Grief & Remembrance: The Fear of Forgetting

"I don't want to do the grief work because that means I'll forget about them."

"If I have a moment where I'm not grieving, does that mean I don't care about her?"

"I'm afraid I won't remember what it's like to be with him."

"I'm already forgetting the sound of their voice/laugh."

Do these sound familiar? One of the biggest fears I've seen clients walk through while grieving is forgetting their deceased loved one (for another common obstacle with remembering deceased loved ones and how to navigate it, view the Piles of Love: A Guide for Loved Ones' Belongings video on my educational YouTube channel Exposing Grief). While we have incredible days dedicated to remembering and honoring our loved ones, most want the ability and space to remember their loved ones on a regular basis. In honor of Mother's Day and Father's Day (for those of you grieving this Mother's or Father's Day, I'd like to invite you to read An Ambiguous Mother's Day and A Grieving Father's Day to continue honoring your grief journey during these holidays), I want to create a space for remembering our loved ones beyond these two powerful days.

What Do We Mean By Remembering?

The dictionary defines "remember" as the following:

"Have in or be able to bring to one's mind an awareness of (someone or something that one has seen, known, or experienced in the past)."

This definition only describes the meaning of the word and the concept. When talking about what something means, we neglect to paint a picture of how we experience the particular concept being defined. For example, the act of love is going to carry the same definition for everyone; however, the way in which one feels and shows love will look different from one person to the next. Similar to remembering; the definition provided above is true for everyone however, the way in which we experience remembering our deceased loved ones and express that remembrance will look different for everyone; contributing to the idea behind the definition of remembering looking different from one person to the next. With that, let's dive into an exercise!

An Exercise For Defining Remembering

I'd like to invite you to explore and answer the following questions to help determine what the act of remembering looks like for you:

  • How do you define the act of remembering?

  • When you are remembering someone or something, what are you doing?

  • What is your favorite (or has been the most powerful way) to remember your loved one? (Read my blog article discussing the most common ways to remember your loved ones while grieving, for more inspiration)

Every person is unique and every relationship is unique. In stepping outside of universal definitions to shape how we experience certain elements of grief, you are encouraging a genuine and authentic healing process; allowing you to honor your unique grief journey (Check out my Honoring Your Grief Journey blog to learn more about what embarking on this journey means.)

Forget Me Not!

There are meany reasons contributing to why we forget. Possibly one of the most common is time lapsing; resulting in us forming new "lived experience". While we can't stop time, that doesn't keep us from putting efforts towards trying to offset the inevitable occurrence of our life changing and looking different without our loved one physically present. And why wouldn't we? We didn't ask for this to happen; if we had it our way, our loved one would still be physically present and our life would go on as normal and the way we expected it to. Below are a few common ways we attempt to keep things the same after our loved one's passing:

  • Leave everything the same way our loved one left it. For example, leaving a child's room set up the exact same way it was the morning they left it for the last time.

  • Hesitant to move forward for it feels as though we're moving on without our loved one.

Again, these responses are 100% valid! They are safe, help us stick to what we know, and allow us to feel like we have some sense of control over the situation. However, there can be some risk when too much rigidity is present within one's grief journey (such as never creating the space to gain the ability to grow around your grief and/or learning how to carry the loss with you. For more information on what these processes mean view the Looking Behind The Grief Work Curtain video on my Exposing Grief YouTube channel). So how do we find a balance between feeling as though some things stayed the same while others have changed?

An Exercise for Remembrance

Great question! We want to strive towards finding a way to keep our loved ones' memory alive while continuing to experience our life. Let's dive into an exercise to help us explore this further; I invite you to explore the prompts below:

  1. What do your fears say about forgetting your loved one(s)? (i.e. "If I have a "good day" that means I'm not thinking about my loved one and moving on without them.")

  2. If you were to validate and challenge those fears, what would that sound like? (i.e. while it may feel like you're not thinking about your loved one on your "good days", you know you're always thinking of them. To challenge this, recognize the moments you've thought about your loved one on your "good days"; the same way you'd recognize those moments on your hard days.)

  3. What are you doing in your day-to-day to acknowledge your loved one(s)?

  4. What few treasures of theirs do you want to hold onto to keep your loved one's memory alive? (i.e. their favorite item, a sweet verbal message they left for you to help reduce the fear of forgetting what they sound like, certain pictures or videos, etc.)

My hope for this blog article is to remind you all that honoring your grief journey doesn't mean erasing or forgetting your loved one; rather, it means learning how to grow around your grief and carry the loss with you as you redefine your life. If you wish to explore the exercises above further, or you're ready to begin your grief therapy journey, click below to schedule your FREE 20-30 minute consultation.

If you're not quite ready for (or in need of) grief counseling but would like additional resources/exercises to begin (or continue) exploring your grief journey, check out my Exposing Grief YouTube channel for a wide variety of exercises allowing you to begin (or continue) honoring your grief journey.

Here's to living a better life as your best self!

Brittany Squillace, MA, LMFT

Grief Counselor

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