Possibilities for Change after the Death of a Partner

That grieving occurs in stages is a theory that has gained support and become popular in the last fifty years . This idea of grief-in-stages supports the view that grieving takes time and includes many different experiences. It also suggests that grieving should end in acceptance, letting go, and moving on. For many people, moving on means leaving behind the best part of their lives and much of their identity. As one widow of a glorious 23-year relationship said, “Why would I want to do that?” An alternative way of thinking about grief is to find a way to continue aspects of the lost relationship. This continuation may take the form of a survivor:

  1. internally speaking with his partner;
  2. holding his partner close in his heart and mind;
  3. seeing himself through his partner’s eyes.

There is no “one way” to live with the death of a cherished partner. The following examples illustrate how three people continued the relationship with their partners:

  1. Ben put pictures of Gloria in every room of their home after her death. Looking at them helps him continue to be the person he wants to be: the person he became in relationship to Gloria. Three years after her death, when he wanted to be involved in another relationship, those pictures helped him be clear that any new partner would need to honor Gloria’s place in his heart.
  2. Mary painted a picture of Sy that contains the names of his loved ones. The painting hangs on her living room wall where everyone can see his connections. To keep him alive for his sons, she often asks, “What would your dad say about that?”.
  3. Dan writes letters to Ryan and answers them in Ryan’s voice as only he knows it.

These three people are going against the accepted wisdom that urges survivors to let go, and all have found that holding on gives them much more to go on with.

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