The Grief of Moving Forward: The Fear of Forgetting

At the beginning of our grief journey, the intensity of the pain is so great that we often think we will never experience any level of joy again.  We are consumed by sadness and the lethargy that comes with so great a loss.  

At some point in our journey, we find brief, fleeting moments of joy.  Our overwhelming sadness and emptiness find relief for a brief second.  Then we gradually move from seconds to minutes to hours of grief relief and may even begin to find some pleasure in life again.  The grief bursts and grief tsunamis still come, but the intervals between them lengthen.

Later in the journey, we experience full days of grief relief and begin to recognize that the deepest, most intense feelings and thoughts of grief are softening.  Typically, this is when fear slips in and we begin the process of grieving the lowering of the intensity of our grief.

Why do we grieve the lowering of the intensity of our grief?

1. We equate grieving less intensely with loving less intensely. 
Grief is love.  When someone we cherish dies, love becomes so very painful that we call it grief.  Somewhere along our journey, the intensity of our grief lowers and our grief begins to look and feel more like love again.  The intensity of our grief was so great that we are anxious when it returns to the normal intensity of love that cemented our relationship in the first place.

2. We often think/feel that the intensity of our grief is our continuing connection to our loved one and if the intensity lowers, this connection will grow weaker and may disappear altogether.
Our connection to our loved one is love.  The lowering of the intensity of our grief has no connection to the depth of our love.  Remember that the painful love we call grief returns to the less intense, but deeply meaningful and unending love for them.  We have, do and always will love them with all of our heart.

3. We think/feel that the life of our loved one will cease to matter.
When someone we love dies, we quickly realize that others move on while we are just beginning our grief journey.  Our hardest days are just beginning, but our support system seems to suddenly disappear.  With this realization comes the fear that our loved one has ceased to matter.  We may feel that the deep intensity of our pain is palpable proof that their life did and always will matter.  We unintentionally assume the responsibility of making certain they are not forgotten and often equate the intensity of our grief with the level of our belief that their life mattered.

When the intensity of our grief lowers, what we can do to intentionally honor and nourish our continuing connection with them?

1.  Keep pictures of them on display.

2.  Continue to recall and tell and retell stories about them.

3.  Start new traditions.

  1. Buy a candle and quietly light it at each family gathering.
  2. Buy or make an ornament/seasonal wreath in their memory each year.
  3. Make their favorite food on their birthday, death anniversary, etc.
  4. Do an intentional act of kindness in their honor on special days.