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 wellbeing.
No one needed to teach me to continue a bond with him. I was the one who wanted to do it. I knew Steve’s energy existed and would always be near me. I learned to experience him in new ways.
Steve was an avid guitar player and one way that made me feel close to him was to listen to the music he liked, such as the Beatles. Another was to talk about him. I think it is important to find someone whom you feel comfortable with and who also feels the same way. 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 about her husband. We both feel comfortable doing so and it uplifts us. We have the extra bond of knowing we both shared a similar experience.
I think it is important to find some commonality with whom you can freely talk about your deceased loved one. For example, if you lost a child to cancer, you may have met other parents who 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.
I am grateful that people are open to the idea of continuing bonds.
There are many ways that we can keep our relationship with our deceased ones.
- Write letters to them. I wrote letters in my journal to Steve for about six 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.
Sadly, since I wrote this article I lost my current husband Dr. Gerald Chodak in September of 2019 and I am once again processing grief and continuing a bond with him.
I created a YouTube video about connecting with deceased loved ones for you.
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