I am personally a fan of the Continuing Bonds Theory, especially when considering that there are literally decades of grief theory that only provided one option for a person in mourning—closure, acceptance, and moving on. There is little wonder why so many grievers develop self-conscious feelings or believe they have to “put it all away” when trying to regain normal operations in their life. Times indeed are a changin’ and people are finally realizing that healthy grief might involve finding a new and different relationship with the person who died.
Ways to Continue Bonds with a Loved One
If you feel that the Continuing Bonds Theory makes a lot of sense in your own life and style of grief, you might also be looking for ways to continue a bond with your deceased loved one. Here are some ideas that you might want to try as you implement this theory in your life.
- Talk with your loved one. Go ahead! Do it! It doesn’t mean you’re crazy and is completely okay! This is not only a natural thing to do but it can also bring so much comfort to you in the moments that you miss them the most. So talk away, no matter if it is out loud or in your head. This is a very common and normal way to continue your relationship with your loved one.
- Write your loved one a letter. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Write a letter on the computer, in a journal, or on letterhead or stationery. There is an interesting online resource that can assist you should you choose to try this. Called AfterTalk, you can write privately to a loved one using some helpful interactive writing tools. Remember, you can keep these letters or get rid of them. You can get creative with them. No matter what you choose to do or how often you choose to write, this can be a great way to stay close to your loved one.
- Keep their photos around. Of course, this might seem incredibly obvious, but I can tell you that there are going to be people who will make you feel like you are doing something wrong. Keeping photos around will keep your loved one present in your life and it will provide continuing influence of their presence in your household.
- Involve your loved one in special events, holidays, and annual traditions. Consider leaving an empty chair for the individual at Thanksgiving dinner, get out old home videos, or make dishes that your loved ones always enjoyed. You are going to naturally think of them on these days, don’t feel like you have to bottle up those thoughts or emotions. Express yourself in any way that allows you to keep the person close to you.
- Imagine how they would have given you advice or what they would have said if you had a question that you couldn’t find an answer for. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you suddenly have to make big decisions on your own that you might have made before with the help of your loved one. Imagine a conversation with them and put yourself in their shoes to think about what they might have said to you.
- Discuss your loved one with new people in your life. You are going to meet people who never knew your loved one. Know that it’s okay to tell these people about the deceased and don’t hesitate to share photos or stories. This will help you keep your loved one’s legacy alive as you move forward and change as a person yourself.
No matter if the person you lost was a spouse, life partner, parent, grandparent, sibling, child, or friend, it’s easy to struggle when you realize that this person won’t be there to celebrate milestones, accomplishments, and achievements with you. I suggest you think about applying the Continuing Bonds Theory to simply live your life so that your loved one would be proud.