How to keep a Continuing Bond with a deceased loved one
Have you heard the term continuing bond before?
I heard about it for the first time a few years ago from a friend who lost her pet. She attended a pet support group and they discussed the theory.
A book on the subject was published in 1996 by authors, Klass, Silverman, and Nickman entitled, “Continuing Bonds: New Understandings of grief (Death Education, Aging and Health Care).
In the last few years there has been a paradigm shift in the way many think about grief. The idea of continuing bonds allows us to be free in a sense about how we grieve. The old way of thinking is to “just get over it.” It seems once we buried our loved one, society expects us to forget about them and bury our emotions too.
Well, if you lost a loved one, you know that is not possible!
I didn’t need to study continuing bonds or even hear the term to understand it. I incorporated it into my life after the suicide of my former husband in 2005. It was necessary for my recovery and well-being.
No one needed to teach me to continue a bond with him. I was the one who wanted to do it. Steve’s energy existed and was always near me therefore I learned to experience him in new ways. Not initially because I was in shock and in too much pain but as time passed I did.
One thing that connected me with Steve was music. He was an avid guitar player and loved the Beatles. At first, it was too painful to listen to them, but eventually their songs made me feel close to Steve. I continued to listen to the music he liked and I felt connected to him. Another way was to talk about him. I wanted to share our good times! It is important to find someone with whom you feel comfortable doing so and they also need to feel the same. I am aware that many people still have a hard time with this concept and I respect how they feel. I am fortunate to have a friend whom I met in my suicide support group that I can freely talk with about Steve and she does as well about her husband. It uplifts us both. We have the extra bond of knowing we both shared a similar experience.
I believe it is also important to find some commonality with whom you freely talk about your deceased loved one. For example, if you lost a child to cancer, it’s more comfortable to talk with parents who have suffered the same loss. Allowing each other to speak about your children can be very comforting. For others it may be too painful. We must understand and respect that we each deal with loss in a very personal way.
Be open to the idea of a continuing bond.
There are many ways that you can stay connected with your deceased loved one and below are just a few.
- Write letters to them. I wrote letters in my journal to Steve for about 6 months.
- Talk to them. I often talked to Steve as if he was in the room, usually asking for his help about something.
- Talk about them to new friends or acquaintances that never knew him. They can learn about all his or her wonderful qualities and your relationship with them before they died.
- Live your life in a way they would be proud of. When I did something I thought Steve would be proud of I made sure to tell him and it made me feel good.
- Keep something that belonged to them. You can’t keep everything, but one or two items that hold special meaning can be helpful.
- Do some of the things that they liked to do.
These are just a few suggestions and you can come up with your own. This may not work for everyone, but if you find they ease your loss and allow you to feel connected. Then certainly do them!
The most important thing is for you to live your life and be happy. I have no doubt that your loved one would want the same for you.
Certified Grief, Life, Spiritual Coach