As the day of the first anniversary of my husband’s death came to a close in early September all those years ago, and I sat gazing out my window at a picture perfect sunset, I realized I had made it — made it through that first heart-wrenching year of grief. Those 365 days that followed Trent’s sudden death in a car accident brought an onslaught of deep sadness, confusion, painful loneliness and more than a little anger. And if truth be told, the days and weeks leading up to that first anniversary startled me with their intensity, dredging up those emotions I thought I had laid to rest with my grief work.
As I considered all that had taken place that first year, my spirit lightened. I had weathered the storms of single parenting, social and financial adjustment and a very dry spiritual drought. And that, I told myself, was a very good thing. The future looked a little brighter.
But an interesting thing happened as I sat congratulating myself on my victory. I found myself in a struggle with my hard won joy and the sense that each day I made it through took me further and further from the time Trent was alive and walking beside me in this life.
It was a bittersweet awareness.
I had found myself as that anniversary date approached struggling with my memory. It was becoming a bit more difficult to remember Trent’s smile and see him clearly in my mind’s eye. Those of us who have lost a loved one know that feeling of fear that suddenly nips at our hearts when we realize it seems we may be forgetting our loved one.
But I can tell you from my own experience and the experiences of those I’ve walked with through their grief, that we will never forget our loved ones. Never! That bittersweet phase of my grief journey, though frightening, proved to be a profound transitional period for me in which I learned that my relationship with my beloved husband was shifting from one of physical presence to one of memory.
You see, I believe love never dies — and that the love we have for our beloved dead continues to exist long after they are gone. It sustains us in our loneliness and calls us to a higher spiritual realm. I’ve learned that it’s within that love that our memories thread their way to a permanent place in our lives.
I hold Trent’s memory dear even to this day and find joy in the telling of his story though opportunities are now few and far between. But there remains a plethora of places, music, objects and others’ memories when shared that remind me that I loved and still love Trent and was loved by him. Over the years the memories I have of Trent have softened and found their perfect place in my heart. Though I miss him still. I appreciate the consolation I find when an event or anecdote stirs my memory. I have moved forward with his memory in my heart.
The memory of our loved one is of utmost importance for the healing of our hearts and can be shored up with those linking objects that we hold dear. Special photographs, clothing and trinkets all bring the memory of our loved one to our minds and hearts whenever the need arises.
I feel blessed to have retrieved a tape of my husband’s voice that he used for dictation at work. What a consolation it was on many a lonely night. And when my girls, who were preschool age when their daddy died, grew older I shared the tape with them, much to their delight.
I’ve spoken with many who agree that a song or story will stir a memory thought long forgotten and bring consolation and even joy to the heart. And those memories, though perhaps dormant, strengthen the fabric of our lives with the very love we know to be true.
It can be a scary prospect in early grief to think we may forget our loved one as the time span between the loss and the present expands. We may want to live in the past rather than be present to life in the now. But as we work through our grief, we must, in faith, turn to our future with the knowing that we will never forget those who we lived and loved with no matter when they died. We must weather the stormy process of grief, opening our broken hearts to their healing memory.
Our beloved dead are part of us. We will never forget them. How could we?
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