One of my favorite quotes about grief comes from the book Tuesdays with Morrie. It’s a very simple, but very profound line: “Death ends a life, not a relationship.” Put another way, the relationships that we form while people are living do not end when a person dies. Instead, we turn a relationship that was once a physical, tangible, obvious relationship into one that is a relationship of memory. Less tangible, and less obvious, but just as real.
We may notice the choices we make continue to be influenced by those who have died. We may make efforts to honor our deceased loved ones’ memories in various ways. In a sense, the grief experience is the path that connects these two relationships, and an important task along the journey of grief is to create and maintain bonds that are stronger than death.
Indeed, love is a force stronger than death. Love is that power that helps us to preserve old connections, that helps us to recreate new connections, that can ease the pain of grief, and that can help us to find meaning in loss.
Consider Page Hodel, a San Francisco artist who had a ritual of creating a heart for her beloved Madalene Rodriguez every Monday. After Madalene’s death in 2006, Page continued her ritual, only now she shares them with the world. Every Monday, Page creates a “Monday Heart for Madalene” and emails an image of it out to anyone who would like to receive it, in an attempt to “blanket the world in love.” This is a perfect example of a ritual, born out of grief and love. Now it touches the lives of thousands of people.
What might you do to honor the continuing bonds in your relationships with deceased loved ones? Perhaps you can create a “Monday Heart,” or maybe find your own ritual to stay connected.
I leave you my thoughts,
my laughter and my dreams
To you whom I have treasured
Beyond gold and precious gems.
I give you what
no thief can steal,
The memories of our time together:
The tender love-filled moments,
The successes we have shared,
The hard times that brought us
And the roads we have walked
side by side.
From Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim by Edward Hays
What are some of the ways you have stayed connected to those who have died?
-by Laura B., grief counselor