The way that we understand grief and mourning has evolved over the years – thank goodness! Fortunately, grief educators have moved away from the harmful notions of “moving on” or “getting over” loss and have instead embraced the idea of continuing the bond with deceased loved ones. One theory that supports this idea is the Continuing Bonds Theory: rather than the outdated and inaccurate ideas of “overcoming” grief, the continuing bonds theory normalizes the love and connection that lasts beyond death and encourages grievers to stay linked to their person while also learning how to reinvest in life without the physical presence of their loved one.
Today, we want to share some examples of how you can stay connected to your loved ones who have died:
- Talk to them. Talk aloud to your person or to their picture – tell them how much you miss them, or how funny they would find something that just happened, or how hard things are right now, or anything else that you would say to them if they were physically here with you. Some people find comfort in visiting the cemetery or their persons favorite place to feel close to them; if this is not possible or comfortable for you, know that you don’t need a specific place to go; you can talk to them anywhere and everywhere (or you can make a special place to go to feel close to them, like a memorial garden in your backyard).
- Talk about them. Use their name, tell their stories; both to people that knew them and those that never got the chance to.
- Journal. Write them a letter. You can keep the letter for yourself or partake in a ritual to let go of the letter – like writing it on paper that dissolves in water or safely burning it. Another loving way to continue your bond is to write a letter back to yourself from the perspective of your loved one and imagine what advice they would give you in a difficult situation or what they might say if they were physically with you right now.
- Celebrate them. Just because they are not physically here, you do not have to cease honoring them on special days. On birthdays or anniversaries consider getting them a card and writing them a special note, or buying cupcakes and a balloon to bring to their resting place or to keep in your home as you would when they were alive. On other special days, you can keep their presence active in your celebration by setting a place for them at the table, cooking their favorite meal, or watching one of their favorite movies.
- Do something in honor of them. Do the things that your person loved to do, or would have loved to do if given the chance to. Consider taking up one of their favorite hobbies; read their favorite book series; finish a project they were working on; plant a tree or flower in their honor. While grand gestures are fair game, opportunities for honoring them may also arrive in smaller day-to-day moments as well, like lighting a candle for them, keeping your favorite photos of them up in your home, or saying “good morning” or “goodnight” each day.
There are so many ways to continue the bond with your loved one and you can get as creative as you want as you explore new ways to express your love for your person. Continuing the bond may help you feel close to and connected with your person who is no longer here on earth with you, but whom you love just the same. After all, as Mitch Albom wrote in his book Tuesdays with Morrie, “death ends a life, not a relationship.” All that love doesn’t just disappear when our loved one dies, and is a love that’s worthy of finding new ways to be expressed.
OUR FREE GRIEF CARE PROGRAMS: 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 visit www.askforangela.com to check out our grief support calendar with a detailed listing of upcoming support groups.