“Remember me with smiles and laughter, for that is how I will remember you all. If you can only remember me with tears, then don’t remember me at all.”
—Laura Ingalls Wilder
What does remembering mean to you?
So many times we are told to forget the past, let it go and move on but what also holds true about the past is that it is gone, we can’t change it and every experience holds many truths. Whether that experience is good, bad, positive or negative everything that happens in our life is there for us to recall and to find great comfort in, inspire us with wisdom and motivate us to keep moving forward.
Remembering someone we loved and cared about is painful, especially when they have left us with a hole in our heart. With all the changes that come with loss one change we can’t escape is that loss changes who we are. It is in our recollection and remembering of those we have loved, the good and the bad that provides comfort and gives us the peace we are so desperately searching for.
The positive side of remembering gives us power and keeps our loved ones alive in our hearts. A beautiful life cherished for years and years ends too soon and we are filled with memories galore. How heartbreaking that it ended and your loved one is gone. By telling stories; by gazing at old photographs; by using old recipes; by wearing old jewelry, our loved ones stay with us and keeps family traditions intact. Quite often our most happy, loving and cherished memories gives us strength and keeps us full of life allowing us to maintain what is so important, the essence of family.
The down side of remembering causes much discomfort because it means we have to feel those scary and painful emotions over and over again. In the case when someone leaves you because they no longer want to be with you, the memories can bring on questions and thoughts of feeling less than.
Why did it end? Why did they leave? Why am I alone? What is wrong with me? How do I go on from here? All of these questions cause us to feel bad and to lose our confidence. Our self-worth and self-esteem diminish and we feel doubtful about our ability to be in a relationship.
Yet, in the heart of this overwhelm is the truth. The truth is that the one who left you just did and their leaving is their choice especially when the choice is to walk away and not to consider preserving the relationship. That kind of choice has nothing to do with you. What you are left with is to decide if you want to focus on the pain and negativity or do you want to recall all the good, loving, wonderful aspects of this union that you will always cherish and hope to have again or do you want to focus on the pain and keep yourself stuck?
The choice is yours and my hope is that you will choose you and do the work you have to do to have all the beautiful parts of that relationship that you would always want for yourself and leave the negative and painful parts where they are, in the past. Left there to look at, learn from and grow.
How we remember is how we heal and in order to heal we have to look at our relationships with kind eyes. There are no perfect relationships out there and the risk you take when you chose to love means that you will be hurt. There is nothing you can do but realize that once you decide to love another human being your heart is vulnerable and in jeopardy. I’m not talking about intentional hurt that is conscious and premeditated. I’m talking about the hurt that comes from being a human being with strengths and, unfortunately, many weaknesses.
So how do you go about remembering in such a way that comforts you and empowers you at the same time?
When we remember we get to choose what and who to remember. How do you want to think of this person and how do we want to feel? What stories have not been told for a while? What have you learned from them? What do you feel when you remember? What must you still sort through? Lots of questions and the answers are up to you.
Maybe remembering for you means:
Making a photo album or collage of photos of family and friends;
Telling friends and family that it’s ok to talk about the loved one who has died, that you want to talk about them, that you need to;
Frequenting a place that was special to you and your loved one…. Don’t stay away from what you used to do;
If you lost your loved one due to illness or disease, volunteer or make a donation on their behalf to support the cause;
Making a music CD of tunes that represent what you loved about your relationship with your loved one; play it often and share it with others.
Reach out to someone else who is hurting and offer whatever help you can – you will definitely feel better.
This list is just a snapshot of what you can do but nonetheless, remembering is important, all of it, the happy beautiful moments as well as the sad, painful and devastating losses that have come along the way. In a perfect world, there would be none of this, no pain, no hurt, no abuse, no violence, no suffering whatsoever. We would be loved and loving human beings living for the good of all and seeking the best in ourselves.
Life teaches us otherwise and in the cracks of pain and loss we realize that we have strength, goodness and love inside that we didn’t realize was there. We are here to serve and to live, love and to share all that life has to offer with ourselves and each other.
It is in the remembering that we come to know the best and the worst of ourselves. It is also the place where we can learn, grow and find peace knowing that at any moment we can make a choice to love. And with love, we are always safe and whole.