A doctoral student at the Chicago Professional School of Psychology, Brittany Trauthwein, spoke with Dr. Heidi Horsley at the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) conference about continuing bonds after a loss. Her dissertation is specifically on continuing those bonds after the death of a parent. Trauthwein began her research after connecting with ADEC one year after losing her father. She heard stories of people continuing bonds and relationships with their parents and loved ones, which piqued her interest. “I just immediately loved it and knew it was how I was going to go through my grief journey,” she says.
However, when she began digging and looking for research on the subject, she couldn’t find anything targeted at adult children ages 18-30. That’s how she selected the demographics for her research. “Continuing bonds means you want to keep the parent in your life in a meaningful relationship while still being able to move on,” she explains. These bonds don’t hold you back or keep you in the past. Rather, they help you to keep going forward.
An Unbreakable Bond
It’s not about being stuck in your grief, but rather it’s simply finding a new place for parents in your life. Personally, Trauthwein keeps her dad in her life by celebrating his life on his birthday. She talks to him on a daily basis, enjoys his favorite foods on special days and knows her father is reciprocating because he visits her in her dreams. Dr. Horsley agrees, noting that “Death does not end a relationship.” For Dr. Horsley, her brother is her guiding light, and she also enjoys his dream visits.
Death may end a life, but it doesn’t have to end bonds. Those can continue, albeit in new ways, but the person must be open to it and interpret connections (such as dreams) in a new way.