Remembering Loved Ones on Memorial Day

Over the past ten years, I’ve lost a number of special relatives, friends, and mentors. In a few instances, they were afflicted with long-term illnesses, so I was blessed to have had the opportunity to bid my farewells in person. In two cases, I was also blessed to offer tributes at their memorials. One was for Thomas Steinbeck, the eldest son of Nobel Prize–winning author John Steinbeck; and the other was for my friend and mentor, Philip F. Deaver — both amazing writers.

Whenever I speak at or attend memorials, I often think about how nice it would be if the deceased were honored in such a way that they were able to hear all the wonderful things that were being said about them. The fact is, we rarely offer enough recognition and gratitude to love ones when we’re with them.

In some of my writing workshops, I offer the prompt of writing one’s eulogy or writing a eulogy for a loved one who’s still alive. This is one way to honor these special people and express gratitude while they’re still here. Some people choose to share these sentiments with their loved ones. Writing a thank-you letter on nice stationery and mailing it is another way to honor them and express gratitude.

Some years ago I read an article entitled “Finding Meaning in Relationships,” which pointed out that because of competing and busy lifestyles, attention to loved ones often gets short-changed. The writer stressed the idea of bringing mindfulness to our closest relationships, mainly to strengthen our bonds.

Here are some ways in which you can honor your loved ones:

· Make a list of people who represent your closest relationships. They are your precious treasures. Through all the ups and the downs in your life, these are the individuals who share your sorrows and joys and provide you with a safe haven from the outside world.

· Now, close your eyes and bring up your fondest memories of each person. Then consider: How much attention do you give them? How often do you show them kindness?

· Next, write one thing that you can do or say to show your appreciation for each loved one.

· By acknowledging the importance of the loved ones in your life, you are more inclined to appreciate them while they’re still here, rather than regretting — after they’re gone — that you didn’t take the time to express feelings of gratitude.

However, if you did not have a chance to do the things on your list while these people were alive, you can still write a letter reminiscing about the good times you spent together. After all, when loved ones pass away, we might feel as if a part of us dies with them. We might be empty and sad, and we may find ourselves crying at the most unexpected moments. Writing can help us manage our grief . . . . and cope with it.

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