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Memories and Fantasies: Exploring the Grief Language of Imagery

by | Sarah's Corner

It is interesting to think about the ways in which we grieve, offer support to those in grief and talk about our own experiences.  What I mean by this is that we really allow our culture to decide for us how to experience grief, our own or someone else’s.  Our culture says that bereavement lasts 3 or 5 days.  Our culture teaches us that talking about death is not appropriate and fails to teach us how to be with those who are grieving.  If I had a dollar for every time I have read “people aren’t going to mention your grief because they don’t want to upset you” I’d be rich!   I will say that I have been graced, beyond measure, with a tribe who IS willing to be with my grief…but I believe that my experience is the exception.  I believe because of their willingness I have been able to integrate my grief in ways I never thought possible.  You must know that I was sure I wasn’t going to survive the loss of Marley.  You must understand that when my dad died too I was certain my life or any hope for a moment of joy had evaporated.  

I wonder how things would be different if grievers had the tools to teach, with ease, our tribe to support us?  I wonder what our shared grief experience would look like if we were able to give our circle a language that supports our path to integration.

The way this looks in my life and with my husband is this:  he spends much of his grief energy reviewing the memories we share with Marley.  He finds deep comfort and validation in revisiting her life and with loved ones sharing their memories with him.  I do too…but for me, I spend more of my grief energy fantasizing about what she would be doing, who her friends would be and what she would look like or talk about right now, as a six-year-old.  As my husband and I continue to navigate the world of ‘couples grief’ we have just recently started noticing this difference.  We started to ask each other for the version of grief that best suited our integration.  It has been incredibly enlightening and I think it’s the foundation for a deeper connection and shared grief experience.  I never knew he was so motivated by our memories and he never knew how I am comforted by dreaming about our girl.

On the fantasy:

Maybe it’s ‘easier’ to be in the land of wonder than in the land of memories.  I sometimes have such anxiety about not having enough memories. I worry a lot about losing memories or just being given 2 years and 354 days’ worth of sweet memories with Marley.  How many times can these same memories be played out to provide comfort?  The fear is that there is somehow a limit.  A fear that someday these precious treasures will feel rehearsed and lose the vividness of their moments.  It’s like holding snow or ice or anything that changes shape after time and doing everything you can to stop nature and prevent the change.  Change is scary.  Grief change and change in memories or the comfort they bring is terrifying.  I can, though, spend the rest of my life picturing Marley doing all the normal things a girl should be doing.  There’s no threat that I won’t be able to imagine it, picture it, and yearn for it.  This fantasy will always be available. Even though I resent this fantasy and spend time rejecting it and revolting against it, It is my life and reality.  I live each day without her physical body.  

For today, this is my truth and a piece of the path to integration.  It is a reminder that I am Free to Grieve, in my way and in my language.

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