MEMORIES CAN EASE PAIN OF LOSS, AUTHOR SAYS
Monday, July 28, 2003
By Lori Geller
FOR THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
The smell of her mother's kitchen stirs a lifetime of memories.
As the author of In My Mother's Kitchen , now in a second edition, Edgar describes how to deal with a loved one's loss by using sights, sounds and smells.
''The best way to reminisce is to follow your nose and think of a smell that brings back a memory whenever you smell it today,'' Edgar said.
The Mansfield resident has traveled widely teaching ''The Healing Power of Reminiscence.'' She will conduct a workshop on the subject Saturday through Monday at the fourth national Conference on Hospice and Palliative Care Volunteerism at the Hyatt Regency Columbus.
Edgar will discuss ways to recall, record and celebrate significant memories.
''Your memory is like a muscle,'' Edgar writes. ''The more you use it, the stronger it becomes.''
She teaches writing exercises to explore and elaborate on memories. Participants are encouraged to establish rituals to find peace in personal loss.
She keeps her mother's memory alive by passing on childhood traditions.
In her book, she describes the ''cloud game,'' which she played with her mother as a child, spotting characters in the sky.
''Whenever I miss my mother,'' Edgar said, ''I play the 'cloud game' and realize she is never really too far away. I also tell stories to my children as part of my rituals. And I know they are looking forward to developing some of their own.''
Edgar, a writing instructor at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina, turned to words when her mother died. ''I found great solace in recording the time I spent with my mother before her death,'' she said. ''I realized that reminiscence writing can help people find comfort in their own grief.''
She recently completed workshops for Hospice of North Central Ohio in Ashland, the Alzheimer's Association Northwest Ohio Chapter and the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University. Edgar also has donated copies of her book to Ronald McDonald houses nationwide.
''Her workshops give participants a chance to retell stories that ultimately help them with their healing, loss and sadness,'' said Diane Park, bereavement coordinator for Hospice of North Central Ohio. ''Overall, they feel a sense of closure.''
Edgar's workshops at the James taught caregivers new methods to use when working with patients, said Pauline King, director of children's programming.
''I learned so many ways to help my patients deal with their grief and bereavement,'' King said.
Overall, Edgar wants to reintroduce storytelling into society.
''Everyone has a story to tell,'' she said. ''For every story there is to tell, there is somebody who wants to hear it.''