Continuing bonds...

Dear new grief friends,

I am sharing this in the hope that it will be helpful to some people. I wrote it when I was six months in, and it was published on the AfterTalk website. I guess the only way I know to move forward is to know I can still have my husband with me at some level <3

From This Day Forward:

A Widow’s Understanding of Continuing Bonds

By Louise McOrmond-Plummer

The loss of Ken, my beloved husband of thirty years, to cancer in 2016 was so devastating that I am persuaded that the grief may, in varying degrees, be lifelong. However, the speed with which advice to “Let go and Move on” reached me was mind-boggling. The first week brought a popular but, in my opinion, excruciatingly awful poem titled Miss Me But Let Me Go.

For many bereaved people, these platitudes are not only unhelpful, but are actively hurtful, and actually counter-intuitive. Having already been forced to let go of Ken at the hospital in which he died, the thought of doing it again in any other form, frankly horrified me. And, if moving on meant leaving the most intimate friend of my heart behind, well, thanks but no thanks. Imagine, then, my relief upon hearing about continuing bonds, a narrative of grief wherein we may foster and enjoy ongoing relationships with deceased loved ones. Further, we may do so without being perpetually mired in grief; we can move forward and we can take our beloved along with us. Several cultures have routinely practiced this wisdom for millennia – for example, in Manila there are little cemetery mansions complete with TV, telephones and toilets, where peopleAfterTalk Grief Support can visit and have sleepovers with deceased family. Children, including my grandsons who like to leave drawings at Pop’s memorial tree, innately understand it. The continuing of bonds seems implicit also in the actions of grievers who have a party for what would have been a darling daughter’s twenty-first birthday, or who put Dad’s picture in front of the TV so he can watch the footy with them. People may fear that they’re weird for appealing to a long-dead grandmother for help. Ultimately, however, we need nobody else’s permission to find constructive strategies for maintaining that vital attachment. It’s okay, it’s healthy, and to hell with even the best-intended earache about “letting go and moving on.”

Ways of continuing bonds with loved ones who have passed are myriad, and they don’t necessarily require any religious underpinning. I share news and jokes regularly with my husband. For the first wedding anniversary since Ken’s death, I wrote new vows, promising to love him from this day forward into eternity. I’m making a patchwork quilt from his clothes; this, for me, is beautifully symbolic of how our relationship still exists, just in altered form.

Continuing bonds not only allows for an ongoing relationship with a deceased loved one, but also for that relationship to grow and evolve over time. Although my grief is still pretty raw, the possibilities in that bring me truly consoling and restorative hope.

Neither should we fear that continuing the bond means denial or not accepting the death. Don’t we wake up every morning knowing that it happened? It simply means that there’s no reason to believe that our relationship with a loved one died with that person. It is a relationship, albeit in differing form. And we can have that, and hold it, for always.

BUGGER - for whatever reason, the article didn’t post in my original thread. Here it is:

From This Day Forward:

A Widow’s Understanding of Continuing Bonds

By Louise McOrmond-Plummer

The loss of Ken, my beloved husband of thirty years, to cancer in 2016 was so devastating that I am persuaded that the grief may, in varying degrees, be lifelong. However, the speed with which advice to “Let go and Move on” reached me was mind-boggling. The first week brought a popular but, in my opinion, excruciatingly awful poem titled Miss Me But Let Me Go.

For many bereaved people, these platitudes are not only unhelpful, but are actively hurtful, and actually counter-intuitive. Having already been forced to let go of Ken at the hospital in which he died, the thought of doing it again in any other form, frankly horrified me. And, if moving on meant leaving the most intimate friend of my heart behind, well, thanks but no thanks. Imagine, then, my relief upon hearing about continuing bonds, a narrative of grief wherein we may foster and enjoy ongoing relationships with deceased loved ones. Further, we may do so without being perpetually mired in grief; we can move forward and we can take our beloved along with us. Several cultures have routinely practiced this wisdom for millennia – for example, in Manila there are little cemetery mansions complete with TV, telephones and toilets, where people can visit and have sleepovers with deceased family. Children, including my grandsons who like to leave drawings at Pop’s memorial tree, innately understand it. The continuing of bonds seems implicit also in the actions of grievers who have a party for what would have been a darling daughter’s twenty-first birthday, or who put Dad’s picture in front of the TV so he can watch the footy with them. People may fear that they’re weird for appealing to a long-dead grandmother for help. Ultimately, however, we need nobody else’s permission to find constructive strategies for maintaining that vital attachment. It’s okay, it’s healthy, and to hell with even the best-intended earache about “letting go and moving on.”

