The Fear of Forgetting a Deceased Loved One
He sobbed, trying to get out the words through the deep pain in his heart so I could hear it. “I . . . (taking a breath and a gulp to swallow the cry) . . . am afraid I am forgetting my son.”
The Mental Process of Bereavement
As my client finally found words for his suffering, my heart understood the experience behind the declaration. There was a time I too was fearful of my son’s memory fading into obscurity. Immediately following our son’s death, my mind was consumed with his memory. I could vividly replay the days that his leukemia gained the victory over his life. The dark morning of his death never wandered far from my consciousness. He was the focus of every waking thought and was found even in my dreams. But I struggled to recall all the scenes of his sweet three and a half years. Would they disappear as he had from my life? With the passing of time, I encountered days with little or no thought of my deceased son. I wondered how to understand this occurrence. Was I forgetting him?
“May I ask you a question?”
The sobs were subsiding and he replied, “Sure.”
“When your son was alive, were there times you didn’t think about him?” Silently I waited for his answer.
“Yes . . . of course there were. I would go to work and not have a conscious thought about my son for the whole day. Or when I was out golfing, I didn’t think about him then.”
I responded, “Did you fear that you were forgetting your son or that somehow your love for him was ending?”
“Of course not.
How Love and the Mind Work Together
“Since your son died, the very nature of grief means that your mind and heart are consumed with thoughts, memories, regrets, questions, and a never ending rewinding of mental images and stories of your son. This intensity continues for varied periods of time, depending on the person. Grief (your overwhelming sadness) is also the top priority for your mental and emotional focus. However, eventually as healing for your broken heart takes place, you begin to think about others, other issues, and other concerns. Your mind has space to think about work, social gatherings, political topics, simple pleasures, and more. Balance returns all the while your memories of your son remains.”
Kick Out Your Fear of Forgetting
I further queried, “Do you think this fear of forgetting your son and doubting your unending love for him, is visiting you today like an unwelcome intruder?”
“Well, I didn’t wake up this morning saying to myself, ‘I think I’ll be fearful today,’” He chuckled. “So I’m thinking this fear is very unwelcome.”
“Fear has a way of sneaking in when we are not looking. It is also escorted out when we accept the truth about a situation. The truth is, the natural occurrence of healthy grieving moves us back into functioning daily living. There is increased mental energy and focus to think about things around us and the consuming thoughts of our loved ones begin to fad. However, your love for your son and your memories of him will never end. Just as you knew you loved him and could remember him on demand before he died, the same will be true now and into the rest of your life. Amazing little things will trigger those memories and release your love. Are you ready to let fear out the back door?”
He was and I hope you are too.
© Karen Nicola 2017