Grief is a daily, up-and-down new normal, and healing takes time.
The father of psychotherapy, Sigmund Freud believed that when someone dies our goal was to sever that connection with our loved on. However, modern attachment theory and grief research suggests that this “severing” should not be our goal. I personally don’t think it is ever possible to sever the connection because we never lose a sense of connection with the ones we love.
Modern attachment theory has graced us with a lovely concept known as continuing bonds. This concept states that love does not dissipate when someone passes. We still connect, engage with our loved ones (albeit in a different way).
The reality is that we grieve because we love and love is stronger than death.
This may look like a cardinal greeting you in the morning. It may smell like the sweet smell of cinnamon rolls reminding you how your loved one made cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. Maybe your humor reminds others of your loved one. The reality is that we grieve because we love and love is stronger than death. Our love changes when we are confronted with death, but it does not diminish it.
So, allow that love to surround you. Do not feel odd when you find yourself talking to your loved one who has passed. This is normal. (Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise).
Don’t be afraid to sit on your porch, sip a cup of tea and talk to your loved one about your day. Let the breeze remind you of the nearness of your loved one. As John Bowlby, the father of attachment theory says, “the need for closeness to those whom we love remains a lifelong pursuit.”
A successful adaptation to loss does not mean severance, but rather re-integration. How do we weave love into our lives differently now? How do we take steps into creating a new narrative?
This new narrative need not exclude the ones who have gone on before us. Our goal is not to “get over,” the loss. We live in a fast-paced culture where we’re programmed to push, and strive. People may even ask us or implicitly suggest that it is time to move on and that we’re past the point of acceptable grieving. Often we even put expectations on ourselves that we need to have moved on by a certain point.
Realize that grief is many things, but it is not a sprint nor is it something we are able to blaze through. It is a daily, up-and-down new normal, and healing takes time. Healing never occurs overnight.