Although your loved one is no longer physically with you, they will ‘live on’ in your heart through all the various memories you have. Normally, these memories will be based on your time together and can often be triggered by something in the media.
For example, one man whose son had died, thought of him whenever the football results were on TV, or mentioned on the internet. His son had been a keen football fan and his father ‘felt closer to him’ at these times. Not necessarily sad thoughts, but reflective ones based on his son’s enjoyment of football.
When someone dies, it’s normal over time to find ways to adjust and redefine the relationship you had with that person. It allows for continuing bonds to endure in different ways throughout your life. When you think of your relationship with your loved one, you can be honest with yourself because it’s the actual relationship you want to remember. The difficult bits too will help form an accurate memory and, of course, all the lovely aspects of their personality. In other words, a memory of them!
So continuing ties to loved ones after their death is not only normal and healthy, but an important aspect of coping with your own grief.
Try some of the suggestions below to help remember your loved one as they really were, and maybe how they would react to various situations.
- Remember their qualities and personality. Did they like to meet with groups of people, or were they more relaxed in smaller, more intimate gatherings. Would they be the one to stimulate the conversation, or be quite happy to just listen and add an occasional comment?
- Remember them as a real person. How would you actually describe them? Make it as realistic as you can, because in future months and years, it will help you remember the actual person, rather than the ‘rose tinted glasses’ version. One client said his wife had a certain look which basically meant ‘he was in trouble’. His daughter has the same look for her husband, and this continuing tie helps the client to remember his late wife. He can look back and smile at the memory.
- Remember those special times because these will live on with you for ever. It might be a first date, a goal scored by a son/daughter, or possibly a wonderful family holiday. These are the thoughts which will help you smile at their memory. It is a good way of measuring how you are coping with your loss, if you can recall something from your time together that was very enjoyable, and then smile at the recollection.
- Remember the impact they had on your own personality and how you possibly changed from knowing them? Perhaps you learnt to be more patient with a spouse, or relaxed more when youngsters were being boisterous. What impact are they having on your life as you move forward after the bereavement?
Clients sometimes question whether they should ‘be moving on’ because it’s been six, nine or twelve months since their bereavement. However, there are no definitive time scales. You only have your own personal time scale. Anyway, what does ‘moving on’ actually mean? One thing is certain, it’ll mean something different to absolutely everyone. No two people are the same and no two people experience the same bereavement. Even in close families, two brothers will have a different relationship with another brother, or sister who has died.