Making Sure Loved Ones Who Have Passed are Part of our Present 

One of the most uplifting gifts I’ve ever heard of giving someone in a time of loss is a wicker basket full of daffodil bulbs. The idea is for the recipient to plant one bulb for every year their loved one lived. Daffodils are the perfect flower for such a commemorative project: as perennials, they’ll come back spring after spring — and they’re virtually indestructible. And, the best time of year to plant daffodils happens to be right now, as Thanksgiving approaches.

Planting daffodils can bring bereaved parents enormous joy. Remembering promotes healing and taking proactive steps to keep your child’s memory alive has the power to make you happier. Individuals who honor their connections to the past, who allow loved ones to remain present in their lives, almost always fare better emotionally than those who don’t. Honoring past relationships has proven to have such significant restorative power that noted grief expert, J. William Worden, developed an entire bereavement-recovery theory about it. Worden coined the term “tasks of mourning.” This concept not only includes remembering as a mandatory tenet but also underscores the obligation of mourners to take control of the process of remembering. The mourner “needs to take action,” he explains.

Many scholars argue the same. Yet every written source I consulted before I wrote my new book, Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive, either didn’t provide any specific guidelines for remembering or failed to provide enough. So this is why I wrote the book. To my knowledge, it’s the first of its kind. Passed and Present is a practical and imaginative handbook full of ideas to keep a loved one’s memory alive – not only this holiday season – but any time of year, day or night, whenever you feel that significant and recognizable pull.

Nature is one of the greatest tools we have to reinforce

and celebrate our memories. According to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, individuals who spend time in natural spaces focus less attention on negative aspects of their lives and open themselves up to the kind of thinking that brings them pleasure – including positive memories of loved ones. Gretchen Daily, coauthor of the study, told me: “Never before have people been so detached from nature. There is growing evidence, however, that reintroducing nature to people who are deprived of it can improve mood. Many individuals feel better in a natural setting, perhaps because it helps them let go of pain.”

Interested in planting your own memorial garden of daffodils? Brent and Becky’s, a family-owned daffodil farm and distribution center in Gloucester, Virginia, offers the following advice for success:

  1. Begin by choosing a sunny spot.
  2. Autumn is the best time to plant daffodils because the bulbs prefer cool soil. If you’re in a southern climate, stick with planting jonquils or tazettas, as these daffodils are better suited for warmer temperatures.
  3. Plant each bulb at a depth of three times their height, spacing them three times their width apart.

And, one last and very important note:

Planting daffodils happen to be a great activity to involve friends, family, and neighbors. Not only will you benefit from the extra hands, you’ll be able to use the time to invite conversation and share stories about your child. And, talking about family – those who are here and especially those who are not – is what the holidays should really be all about.



Allison Gilbert

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Comments (1)

  • Any help or support you can provide would be great. We lost my 26 year old nephew and my sisters only child, in July 2017. I was very close to him and am having a very hard time. The despair is so real. Sad, mad…….I have a son who is my life but my nephew was like my other son. My sister is a basket case. I not only lost my precious nephew that I love beyond words, I have in a way lost my sister. How can I find peace and how can my sister find peace, hope and joy again. I don’t see how she can. I keep praying for relief for not just me but especially my sister and her ex-husband, Jeremy’s Dad. It’s horrible!!!! I have experienced loss in my life and fought breast cancer and I am thankful for life that I thought I would not have and most thankful for my son but this is so hard. For my sister, I don’t even have words. A pain that no one but a parent that has lost a child can understand. Heartbreaking!! Thank you for your time!!

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