In the good old summertime…A memory adventure

Jul 8, 2021

Debbie Vallandingham, LMSW-ASCW Bereavement Manger

Summertime can be magic. There is a feeling in the air of excitement, joy and relaxation. The heat of the sun as it strikes the water. The relaxing trip to the lake house and enjoying a quiet ride on a boat. Or even the memories of diving into a pool as a child, learning to swim with mom and dad beside you. But how do these memories of summer help us work through our grief?

One of the most important concepts in working through grief is an understanding that love does not end with death. As Dr. Alan Wolfelt, one of North America’s leading death educators, says, “memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved.” Thinking about your loved one helps you to remember the person who died and helps to preserve your ongoing relationship. Yes, memories can help you form a continued relationship in your mourning.

After all, memories are where our loved ones continue to live after they are gone. Memories can sometimes bring sorrow but can also fill us with joy and love and warmth. As the months pass, remembering and recounting the past can yield a sense of peace and calm. As Dr. Wolfelt suggests, “remembering the past makes hoping for the future possible” as you “will become open to new experiences only to the extent that you embrace the past.”

Sharing these memories can help you reconcile the loss and help you focus on the present. Let’s take a look at how we can capitalize on all of our great summer memories.

Start a memory journal

You may find that memories about your loved one hit you completely out of the blue. A journal is a way to take those memories and capture them in one place. You will be able to live in the experience again and write the details as they play out in your mind. You can then read them in the future and reflect on these precious moments you shared with your loved one.

My husband and I loved that pontoon boat. We would run down to the lake any chance we could. We would pack a picnic lunch and take several bottles of ginger ale as we would play the radio circling the small island. The sand bar was always so clear and he would jump into the water and pick up shells. I will always remember how his hair blew in the breeze as we rushed home as the sun was setting. I will continue to journal about our days at the lake.

Once you have your stories documented, you can do even more journaling that can help work through challenging, complicated emotions. You can go back through each story and write about how the memory makes you feel. You can write what your loved one thought about that day and how they would respond to your feelings about the memory.

Create a memory box

Along with a journal capturing the story of your memories, you can use a memory box to collect special items and keepsakes that remind you of your loved one. Many people place photos, letters, prized possessions, pieces of clothing, or other special items in their memory box.

My father used to love the beach. He’d take us walking down the stony shores with his eyes intently focused on the ground. And then he’d find one, a Petoskey stone. He’d rinse it off in the water, showing us the beautiful lines and patterns. I put a Petoskey stone in my memory box and reflect on those days walking the shoreline.

A memory box is a safe place where you can reflect on your loved one as you explore its contents. It can help you feel more directly connected to those you have lost. A memory box is a perfect way to continue the bonds with your loved one.

Create a memory cookbook

Many memories are formed over meals, whether it’s the excitement of a large holiday gathering like Thanksgiving, a romantic candlelight dinner, or a simple family picnic. These strong memories can help you feel close to your loved one as you revisit the recipes by searching through old recipe boxes, recreating the recipe and writing it down, or by cooking them alone or with your family. Every summer, we would take a trip up north to stay at grandmother’s cabin on the lake. We had a nice wooden dock where my brother and I would spend hours fishing. Sometimes we’d catch perch and other times we’d catch sunfish or even largemouth bass. Grandmother was always happy to clean and fry our catch with the most amazing seasoning that contained more than a little paprika. I wrote a recipe card with her batter to remember it and to cook it for my family.

As you collect these recipes, you can create your own recipe box or even a mini-cookbook that could make a great gift for the holidays. Imagine gathering and exchanging gifts and afterwards, hearing the stories about your loved one as everyone flips through the pages. A memory cookbook can be a wonderful way to remember a loved one.

Summer memories can be powerful and can help you continue your bond with your loved one. So, pour a nice glass of lemonade and head down to the water and reflect on the glory of summers past. Take notes on those recipes, find that shell for you memory box, and write down that story about your special summer trip. Because it’s in those memories that our loved ones live on.


One-on-one counseling for adults and children along with a variety of virtual support groups. All are offered to assist in coping with the death of a loved one. While feelings of grief are normal, handling them can be difficult and painful. Talking about what you are going through can help. Call 734.779.6690 to schedule an appointment. Or click the link below for more information.



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