones alive, that work is up to us” she says.
She decided the best way of getting other people remembering, talking and smiling about someone we loved, is by showing them how to do it.
When it comes to keeping the memory of our loved ones alive, that work is up to us
The thought inspired her to begin a list of many fun and creative ways to keep someone’s memory alive, in ways that bring us joy and happiness.
Allison came up with lots of fun and thoughtful ideas for keeping a loved one’s memory alive, that she calls ‘Forget Me Nots.’ You can find 85 of her most inspiring how-tos in a lovely book, called Passed and Present.
Here are five of her lovely Forget Me Not ideas to inspire you to keep happy memories of someone very special alive.
##1.Dip into old letters
“There’s something deeply stirring about holding a piece of paper your loved one touched,” says Allison.
“All those loopy letters, dots and dashes transport us back to a time where we perhaps felt the most connected, the most loved.”
So why keep their letters, silly post-it notes, or postcards hidden in a box or drawer? Allison suggests taking letters or postcards you’d be happy for other people to read, and make them a centrepiece in a basket on your table.
An old letter, or a postcard written on a rainy day in Rhyll, could be a conversation-starter that brings many happy memories back, or reveal a few surprises!
##2. Start a remembrance chain
Online memorials are a great way to share memories and add your own special thoughts to something someone’s written, or a photo they have posted.
It’s always nice though, to get something – other than a bill – in the post and Allison suggests setting up a small number of friends that would be happy to take part in a memories-by-mail group.
For this, you’ll need to buy a journal and write a covering letter, explaining how everyone who takes part should record a special memory. It could be funny or a serious story and they may want to draw something, write a poem, add a photo or mementos too. Why not start them off with a some questions or topics to inspire them?
Pass it on
Once you’ve written your first journal entry, pop it in an envelope along with the list of people taking part (so everyone knows who to send it on to, next). It’s a good idea to include a sheet of stickers with the name and address of every person who is taking part, written on them, for posting the journal on.
Don’t forget to address one to yourself – so the memory journal makes its way back to you.
##4. A random act of kindness
Performing a random act of kindness in memory of your loved one can be a special way to remember them.
In 1996, Dr. Joanne Cacciatore launched The Kindness Project,, in memory of her daughter, Cheyenne.
Her idea was for other people to honour the memory of a child, friend, relative or spouse, by performing an anonymous act of kindness for a stranger.
In loving memory of...
A little card is left behind so that the person who benefits from the kindness also discovers how your loved one’s life and death continues to matter. These are available to download and print, with “done in loving memory of…” written for you to fill in, at the bottom.
The Miss Foundation has hundreds of feel good stories about small, but significant acts in someone’s memory. Kris Richardson left tubs of bubble-mixture in a park with a note saying: “take one and enjoy” in memory of her beautiful baby boy, Milo.
Another mum, who lost her teenage daughter, anonymously dropped off a get-well-soon hamper for a friend and her two daughters, when she heard they were poorly with flu.
One dad brought tears to a stranger’s eyes, after he stepped up to pay for her order at a coffee shop and handed her a card in memory of his daughter.
More than two million people around the world have been inspired by Joanne’s idea and performed a random act of kindness for someone, in memory of someone special.
##4. Make a game of it
Use a combination of old photos and prints of your favourite snap shots and selfies, to create a unique pack of cards, or customise a board game that younger members of the family especially will enjoy. Who was the family joker, or your queen of hearts?
The photos should be a mixture of people who are living and those you have lost.
“By integrating all your loved ones, children are seamlessly taught to value every relationship in their lives,” says Allison.
##5. Share family recipes
A lovely meal made from a favourite recipe is a great way of bringing back happy memories. Food smells can actually trigger nostalgic recall in our brains.
Many ‘secret’ recipes have been written out and passed down the generations, becoming faded, tatty or covered in splashes over time.
Allison suggests using a family archive, so that everyone can share their favourite recipe. It could be a ‘secret’ recipe passed on by Nana, or even a legacy dish of your own.
One way to do this, suggests Allison, is using Google Docs, which is accessible to many people with a laptop or home computer. You can create folders and documents that invited people can read, add to and comment on.
This way, everyone in the family can try to recreate a favourite recipe, just the way that mum, or mum’s mum, used to do!
- What creative way have you kept happy memories of someone special of your own, alive? Get in touch @memoriastories – we'd love to hear.