It has been said that great love equates to great grief. Mitch Albom, stated in Tuesdays with Morrie, “Death ends a life, not a relationship” When a loved one dies, there is a gaping hole felt in the mourner’s life. Grief does not end. It is a journey that has many unexpected turns and valleys. The unpredictability of emotions can be quite unsettling to those that have had a loved one die. One common thread amongst mourners is the reluctancy to “let go” of the loved one. The concept of continued bonds challenges that school of thought and allows the bereaved to hold on to the memories, cherish the loved one, and accept that grief will become a part of life.
Continued bonds are the recognition that the love for the deceased does not end in death. Because the grief is on-going, there are ways to actively mourn a loved one and foster that connection with those that have died. In my years of grief work, many bereaved talk to their loved one, or carry a trinket that stirs a beautiful memory. Fostering that connection is an important part of the grief process. Many that are mourning notice a butterfly, a cardinal, or a rainbow that will remind them of their loved one’s life. These beautiful connections to nature are a small reminder of the people we miss and bring a sense of comfort during an emotionally difficult time. Many that are outside the mourner’s circle may discourage these continued bonds and see it as an unhealthy way to grieve. But those that are advocates of healthy grief would attest that mourners are able to renew their hope by finding ways to connect.
Looking through old photos, planting a garden, or wearing a piece of treasured jewelry are all examples of fostering the continued bond of a loved one who has died. Normalizing and validating this behavior is an important part of the grief process. Recognizing that a loved one’s imprint will remain on your heart forever helps with the realizing that “letting go” does not have to be a necessity. To explore how to foster those continued bonds or understand more about your grieving journey, please check out the Center for Hope and Healing’s grief support groups or book an individual appointment with one of our licensed professional counselors.
Written by Kristen Ernst, LPC
Owner and Operator of Center for Hope and Healing