Monday, April 17, 2017

In Grief: Remembering Is An Active Process

[Reviewed and updated May 27, 2024]

If we are loved and remembered, then we live on forever in the hearts of those who love us.  ~ Ted Menten

A reader writes: Eleven months ago, my son had a massive seizure in his sleep and went on to Heaven as a result. His birthday was to be the next day, the saddest day of my entire life. He was 6 feet tall, blonde hair, blue eyes and the most beautiful smile anyone ever wanted to see. He had the kindest heart and gentle way about him. I really did not realize how many lives he had touched while he was with us. When God came to take him home he got a very special angel. He was 21 and the kind of young man anyone would have been proud to have had for a son. I must say it was a privilege to say I was his mother. The day he died a part of me died too. I miss him so much it is physically painful even to this day. I have not found a way to live this new life I have been given. I do try but without much success.

My response: My dear, my heart broke into pieces as I read your message that captures so well the agony of losing a child to death: not only the searing emotional pain but also the actual feel-it-in-your gut-and-in-your-heart physical pain of missing your precious boy so much. You said it all: The day your son died, a part of you died too, and now, nearly one year later, you're still searching for a way to live this new life in which you find yourself. You did not ask for this, you did not plan for it to be this way, and it all seems so grossly unjust and unfair.

As you approach both the one-year anniversary of your son's death-date next month as well as his birthday, I would expect that many of the feelings and reactions you thought were behind you will come crashing in upon you once again, and it may feel as if you're right back where you started on this difficult path of grief. Please don't conclude, however, that you haven't made any forward progress. The progress you have made is real. You've survived what is probably the most difficult year you have ever known, and that alone deserves credit and recognition. (See the related articles I've listed below.)

You say that you did not realize how many lives your son had touched while he was with us. That tells me that, in addition to your own cherished memories of your son, you now have many stories about him that you did not have before. Remembering is an active process that can be very helpful as you work your way through this grief of yours. I want to invite you to put in writing some of those things you learned about your beloved son that you hadn't known before. Perhaps you will find a way to share with others some of those wonderful stories you were told about your son. 

In the beautiful words of Hugh Robert Orr:
They are not dead who live in lives they leave behind.
In those whom they have blessed, they live a life again,
and shall live through the years eternal life,
and shall grow each day more beautiful,
as time declares their good,
forgets the rest,
and proves their immortality.
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