MEMORY BOOKS!

Memory books are a great way to write your way through grief and to help yourself and others to heal. This year I’ve already done one for my father who died forty years ago, and am presently working on another for an uncle who only recently passed away.

My father. Michael Arthur Shaw as an 18 year old – sparkling!

The first memory book I ever created was for my son Teddy who died a few days after birth in 2006. My dear friend Helena had sent a handmade blanket for my new baby but we never got to use it for that purpose. Instead, I covered a big scrap book with the material and set about filling every page inside with stories, photos and cards.

All these scraps of memory added together, create something solid to hang on to, to make his coming and going more than just a hazy dream. With the book we always have something concrete to prove his existence. Writing or the urge to write is often driven by this impetus — to make a permanent mark for those who leave before us.

I wrote the story of Teddy’s birth to include, and encouraged my children to write their own stories and draw pictures too. Friends all wrote in the book at his funeral and afterwards I glued their cards in to remind us of the love that surrounded us at that terrible time.

Every year on his birthday we display the book and light candles, and for many years we made cards or wrote stories or drew pictures to add to the book. It’s pages are filled now, fourteen years have passed, but we still remember him and the book is there to show us just how much love was in his presence.

My father as a young teacher

Early this year, as the fortieth anniversary of my father’s death approached, I was overwhelmed by an inner prompting to make a mark for him too. I wanted to create a book of memories to share with my youngest sister who was only four when he died and for my children and my siblings’ children, so they have an idea of the man who was their grandfather, even though they never got to meet him.

I started by writing my own. I was fourteen when he died so I had more memories than my younger siblings. I then asked my brother and sisters for their stories, and my father’s siblings and his best friend as well. Some stories came from interviews I did, either on the phone or in person, which I then transcribed and made into stories. Then I set about collecting photos to add.

Family Christmas in 1975

The result is a marvellous tapestry of stories and images that create a multi-dimensional portrait of a wonderful, creative man. Each story adds its own special colour to that portrait, different reflections of the same person, a kaleidoscope of love.

At the moment I’m working on a similar collection of stories and images for my Uncle Danny who only died recently. Some people are afraid of telling their stories or don’t know where to start. I found that once others started contributing and these stories were shared, the others gained confidence and eventually were able to write their own pieces – if only to contradict what they saw as factual errors in other stories! 🙂

Every experience is subjective, we all see things differently through our own lens of perception, coloured by our own lives. This is the best thing about collections like this, the differences in perceptions of the person we are commemorating.

Writing your own memories, especially if you focus on the good times, the moments of joy you shared, is a powerful healing tool. To add those memories to the memories of others creates a community of shared love and loss which is precious. I learnt from my father’s siblings that my father had a naughty side, but mainly I learnt that we all found him quite wonderful. That he was, in fact, the very special person I’d always believed him to be.

If you have lost someone you loved, either recently or decades ago, I highly recommend creating a memory book to help record your memories for future generations. But, even more importantly than that, is the healing that will come for your own heart in the act of creation.

If you are struggling to cope with the loss of someone you love, even if they died 60 years ago, you may find my book A Guide Through Grief – First Aid for Your Heart and Soul of use.

A Guide Through Grief

You can buy direct from Amazon as an ebook or Print on Demand everywhere but in Australia.

If you live in Australia and would like a hard copy, contact me and I’ll post one out.

With lots of love

Edwina

WRITING GRIEF

A wise writer once said that grief is the primary impetus for writing. It is certainly what forced me to sit down and bring the stories out of my head and onto the page back when I started writing in 2002.

Through writing out the pain of my losses I began to heal.

By reimagining the circumstances and outcomes of my losses, I was able to glimpse another way of being.

By helping others to write out the pain of their hearts, my own heart began to mend.

Sunrise – Coolum Beach

We write to bear witness to our own pain, to leave a mark for those we love who didn’t have the time or inclination or the power to make their own. As writers we have the power to do all this. 

We can free ourselves from the endless reruns of traumatic moments in our lives by recording them on the page. But even more than this, by applying the magic of the imagination to the unchangeable facts of our losses, we can transform these stories into meaning. We can create hope and joy where perhaps none existed.

Better yet, the power of the imagination is so strong that the brain, after a while, can no longer differentiate between memories and our imaginings so our gentler, kinder, more hopefully imaginings begin to temper the trauma of the truth.

I have always written to search out or create meaning from the losses in my life. And it has worked.

I write my way into being. I write my way through emotions I can’t understand. By finding the right words, by giving my story structure and form, by giving my pain to imagined characters, I am able to leave behind my attachment to these stories of loss.

I am able to create beauty from what had previously only felt like ugliness.

So write! Write out your pain. Reimagine the stories you tell yourself and transform them. Create beauty from the darkness.

That is our power as writers.

“To see that your life is a story while you’re in the middle of living it may be a help to living it well.” 

Ursula Le GuinGifts

A Guide Through Grief

If you need help getting started or are floundering in grief and need a helping hand, I’ve just released my new book A Guide Through Grief, which I hope will help you through.

You can buy it directly from Amazon as an eBook or Print on Demand if you are outside Australia, eBook only within Australia. 

If you’d like a hard copy here in Australia just CONTACT ME and I’ll send you one. Soon you’ll be able to purchase directly from my website.

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the self-same well from which your laughter rises is oftentimes filled with tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy it can contain.”

Kahlil Gibran

Sending lots of love your way,

Edwina xxx

Big Moomin hug