A myth that still permeates most of Western culture is that when a loved one dies, the relationship ends and we have to “let go and move on with life.” This suggests that the memories of the deceased should be marginalized and transferred to the deepest corners of our thought life.
In reality, we certainly need to move forward, establish a new relationship with the deceased, and reinvest in our new life. Let me emphasize that we are programmed to establish a new relationship with the deceased through memory, new traditions, and legacies. And it is healthy to do so.
Love does not die when a loved one is no longer physically present. He or she lives within our hearts and memories, and many believe, in spirit. Establishing a new relationship with the deceased is one of the tasks of grief. Here’s how you can cement that new relationship.
1. To get started, be determined to follow three key rules. First, make the commitment to reinvest in life. Next, accept the reality of death both intellectually and emotionally (which can take considerable time). And third, never make a decision that affects your life based on what the deceased would want you to do, if you do not fully agree with it. Always do it your way.
2. Now start loading your memory bank. Review your life with the person you love and start choosing the memories you treasure the most. Imagine them in detail. If necessary, write them down to read at various times. Go slow, the memory retention process used to remember your loved one can take weeks or months to find the guardians. As you return to ancient places and go through the four seasons, old memories will resurface over time.
3. As you recall your treasured memories, celebrate them by talking to others in special gatherings. Without fanfare, just start with “Remember when …” and move on with the story. Much of the learning takes place through history wrapped in memories. Also, use them as inspiration to achieve some of your goals. Think of a memory that involves a trait of your loved one that you would like to develop. Then decide what specific behaviors you will use to make that trait part of your new life.
4. Use the deceased’s favorite symbols, photos, or sayings as cues to remind him to think positive and / or invest in the future. Every time you see them, take the opportunity to check the attitude or thought you want to develop. We all need a mission or purpose and we all have something to give back or teach our children or grandchildren. Your loved one can be a part of that mission or new dream with reminders, as you slowly reinvest in life.
5. Create new memories that involve the deceased. When you start a new behavior motivated by a trait of the deceased, or find success in using a memory for inspiration, that becomes a new memory. Remember it as a success story. Or, when telling a story about a loved one helping others, use it as a new memory. You are entering your new life with a part of the past remembered in a healthy way. If you want, you can also create new memories that involve new traditions honoring the deceased.
6. Whenever you are enjoying a meal or an activity and the event brings you a memory, share it. For example, sometimes when we eat a certain type of food, my wife may say, “My father loved this type of bread (or this dessert”). This is a normal healthy comment. Like anything else, be wise to use memory recall openly among friends or family. If you do it too much, some may feel uncomfortable or, worse, mistakenly believe that “he or she can’t let go.” On the other hand, always let it flow naturally, as it perceives the appropriateness of the comment.
Memories are great teachers. They allow us to realize that we are all one. Always connected. Spread the wealth and let others know that memories have great power to heal, motivate, inspire and enjoy. Cherish your memories and use them as the tool they were meant to be: a beacon of love to share, treasure, and pass on.