We find many ways to keep a connection with our loved ones who are no longer with us. Sometimes we are purposeful and sometimes we may not even be aware of the things that we say or do to help us keep connected. Many people have had memory quilts or memory teddy bears made using their loved one’s clothing or they may wear a piece of jewelry or clothing that belonged to their loved one. Cooking a favorite meal, listening to a special song or watching a beloved movie are also ways to link us to those we yearn to see just one more time…. These are some of the things that may come to mind when thinking about this type of connection but what about the ways that aren’t as obvious? When talking to a friend whose husband died, she revealed that she hadn’t been able to use the last dishwasher gel pack since his death 14 months earlier. That gel pack was the remaining one from a box that she had been using while her husband was alive and when he died she felt like in some odd way it was a connection to him-a reminder of when he was full of life and vibrant. Other friends told of the bottle of Coca-Cola that they had kept in their refrigerator for the past 3 years since their daughter died. Their daughter had requested the special old-fashioned, glass bottle of Coke before she died but sadly she was never able to enjoy it. Her parents couldn’t bring themselves to throw it away so they’ve kept it in the same spot in the refrigerator all of this time and often it will catch their eye and bring a smile and happy memory. A few years ago when our 11 year old son was riding in the backseat of his grandparent’s Buick, he spilled his soda on the cloth seat. They tried to soak up as much of it as they could but couldn’t get it to completely disappear. He died a few months later and although almost five years have passed, that stain serves as a reminder of him and brings comfort to his grandparents every time they see it. Are there some “unconventional” ways that you connect with your loved one? Do you have some unique linking objects? There isn’t a right or wrong way to connect to your loved one, what may seem odd to one person may bring overwhelming comfort to another.
One of the hardest adjustments for some people after the death of a loved one is dealing with having a lot of activity and people around in the beginning to a gradual lack of support as time goes on. After a death, we may have family and friends visiting, neighbors bringing casseroles and errands to run but as time goes on, the flurry of activity subsides. In a sense, this can be another loss. Yes, it is natural for people to continue on with the busyness of their own lives but that can leave those of us who are grieving feeling as if the world is in motion around us and we are stuck in place, paralyzed by the intensity of our grief. It is hard to not feel resentment or frustration toward the people who we thought would be there for us through thick and thin.
So what are we supposed to do about this?? As “unfair” as it seems, we need to let people know what we need from them. Of course there are those friends and family members who really should know what we need without us telling them but in our society, death makes people uncomfortable and sometimes people stay away because they truly don’t know what to say or do. In my experience, you find out fairly quickly who is able to hang in there with you at one of the worst times in your life. Although it can be disappointing to find that some people who were so supportive in the beginning eventually flee never to be heard from again, it is comforting to know that there are some people who are in it for the long haul and will be able to sit in silence with you or be okay with your tears. I encourage you to take a minute to reflect on those people who didn’t “go away,” the ones who are walking next to you on your grief journey.