Reconciling the Past and the Present: Remembering a loved one with your child
Grieving is a challenging process. One of the many difficulties in the grieving process is the fear of forgetting a loved one. As a parent, this fear may be intensified because you may worry that your child will forget the precious few memories your child had with a loved one. Alternatively, you may grieve that your loved one never met your child. Reconciling the past and present has its obstacles, but as stated by Allison Gilbert, “[w]e can all live our fullest lives when we accept that absence and presence can coexist.” Here are some ways to remember and celebrate your loved one with your child.
Rituals evoke nostalgia, making them an extremely effective tool for both the grieving process and remembering a loved one. Although nostalgia brings a sense of loss, the net result is happiness. Nostalgic memories inspire positive feelings of joy, high-self-regard, belonging, and meaningfulness in life. Research suggests that nostalgia may also relieve loneliness and it can bring us closer to others. The rationale is that when we experience the intense bond with a deceased loved one, we are more likely to experience similar bonds with others in the present. The types of rituals you can do to stimulate nostalgia with your child are limitless.
- Eat the person’s favorite food. Food is a pathway to the past as it has the ability to evoke memories of feelings and emotions through the senses.
- Listen to their favorite song. Just as food evokes memories from the past, so does music.
- Watch the person’s favorite movie. If your child was unable to meet your loved one, watching their favorite movie can show insight to the personality of the person. For instance, is it a comedy? A person’s sense of humor is a window to the personality.
Create a safe place for remembering
It’s very important to have a safe space reserved for remembering a loved one. The grave site is a customary location for remembering a loved one. However, visiting the grave with your child is a personal choice. If you decide a visit to the grave is not the best choice for your child, there are other ways to create a safe space to remember a loved one.
- Choose a time of day. The sunset is a symbolic and beautiful time of day to reserve for remembering your loved one with your child.
- Plant a tree in memory of the loved one. This creates a physical space to remember your loved one. Take your child to the tree and share memories of your loved one.
Celebrate the person
Celebrate your loved one on their birthday, anniversary, favorite holiday, or any other day. It does not have to be sad. Discuss memories or look at photographs with your child. Make a scrapbook of their life; include feelings and thoughts, pictures, and poems. If your loved one enjoyed watching football, watch their favorite team. Travel to your loved one’s favorite city with your child. Celebrate the loved one in a way that will honor the memories that you have.
Remember to acknowledge your own grief. It is okay to show your emotions because it reassures your child that feeling sad is okay. Children often mimic the parent’s grieving patterns. By showing your child a healthy way to grieve and remember, it will help your child deal with their own emotions in a healthy way.
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