When you lose a loved one, whether unexpectedly or not, you are still suddenly confronted with what feels like a million conflicting priorities around planning a memorial, coordinating an estate, grieving, caring for others, and more. Many people describe the time period right before and after losing someone as being a “blur” that they can barely remember. So trying to preserve your last memories of the person is not easy during this time.
It is worth it though, and there is a simple, temporary but secure way to do so: email yourself.
Email yourself immediately: things that your loved one said to you in their last days, photos with them, memories, screenshots of meaningful interactions you had over text or social media, or just random thoughts or epiphanies that you experience during this seminal time that you know you won’t want to forget. This technique is quick and easy, and critically, it doesn’t have to be pristine, because it’s an interim solution that is just for you. I recommend creating a subject line with several keywords that you know will allow you to find the email chain in a month, a year, or five years. It could be something like “[Person’s name] last memories and photos.” From there, just respond to yourself every time something small pops up for you that you want to remember.
Why is email the best medium for this exercise? For one, out of all of the other places that we store or write down our memories, email has really stood the test of time. I have access to personal email accounts from over a decade ago, whereas we have all misplaced journals during moves, or broken or lost our phones to the point of losing everything on them. Social media accounts make it difficult to comb through content and they are known to fold as new platforms emerge. Email, on the other hand, is very searchable, extremely secure, easily accessible when you don’t have much time or mental energy, and again, it stands the test of time. If you are someone who has to write things down on paper, you can even take a photo of what you have jotted down and email that to yourself. A couple of alternatives to this tip are using your Notes app to write down things you want to remember, or creating a Google drive folder or document.
Emailing yourself is a temporary solution. What it allows you to do is return to the email chain when you have the capacity to do so, and then retrieve those quotes, photos or memories and decide how and what you want to preserve for the long term. From there, you can organize photos on a hard drive, or reference the quotes and memories to write something more thoughtful that you can keep forever or share with others. When you’re immediately grieving, you will be overwhelmed, but this simple tip can help you preserve little moments, and down the line, you will be glad that you did.