Ways of continuing bonds with loved ones who have passed are myriad, and they don’t necessarily require any religious underpinning. I share news and jokes regularly with my husband. For the first wedding anniversary since Ken’s death, I wrote new vows, promising to love him from this day forward into eternity. I’m making a patchwork quilt from his clothes; this, for me, is beautifully symbolic of how our relationship still exists, just in altered form.

Continuing bonds not only allows for an ongoing relationship with a deceased loved one, but also for that relationship to grow and evolve over time. Although my grief is still pretty raw, the possibilities in that bring me truly consoling and restorative hope.

Neither should we fear that continuing the bond means denial or not accepting the death. Don’t we wake up every morning knowing that it happened? It simply means that there’s no reason to believe that our relationship with a loved one died with that person. It is a relationship, albeit in differing form. And we can have that, and hold it, for always.

Hello Louise. Thanks for posting this. I first read it on the excellent After-Talk website and thought at the time how touching yet powerful your piece of writing was. It’s done me good to see it again and it has come at just the right time. Thanks again for sharing.

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I find this realy weid , icannot relate to this I am in a bad time at the moment , that I wish I was not here .

While continuing bonds has been the best way I know to move forward, Maddie, I still have those awful times just as you describe too. I didn’t want to be here yesterday either. I hope it gets different for you soon. I’m used to some people finding the idea of continuing a relationship however I can a trifle weird :slight_smile: xo

Of course it’s perfectly true too, that what’s good for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for another. Some people might work well with “Let go and move on” models of bereavement. Not this woman though :slight_smile:

A wonderful piece of writing - thank you. I will never let go of my adoring and adored husband. I will never move on nor do I want to. I talk to him all the time. I even shout him in to watch something on telly. Photos are in every room of our home. I look for his approval in all that I do. I am currently reading a book, written by Megan Devine, called ‘It’s ok that you’re not ok’ - in it the author mentions the unhelpful platitudes you speak of. It really is an excellent book and I quote “Some things cannot be fixed, they can only be carried.”
I also came across this quote:

Grief never ends but it changes.
It’s a passage, not a place to stay.
Grief is not a sign of weakness,
Nor a lack of faith.
It is the price of love…

These quotes don’t daunt me as I don’t ever want my grief to end. I want / need to carry my husband with me always. I think you will understand this Mrs Plummer. Thank you again for sharing your prose. Much love xx

Hey Kate, I call Ken to watch telly with me too <3 I don’t care if it’s crackers - it helps, doesn’t it? I believe they ARE with us in a very real sense, it’s just that we find the physical absence really tough at times. And I LOVE Megan Devine’s book - it’s quite possibly the best I’ve read

I think I will always miss my Ken, and I don’t mind that so much, as long as the love never ends.
xo

I don’t know why some of my posts get cut off after the first sentence, but we’ll try again :slight_smile: Yes, I call Ken to watch telly too, Kate, and I don’t care if it’s crackers. It helps, doesn’t it? We find ways to work around that aching physical absence xo

And I LOVE Megan Devine’s book - it’s quite possibly the best I’ve read xo

It’s funny how grief is absolutely unique to the individual and yet so many aspects of it are the same. It’s comforting to know that others do the same things. I even spray David’s deodorant in the bathroom just to get that familiar smell of him. Sometimes I shout him to put the kettle on. I don’t ever want talking to him to feel strange or become a distant memory. Xx

Me either, Kate - I do my pillows with Ken’s cologne - I love that scent. I call out "Hello, darling, “I’m home” when I’ve been out. I felt very anxious when Ken first passed, that the desire to talk to him and stay connected with him would slacken with time. Thank God it hasn’t so far, and I think the things we do are ways to sustaining that connection xo

Hi Mrs Plummer

Just wanted to drop by and say what lovely refreshing open views you shared. I often think about how people in other cultures cope with death and often they have a much more honest and healthy way of dealing with it than here.

The way I explain death to my 6 year old is “do you still love Grandma and Grandpa?” When he unequivocally says Yes, I say “well they still love you and nothing can stop that, ever”.

It’s the future with our loved ones we have lost, not the memories or the relationship.

Keep on keeping on.

Ann xx

Thank you so much for this thread…I too believe that the bond continues …it was the person who died not the love that was shared. Two years on I still talk to Barry all the time and I think I love him more as each day passes. Antoine de Saint Exupery (who wrote The Little Prince) said
He who has gone, so we but cherish his memory, abides with us more potent, nay more present, than the living man.
Love and hugs to all x

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That’s beautiful, Amelie - and yes, before Ken died, I didn’t think I could possibly love him any more than I did, but that love does keep growing after they pass. It reminds me of Elizabeth Barret Browning: “And if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death”

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