Last week, I wrote about one of the best ways to keep the memory of your parents alive during the holidays. It's simple and doesn't cost a penny. All you have to do is make a conscious decision to slow down long enough -- not so easy this time of year, I admit -- to simply talk with your children about the grandparents they no longer have in their lives. Conversations are invaluable and have the additional advantage of being super easy. They can happen anywhere -- in the car or at the mall.
But there are other ways to accomplish the same goal. In the Parentless Parents survey, which is part of the research I am conducting for my forthcoming book, Parentless Parents: How the Deaths of Our Mothers and Fathers Impact the Way We Parent Our Own Children, respondents have impressed me with some of the creative strategies they use. Here's a sampling:
"My mother sewed and I make ornaments out of the old wooden spools of thread that were left over in her sewing basket."
"My dad was a HUGE Big Band fan and I will play 'his' music in the house."
"I have a couple of recipes I prepare that were my mother's - everyone knows they were her recipes - even though they never knew my mother."
"We give gifts to the kids and ask them to consider it from one of their grandparents because we know it's something they would have bought them."
And there's an added benefit to all this holiday memory sharing. If you're honest with your children about your feelings of loss, they may just surprise you with the most meaningful gift you'll likely receive - your very own child not just thinking about the presents she wants, but rather the kind of support she can give. One mom writes in the survey about the first Christmas she ever spent without her mom: "My oldest daughter bought me a Whitman's sampler, which my mother had given me every year for as long as I could remember. We laughed and joked and remembered special times with her. We were able to make new memories without forgetting the past."
Christmas is here. It's no longer "around the corner." Now is the time. How will you use the next few days -- the next few hours -- to keep the memory of your parents alive? Let me know in the comment section below. You can also join the discussion by taking the Parentless Parents survey. I'll use your anonymous responses in my book.
Allison Gilbert is currently writing her third non-fiction book, Parentless Parents: How the Deaths of Our Mothers and Fathers Impact the Way We Parent Our Own Children. If you are a parent who has lost both your parents, you can help with her research by taking the Parentless Parents online survey. You can also join the "Parentless Parents" community on Facebook.
Parentless Parents will be published by Hyperion and is a follow-up to her critically acclaimed book, Always Too Soon: Voices of Support for Those Who Have Lost Both Parents. Parentless Parents will explore how the way we parent is shaped by the loss of our own mothers and fathers; how marriages are impacted when one spouse is parentless and the other is not; and offer strategies for keeping the memory of our parents alive for our children.
In Always Too Soon, Ms. Gilbert (a producer at CNN in New York and mother of two children) interviewed celebrities and others about losing their parents. She spoke with, among others, Rosanne Cash, Geraldine Ferraro, Ice-T, Yogi Berra, Mariel Hemingway, and New York Times best-selling authors, Hope Edelman and Barbara Ehrenreich. Always Too Soon sparked the formation of the Parentless Parents organization, a national network of support groups for mothers and fathers who have lost their own parents. You can find out more about Ms. Gilbert by visiting her website at www.allisongilbert.com.