The death of a loved one, be it our parent, child, spouse, sibling or friend ruptures the internal and external connection we have with that person. It is a connection that helps define our sense of self, mirrors who we are, impacts our feelings and influences our view of life.
From a relational perspective, death of a loved one is a crisis of self and a crisis of meaning.
What is Grieving?
Grieving is our reaction to the loss of a loved one. Beginning with the acute pang of loss, grief is often accompanied by numbing disbelief or unspeakable rage. Often there is a sense of emptiness, disorganization, the loss of the loved one and self.
Whereas early theorists like Freud conceptualized the ultimate goal of grieving as “letting go,” as disconnecting from the loved one, contemporary relational psychology offers another perspective.
How is This Possible?
This is not easy, simple or quick, but it is a psychologically possible and emotionally restorative.
It means going on while holding on- even with tears, without closure, with a brick of pain in your pocket, with a mix of memories, with the fear of forgetting, and the need to remember the stories, the names, the moments, the loved one.
It means having the realization that the physical death of the beloved is not the end of our attachment.
It means your loved one can be an enduring presence in your life.
How Does a Person hold on to Enduring Presence of their Loved One?
The Human Dialogue
Psychologist, Louise Kaplan offers us a wonderful answer in her belief in the human dialogue as the heartbeat of human existence. She invites us to consider that “No Voice is Ever Wholly Lost,” that the dialogue with a loved one can go on and becomes a way of maintaining psychological connection.
This human dialogue can be carried on through words, actions, art, music, stories, survival missions and renewed life meaning. It is embodied in…
Connection and Meaning
Often the goal of having an enduring presence of a loved one is motivational in shaping life’s meaning and bridging connection with others who have suffered loss and are seeking restoration and meaning.
One of the most powerful examples of this is the work of Robert Neimeyer, a psychologist who lost his father to suicide at age 10 and whose life work has been as a theorist and spokesman for grieving as a path for making meaning, and reconstructing connection after loss.
How Do We Go On Living?
Answering this question and reflecting her capacity to hold on to a beloved brother who died of AIDS is the poem by Marie Howe, “What the Living Do.” In the poem, Marie details aspects of daily life from plumbing problems, buying a hairbrush, to cherishing a glimpse of herself in the window of a corner video store. She ends by telling her brother, ” I am living, I remember you.”
Grieving woman photo available from Shutterstock<
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From Psych Central's World of Psychology:
Best of Our Blogs: January 13, 2012 | World of Psychology (January 13, 2012)
Last reviewed: 10 Sep 2012