Episode #2: CAN SHINY OBJECTS REALLY EASE YOUR GRIEF?

February 01, 2019

I recently read an article on Oprah.com by Allison Gilbert titled,

Why Looking at a Photo Can Ease Loneliness and Grief

 So, I’d like to read the article to you because I think it explains why, if you’re anything like me, I will hoard anything I’m given of my dad’s. I mean, I have every award he won, the tag from the mortuary, all his old desk items, old t-shirts, his digital watch, his signature stamp – side note: would an ink stamp be considered a legally bound signature? – Ok, so you get it. If anyone hands me anything that used to be my dad’s, I’ll take it!  And I’ll keep it!  Why is this???  Let me read this article…

Once considered a form of depression, nostalgia is getting a second look from psychologists, who increasingly see it as a source of strength.

Nostalgia used to be classified as a compulsive disorder and a form of depression, but these days it's simply defined as a sentimental longing for the past. And now researchers believe that being nostalgic may actually make us happier and healthier. According to a recent article in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, nostalgia may be a dynamic motivational force.

Coauthor Constantine Sedikides, PhD, of the University of Southampton in England, a psychologist who has extensively researched the effects of nostalgia, says fond memories can generate feelings of engagement and self-esteem that leave us more optimistic, inspired, and creative.

His research also suggests another upside that's especially important for the bereaved: Nostalgia may LESSEN loneliness. Now considered a social emotion like empathy, it can draw us closer to others—the idea being that when we feel an intense bond with loved ones from our past, we're more likely to feel similar bonds with those around us in the present. 

This profound sense of connection can lead nostalgic individuals to believe life is more meaningful, Sedikides and others have found, which may ease the pain of grief. Henry Louis Gates Jr., PhD, the Harvard professor who created the genealogy show Finding Your Roots, told me nostalgia is a way of "testifying to our loved ones' continuing existence." When we understand its power, Gates says, we recognize that "they haven't passed on—they've passed into us." 

Of course, we inherit more than just memories, and there's emerging evidence that giving a loved one's cherished possessions a new purpose may be another way nostalgia can help us heal. Researchers are studying people who lost family and friends on 9/11 and chose to donate objects in their memory to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum; the goal is to discover whether contributing precious relics—ID cards, phone messages, even shoes—made moving forward easier.

So far, that seems to be the case, according to Brenda Cowan, associate professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology/SUNY, who launched the project. "For many, the opportunity to carefully sort through a beloved person's belongings—with the knowledge that those belongings will forever be in the hands of preservationists—left them feeling relieved and satisfied," she says. The nostalgic reverence attached to the objects affirms that the past is worth honoring and celebrating. 

"Nostalgia is where the healing happens," explains Alan Pedersen, executive director of the Compassionate Friends, an organization that offers support to nearly one million bereaved parents, siblings, and grandparents across the United States. "We used to think it best to keep memories at bay because they were too painful. This is old thinking. We now say reminisce to the hilt." 

Wasn’t that a great article? I’ll link it in the show notes. I really thought that was great.

This got me to thinking about our Handwriting Jewelry Collection.  I’ve always had trouble pinpointing exactly why having my dad’s handwritten words engraved onto a piece of jewelry means so much to me… I know after he died, I had a charm necklace with his name engraved from a pin my great grandmother used to wear. I wore that charm for over 2 years. I guarded that necklace with my life. Why? Well, it was something tangible I could hold onto – to fill that void during the first years after his death. It helped me cope. It comforted me. It gave me strength at times. This is how I learned of the importance that a piece of jewelry can play during the grieving process. This is why I started to make personalized jewelry.  I was on a mission, through jewelry, to help others grieving a loss find that same sense of comfort.

Taking nostalgia even one step further, engraving a loved one’s handwriting (which is something unique and identifiable) from a card or letter left behind (usually sweet sentiments between the lost loved one and the person grieving their loss) onto a piece of handcrafted jewelry (a cherished wearable object you can keep close) – now, this is a recipe for true nostalgia.  So, how did I even come up with the idea?  Tune in next week and I’ll share the story of finally finding my dad’s letter and how his handwriting would soon become my family’s livelihood….

I hope you enjoyed listening today.  I would love to hear from you… send me an email or better yet, leave me a message on the Anchor app about your most cherished possessions from a loved one – big or small, weird or just plain worthless – whatever it is, I’d love to hear about them.  There’s a link in the show notes.  Thanks so much for tuning in, don’t forget to tune in next week and remember…. You’re not alone.

Article by Allison Gilbert:  http://www.oprah.com/health_wellness/how-nostalgia-relieves-loneliness-and-grief


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