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Honoring a Loved One
Grief Journey, Losing a Spouse or Partner

This New Life: Honoring a Loved One

If you have lost a loved one, you may think all is lost. That’s not true. Somewhere, deep inside you, there is a knowledge and an abiding love that will save you.

The challenges I faced in building a new life after the loss of my husband ultimately became ways to honor him and the life he lived. If anyone had told me in the early months or years, that this would happen, I would have said – like the country fellow giving directions to the city dweller – “you can’t get there from here.”

At first, I could see no good coming from what had happened. I didn’t want a new life, and I didn’t have a way to even accept his death. Gradually, I began to do things to honor his memory. Simple first steps, like planting a tree on the anniversary of his death. He liked trees.

The long and winding path through grief took every bit of my energy, and I felt disconnected from the world. Worst of all, I was certain this was as good as it was going to get. In other words, I was not coming back from the limbo world between life and death where I had followed him as far as I could. I loved him too much to let him go.

At least that’s what I thought. I saw other survivors on the Alliance of Hope Forum talking about the progress they had made, and the healing they had found. I didn’t buy it. I thought they were kind-hearted people trying to make me feel better. But I couldn’t feel better. However, I did as they suggested and continued to do small things to mark special days. The second year, I planted a rose bush. He always brought me roses.

What happened next surprised me. I realized (with a little help) that even though he was “gone,” my half of our love and my half of our marriage were still intact. I was alive.

I began to think about the life we had before instead of the tragedy that had consumed me. No one had a bigger influence on my life than he did. I thought about the way he had lived, the things that were important to him, the unique things he said, and the gentle way he treated everyone he met. His life still had meaning.

He would not be forgotten, not if I had anything to say about it. In some strange way, I began to build a new relationship with him. It was not without its problems. His photos were taken down on some days and put back out upon others as I shifted back and forth between anger to understanding. I wanted to live, and I wanted to continue to love him.

I began to live the way we had lived all our lives together. I found peace and, eventually, acceptance in the old familiar ways. He was “gone,” but not really.

I found a compassion and wisdom inside myself that could only have come from knowing him. He never met a stranger, so I didn’t. He always stopped to help others in trouble, so I did. Special days and holidays ceased to be anything more than brief memories. I felt a growing connection to him.

Each time I stopped to comfort someone, I felt like he was there. I asked myself what he would be doing if he were here. Then, that’s what I did. He loved me.

And that has made all the difference.

If you have lost a loved one, you may think all is lost. That’s not true. Somewhere, deep inside you, there is a knowledge and an abiding love that will save you. Not only that, the love of the person you lost will help you build a new life that feels right.

Think about him or her. What was most important in their lives? Who were they? What would they want to do if they could? Do those things. Honoring our loved ones is perhaps the most important thing we can do to achieve true healing.

About the Author

Jan McDaniel

Jan McDaniel volunteers as an Alliance of Hope forum moderator, manager, and blog content provider. She is also a regular contributor to Psych Central’s World of Psychology blog and writes about survival, connection, and hope on her website.Read More »