People respond to separation in different ways. Some hold tightly to every memory, every momento. Others try to remove all things that remind them of the lost loved one. Coping strategies depend on individual personalities, the type of relationship, whether the loss was a surprise, whether the person mourning instigated the separation and and host of other variables. If you have been left by the person you assumed was your life partner, for example, you might want to forget everything possible that was shared. Some people take this approach, too, when someone dear has died and the survivor cannot cope with the loss.
Memories Reinforcing Pain
When I was first single, I tried to put aside every shared memory, but I discovered that these efforts created a massive hole in the middle of my life. I had been a dozen years with my partner, we had travelled to multiple countries, we had a son together, we had created several homes – so many parts of my life were intertwined with hers, that when I attempted to extract all memories of her, my life was incomplete. I mourned not only the loss of my relationship, but also a large part of my life. My memory is quite good and I can look around my house and remember when and where almost everything at home was collected from around the world. This sort of memory is not helpful when you are trying to forget. I found myself wandering around my home trying not to focus on the things around me.
Realising My Memories are Mine
Then I got angry. These are my memories! I did these things! Whether or not she was a part of it, I had lived this life in these places! I then realised that I did not need to forget about the past. I could hold onto what was mine. I could cherish the memories and moments. This is an important insight for moving on with your life. Your acts of kindness, your bravery, your adventurous abilities to jump into the future – all of those things that defined your past are still yours! For years, I dreaded various anniversaries, but now I am able to remember fondly the joyous parts of those events.
Taking Control of Your Future
Finding peace is not always easy, but it is within your grasp. No one else can give you peace. Others can hold your hand or listen to your difficulties along your journey, but the person who ultimately decides if you will have peace is you. Part of peace is gratitude and being able to compassionately, lovingly and gratefully remember the good times in your life is a step towards peace.
A Shared Memory for Me
An example from me? There are many, but one is this photo that I took on my anniversary a few days ago. It was the first thing my ex and I bought – two coffee cups – while travelling together across the USA to start our life together in 1996. We stopped in Taos, New Mexico, and saw these cups. It felt so strange to be buying something together. A symbol of our future. I don’t know if she still has her cup. I kept mine in the cupboard for years, but eventually dusted it off and when I see it, I can joyously reconnect with shared memories.
There are a number of ways to help yourself reconnect with avoided parts of your life. A first step is to process your pain and begin to imagine a beautiful life of your own, without your loved one (or in which memories of your loved one are integrated into your life). If you need help, contact us.