Making the Turn

It is very important that a widow not become stuck in her grief.  How do we now love our spouse?

In his book Loss and Change, Peter Marris talks about how to love a person who has died.

If the very purpose and meaning of our lives are integrally connected with this lost person, how can we let him or her go?  Would that not denigrate the central role that person played in our lives?  And if we were able to let that person go, wouldn’t such an act devalue what he or she meant to us and, by association, devalue all our relationships?  And would we not be callous people if relationships could be changed so easily?

We see this behavior in the extreme in Queen Victoria’s legendary order that her late husband’s shaving articles be laid out every morning as he if were still alive.  We see this in a less extreme fashion in the lives of those people who, two or three years after a person’s death, have made few if any changes that indicate the person is no longer present.  So we remain stuck, unable to make even those changes we want to make and know would be good for us.  We are stretched taunt, wanting to remain close to the person who is gone, but going about it in a way that can result only in stagnation.  Life is made more miserable.

As part of the act of The Turn, we find a way to alter our relationship with the lost person so that she or he remains a part of our lives but in ways that are appropriate.  At this point, we begin to make a clear distinction between those ‘patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior that are clearly no longer appropriate…which only make sense if the lost person is physically present,’ and those that allow us to remain linked to the person in a positive way through maintaining values and pursuing goals that we shared with the lost person.  We are able……to retain a strong sense of the continuing presence of that person without the turmoil of hope and disappointment, search and frustration, anger and blame, that are present earlier.

Elizabeth Harper Neeld, PH.D, Seven Choices


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