Life has its ups and downs. After a loved one dies it’s normal to feel down and depressed, but you may also be plagued by painful memories. You wish these memories would go away and leave you alone, yet they keep coming back. What can you do with painful memories?
I asked myself this question after four family memers died in 2007. When I reviewed my experiences with each of these people, painful memories came to mind, and I decided to learn from them.
First, I let the memories come. Clearly, my subconscious mind was processing information and I let it do its work. With the passage of time I was able to see these memories more clearly. If I was confronted by similar experiences today I would probably act differently. I would be more patient and better at give and take.
In an article titled, “Grief,” the Hospice World website explains that all human relationships involved positive and negative feelings and “it is important that these be brought into balance in grief.” Many humorous memories were mixed in with my painful ones, and I paid close attention to them. Remembering funny memories was healing for me, and I started to tell stories about them. Each painful memory had its good and bad parts and I filed them in my mind.
Every time I had a negative memory I balanced it with a positive one. This conscious response is my bridge to recovery and hopefully yours. Six years have passed since I suffered multiple losses and I am doing better than I thought I would. Still, there are days when grief takes me backwards.
Larry M. Barber, a licensed counselor, Director of GriefWorks and Counseling Works, describes going backwards in a Grief Minister website article, “Grief Anniversary Dates: Milestones and Painful Memories.” Twenty years have passed since his wife and daughter died and, according to Barber, sometimes it feels like forever. “Many times when painful memories hit me and grief outbursts take place, it seems like the losses just happened yesterday,” he explains.
I’ve had times when my multiple losses seemed like yesterday. To be honest, I think this will happen again and again and have prepared myself for it. The good thing is that you and I don’t have to give up everything in your past. Earl A. Grollman, author of Living When a Loved One Has Died, thinks memories of the past can be a bridge to the future.
“Don’t try to destroy a beautful part of your life because remembering it hurts,” he advises. All of my memories, and all of yours, help make us who we are today — learning, growing, changing people who are grateful for the gift of life. So let the memories come. Sort them out and think about what they can teach you. Start building your bridge to the future now.