Why Staying Connected with a Lost Loved One is a Healthy Way to Grieve
In the acclaimed Netflix comedy series After Life, Ricky Gervais plays Tony, a widower consumed by his grief following the death of his wife. Tony makes it his mission to alienate his friends and family but strikes up an unlikely friendship with Anne, a woman he meets at his wife’s graveside. Anne visits the grave of her late husband Stan where she talks regularly with him about anything that’s on her mind. Anne’s ongoing connection with Stan is one example of a continuing bond with a person who has died.
The idea of maintaining continuing bonds with a loved one who has died is relatively new. It was first explored in a 1996 book Continuing Bonds: New Understanding of Grief which proposed that, instead of detaching from the deceased, healthy grief can be found by creating a new relationship with the deceased. When a loved one dies, you slowly find ways to adjust and redefine your relationship with that person, creating a continuing bond that can endure throughout your lifetime.
Cathartic Ways to Reconnect with Lost Loved Ones
There are numerous ways to continue bonds with your loved one who has died. The following tip sheet touches on five ways to maintain a connection and find a new and different relationship with your loved one in the process.
5 Tips for Continuing Bonds with People We’ve Lost:
There are so many creative, yet simple ways to keep the memory of your lost loved ones alive. Continue reading for five expert tips on how to do so.
Tip 1: Write to the person you lost.
Writing personal messages or letters can help you stay connected with your loved one in the present. Write as often or as you like – weekly, monthly, annually, or whenever the mood strikes you.
Tip 2: Keep photos around.
Keeping photos around keeps us connected with our loved ones and helps us remember the times, places, and events that touched our lives. Photos can bring back warm memories and make us smile.
Tip 3: Talk about them with people who never got to know them.
There will be new people who come into your life who didn’t have the opportunity to meet your loved ones while they were alive. Find ways to tell new people about your loved ones and keep their memory alive.
Tip 4: Finish a project they were working on.
Take on a project around the house, finish a piece of artwork they started, or volunteer for a nonprofit they served in the community. Consider picking up where your loved one left off to continue your connection with the person.
Tip 5: Take a trip they always wanted to take.
Many grievers find comfort in taking a trip or visiting a destination that was special to the person who died. A trip like this can bring us closer to the deceased and remind us of what is important and meaningful to those that are gone.
Continuing Bonds – Connecting the Past to the Present
While many grievers can feel self-conscious about maintaining ties with deceased loved ones, the practice has become widely accepted as a normal and healthy way of honoring the person and connecting their memory into the life we live today.
Holidays, events, and special days all present opportunities to remember our loved ones who have died. On these occasions, people often feel a wave of grief wash over them, or a desire to be close to the person who has died. These are times when we can intentionally incorporate our person who died into the event.
At Good Grief, we believe that maintaining continuing bonds is an essential part of the grieving process for children and families. Each year, one of our signature community events is a 5K Run & Walk where individuals, families, and teams come together to walk or run in memory of a loved one or someone significant in their lives. Visit our website for more information about the 5K and our other programs to support children and families grieving the loss of a loved one.