“Grief starts to become indulgent, and it doesn’t serve anyone, and it’s painful. But if you transform it into remembrance, then you’re magnifying the person you lost and also giving something of that person to other people, so they can experience something of that person.” ~Patti Smith
I saw this great quote today and really loved it!
If anyone has read my book, Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You, then it is clearly known that I am a big advocate for remembering and honoring special loved ones who have passed away.
After my sister died from a short 3 week illness on Thanksgiving Day, I was absolutely despondent…it went beyond depression. We were best friends while growing up and did everything together. After she got married, I still talked to her on the phone every day and saw her several times a week. After she died, I felt her absence in an indescribably painful way.
The things we used to do together that we once greatly enjoyed, now brought intense heartache…and we did most everything together, so her death completely rocked my world.
One of the things we loved to do together was bake…we had always baked treats together since we were in elementary school. In fact, at the time of her death, we were planning on opening a home based bakery and candy making business.
The night before my sister died, I had two choices: go visit her in the hospital or go home to bake some of her favorite Thanksgiving treats to surprise her with at the hospital the next day.
I chose the latter…and regretted it for many years. I had no idea how sick she truly was and I truly despised myself for not choosing to go see her. The guilt and regret haunted me for years, so much that I specifically chose to not make the items I had baked for her ever again.
One day, years later, a thought came to mind…my sister would not want me to be overcome with guilt or regrets. She loved life and she would want me to do the same. She was in Heaven and was totally not upset at all. What once may have upset her on earth doesn’t upset her now in Heaven. She understood I was trying to do something nice for her…and she knew that if I was given all the facts, I would have instantly chosen to go see her and spend as much time with her as I could.
Grief truly teaches you powerful lessons. One of my greatest lessons was to put people first, above everything else.
After realizing that had I known better, I would have chosen better, I made the important decision to honor my sister’s life through doing things she enjoyed while on earth…and one of those things was to continue baking. I decided I was going to honor my sister’s memory by blessing other people with baked goods.
That very day, I made all four of the items I had made for my sister and brought them to a family dinner that my sister’s young daughters attended. The next day, I made the four items again and gave them to people who I knew were having a tough time in life. I found that I could honor my sister through encouraging others with the gift of baked goods.
I couldn’t believe how healing it was. It brought so much healing and freedom to my grief recovery that I wrote an entire chapter about it in my book and I frequently speak about this very topic at grief seminars.
Enjoying life through traditions and honoring loved ones was key to breaking through my greatest monumental grief plateaus.
Today, if you are greatly missing your loved one, consider doing an activity you once enjoyed together, a kind deed for someone, or offer encouragement in your loved one’s honor.
Choosing to bake treats for people who I sense are going through grief, especially around the holidays, is something I now enjoy doing.
Sometimes, I’ll anonymously pay for someone’s coffee behind me at Starbucks in my loved one’s honor.
I also go to a mexican restaurant every year on my sister’s birthday…and have a GREAT time in her honor.
Every Christmas, our family gets dressed up in pajamas and go look at Christmas lights together in honor of the tradition my dad started before he died.
I have my own post-grief life filled with my own original activities and traditions, and I choose to not stay stagnant in the past, but I also enjoy incorporating old traditions and things I previously enjoyed doing with my loved ones too. It is a meaningful way to say, “You meant a lot to me. Thank you so much for all of our good memories together. I loved you then and I still love you now so I am going to honor and continue to remember you.”
Sometimes, it can be difficult for grievers to honor their loved one(s) if there are guilt and regrets involved or if there were problems that were not worked out before a loved one’s death.
There have been times that I have had to forgive myself so I was able to press forward through my grief. Choosing to work out my guilt and regrets has truly been heart and life transforming.
We all make mistakes, and we all could forever dwell on the things we did wrong, but that ultimately accomplishes nothing. It just creates and brings about further loss and heartache.
Transforming our thoughts to think of all of the things we did right, how well we did love our loved ones, remembering all of the good times, and thinking of ways we can honor our loved one(s) is much more beneficial.
It is so important to remember that our loved ones do not harbor any negative feelings towards us. They completely forgive us.
We can stay stagnant in guilt and regrets or we can choose to bless another person, and our own hearts, by making a difference in the lives of others.
Through offering kindness and encouragement to others who are going through loss, you truly can make a difference.
I can’t think of a better way to truly honor my loved ones. I think they’d be very happy to know that I learned powerful life lessons through their deaths, that I still choose to enjoy the activities I once enjoyed with them…and I choose to thoroughly enjoy life itself…and that I choose to make the world a better place by encouraging others in their honor.