In a perfect world, we’d all have our own memories of both our parents and at least four grandparents, if not all our great-grandparents.But that’s not the way things are for many people.
I used to hate grandparent day at my kids’ elementary school. My kids were already painfully aware that other kids had grandparents who were a) still alive and b) living close by. Some years my in-laws would make the trip and enjoy a morning of crafting and show and sharing. Other years, my kids (and the kids whose parents were here on overseas assignments) would bring a “special friend.” To ease the difficulty, my sister, queen of thoughtful gifts, gave my sons a scrapbook of photos of their grandparents playing and snuggling with them when they were tiny.
They don’t remember their grandparents, but they do remember that they were loved.
Likewise, my niece, who was born three years after my parents died, has few memories. (She does report meeting them in Heaven, before she “came down.” Yep, she is an angel.) I go out of my way to remind her how desperately my parents hoped for a granddaughter and we show her all the pink baby clothes my mom bought years in advance. We also took plenty of pictures of her wearing those outfits.
It’s very hard for people who don’t have memories of one or both of their parents. Recently, a friend was telling me how much she hates the fact that she has no memories of her mother. One of her biggest regrets is that there is not a single photo of her with her mother.
Memorialize Family Members You Don’t Remember
I’m not going to lie. Memorializing isn’t the same as remembering. But, it is a way to honor a relative or family member. The fact that you care deeply about a person that you don’t remember or never knew tells a lot about you. It may explain your current values—like why being a parent is so important to you.
1. Write about what circumstance prevented you from knowing your loved one. What happened and when did it happen?
2. Write about how you coped with this circumstance, assuming you were old enough to realize what was going on.
3. Research (ask relatives, look through scrapbooks) and write about the type of person this loved one was. A good example is Joanna Liberty’s My Grandfather was an inventor.
4. Write about what you think your relationship with this person would be like.
5. Write about what you would have in common or why you might not have been close. Do you share a common interest?
6. Write about what you admire about this person.
7. It doesn’t have to be warm and fuzzy; write about your resentments and regrets.
8. Write about the hole not knowing this person left in your life.
9. Write about how others took up the slack and filled the void
10. Write about how others ignored the void in your life. How did this affect you?
11. Write about how this loss or lack of this person will affect your future. For instance, if my golf-fanatic-is-an-understatement dad were alive, my teenage boys would be golfers. It’s a little thing, but worth noting.
12. Make a photo page or scrapbook layout of yourself and this person. Compare your physical features and personalities.
13. Write a letter to this person (See Write a Letter to Yourself or Bully or….)
14. Do something in honor of this person. For instance, if you loved one died of cancer, take part in some type of cancer research. Alternatively, take up a craft or avocation (like singing or gardening) that they loved.
15. Draw images of this person in an art journal.