Forgetting After a Loss
One of the hardest parts of grief is the forgetting. Forgetting the memories you shared with your loved one. Forgetting the small things that now feel like the big things. Forgetting how they would have reacted to something going on in the world. Forgetting the sound of their voice or the wrinkles in their face. These are the things I find most difficult in my grief, years after the loss I experienced.
My dad died when I was 14, so maybe the forgetting is worse when you lose someone at such a young age. It is such a pivotal point in your life that when tragedy strikes, your brain and body are altered. As you grow older, you realize you were deprived of so many years with that loved one and as a result, have less memories shared. I think anyone who has lost a loved one can relate to the forgetting as time goes on, no matter how long they knew their loved one.
You might long for something as seemingly simple as the smell of their cologne. Then one day you smell a whiff of something that reminds you of them and it brings you back to a moment in time before they died. It brings you back to them, even just for a moment and you wish you could bottle that moment up and hold onto it forever. That’s how powerful remembering can be.
I find myself trying to remember things about my dad, anything new to make me feel closer to him. What did we talk about when we would eat bagels together for breakfast? What life advice did he share with me? What was his favorite place he ever traveled? Actually, I think I know what he might have answered that question with. He probably would have told me he didn’t have a favorite. I remember one time asking him his favorite color and he told me he didn’t have one. I forced him to make a decision, so he chose blue. Such a seemingly unimportant conversation at the time, but now it feels like a piece of our history. It feels like a tangible piece of our relationship I can remember and hold close to me. It’s a piece of the puzzle that was him, that I’m trying to solve so I can keep him alive.
So how do I keep from forgetting? How do preserve all the memories I currently hold inside? I write. I write down anything and everything I can remember about him. I write so I can one day share these stories with my children and their children. I write to ensure that those around me who never had the chance to meet him, get the chance to know him and know the incredible human that he was. Beyond writing, I must continue to talk about him and ask questions of those who did know him. My dad had people in his life who knew him far longer than I did. They are sources of stories that I have the ability to tap into if I just ask. I recommend you do the same. You will be so pleased when you learn something new about your loved one. A piece of that puzzle will be even more clear and one day they may not feel so far apart. Forgetfulness is the worst, but it’s also an opportunity for remembrance, which can be an incredible gift.