Grief is still a four-letter word in my vocabulary, and one that often rhymes with muck, but I have learned to use grief in a positive way to plow forward on my journey towards a modicum of restoration in my life. I have learned that there is no “normal” way to grieve. Grievers are like snowflakes. There are definitely no two alike. Each of us grieves in our own manner, in our own style, and at our own pace.
Up until the middle of the last century, the thinking among grief therapists and psychologists was that the bereaved emotionally detach themselves from the deceased. Sigmund Freud devoutly espoused this theory because he believed that the mourner should be freed from his attachments in order to move ahead and form new relationships. The psychiatrist John Bowlby totally differed from Freud. Bowlby felt that talking about the dead without finding room for the deceased in one’s self, would be like Hamlet without the Prince. In 1966 Dennis Klass, Phyllis Silverman, and Steven Nickman helped to change this current theory with their book Continuing Bonds: New Understands of Grief. This book changed the current method of grief therapy, citing many cases where continuing bonds provided comfort and support in coping with grief.
I have learned that grief does not end. It is an ongoing process in which Peter and I figure out how we will go on together. Yes, Peter’s connection and bond are within my heart and soul. He is still my go-to support system. When I need him, I can talk to him, breathe with him, or just conjure up an image which will help me through the tough times. In life, he was my moral compass. In death he performs that role as well, bequeathing me the wisdom to forge forward. You might think that I am living in the past. On the contrary, I am living in the present with Peter guiding me through this maze of grief.
Here are a few ways you can form continuing bonds with your late loved one:
· Talk to your lost love. I know this sounds crazy but it works big time. I talk to Peter all the time and I feel comforted just knowing he is surrounding me in spirit. Avoid doing this in public unless you are wearing headphones, in which case everyone will assume you are on a phone call and won’t care!
· Write a letter to your loved one. You will find that you can pour out your heart openly and it is totally cathartic. Not great on the mascara, but it is a wonderful release and connection all at once.
· Talk about your loved one with friends and family. Tell stories to new friends and you will feel the love.
· Perform a ritual like lighting a candle to keep your loved one in your memory and your heart.
· On special occasions or holidays, make a toast to your loved one. Out family leaves a door open for Elijah at Passover. I leave a chair next to me to remember Peter. Besides, I get to eat a double portion of matzo ball soup!
· Plant a tree in his or her memory and watch it grow.
· Wear your loved one’s wedding ring on another hand. I have linked all the rings we had together on a chain which sits over my heart and provides constant comfort.
· Prepare your loved one’s favorite dishes. This is not great for my health because Peter loved meat, potatoes, and butter. But occasionally I will splurge and have a steak and fries and revel in the comfort food, and the comfort it affords me.
· Finish a project that your loved one started. Patton Oswalt finished his deceased wife’s book which helped him in his process. I was thinking of taking up golf in Peter’s memory but neither of us would have been happy with that choice! I still believe that golf is “a good walk spoiled.”
· Know that your loved one would be proud of you. He or she would understand that you have to plow through the process of grief. But they would also want you to live a life worthy of the two of you. I honor Peter by allowing him to guide me on my journey as my partner and soulmate.
My book about grief THE JOKE'S OVER, YOU CAN COME BACK NOW: How This Widow Plowed Through Grief and Survived is finally up on Amazon this week. It has been a labor or love and a tribute to my sweet husband Peter who died almost three years ago. It is a book that is not only for widows, but one for those wanting to know what to say to someone in grief.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO BUY MY BOOK: https://www.amazon.com/Jokes-Over-You-Come-Back/dp/1981137866/
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