Grief and the Fear of Forgetting
Letting go of hurt and pain without letting go of memories
Do any of these phrases sound familiar?
“I’m beginning to forget what her voice sounded like.”
“I’m worried if I get bereavement support, or do any grief work I’ll forget about her.”
“If I’m not thinking about him all the time,I’ll feel like I don’t care about him anymore.”
“I can’t remember what it’s like to share my bed with him.”
An often unspoken part of grieving the loss of a loved one is an underlying fear of forgetting the person who has died while you carry on living. This can keep you in the depths of grief, as if letting go of the pain is somehow attached to the memory of your loved one. There can also be guilt attached to releasing the pain, as though you’re going to forget them.
Although there are plenty of days and weeks throughout the year when we’re led to think about a loved one, such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s and Father’s Days, Christmas, National Grief Awareness Week, and more, many want to continue thinking about their loved one daily, and that’s okay. The way we feel and experience remembering a loved one will be different for everyone.
You may find you want to leave everything exactly the same way as your loved one left it, or you might leave a child's room untouched. You might hesitate about moving forward, as you carry on without your loved one.
These responses help us stick to what we know, and allow us to feel a sense of control. But they can also mean you’re not giving yourself the space and ability to learn how to deal with your loss.
Here’s the good news. The intensity of your grief isn’t a measure for love. You don’t love someone less intensely if you don’t remain in the depths of sadness. It also doesn’t loosen your connection to them.
Working through your grief with a specialist is about releasing you from the intense physical and emotional pain you might feel to carry on living as pain-free as possible. It means that you can smile at photos of them, and remember your whole relationship, not just the positive or negative aspects.
You can also remember them by:
Displaying photos of your loved one.
Talking about them and sharing memories.
Writing down your memories.
Starting new traditions.
Lighting a candle
Buying or making an ornament in their memory each year.
Asking family members, such as children if they would like to go somewhere special to remember your loved one.
Enjoying their favorite meals on their birthday, death anniversary, etc.
As you continue your reimagined life - nobody expects to lose a loved one - and find ways to remember them, you will hopefully find you can let go of the hurt and pain without letting go of your memories and love.
Carolyn Gosling is an experienced Clinical Nurse Specialist and Trauma Counsellor. Having spent her career supporting patients through significant losses and after experiencing her own personal loss, Carolyn was drawn to become a certified Grief Recovery Method Specilaist. You can learn more about Carolyn here.