One. Our Relationship With Others and the Relationship With the Person Who Has Died

Next Pillar

The Relationship With the Person Who Died

The more important they were in our life, the more we loved them, the more we will miss them.

What Helps

The contradiction here is that having had a difficult relationship with a significant person in our life, who has died, can make the grieving process harder, because there are likely to be regrets, and no longer the opportunity to put things right.

We’ve seen in the stories that the relationship with the person who has died although radically altered, continues, loving them in absence, rather than presence. Some people may need to do this a great deal, others only occasionally or on special days like anniversaries.

A central pillar to support our system is to: find ways of externalising that relationship

  • It may be by wearing something that connects to them, like their watch, a name band or an article of their clothing like a scarf
  • It may be visiting their grave, creating a memory box in which you put in special objects like their glasses, or cards or pressed flowers; a photograph album or writing to them in a journal of in the form of a letter
  • Cooking their favourite recipe
  • Posting online an image you know they’d have loved

There are multiple of ways to do this. Finding an external expression for continuing this relationship through regular rituals is not only important but has been shown to reduce negative emotions and increase positive ones.

Over time the regularity of these rituals may lessen.

Our Relationship With Others

Having good strong relationships with others is the central tenet to a good and happy life. Relationships require self-knowledge, commitment and time, as well as love. If we are to thrive we need to do the work, and it is hard work, to ensure we give and receive the love that makes life worth living.

What Helps

Recognize that as we change in life so our relationships will change, with our partner, family and friends. That means we need to find ways of communicating our love, what we need, as well as having difficult but important conversations, and ways of repairing the rupture after a fight.

The secret power in communication is the capacity to be able to listen – yes, we need to be able to communicate honestly, but unless we are fully heard the purpose is lost. It is the capacity to be reflective through listening. By ‘listen’, I mean actively listen: listen with your heart, listen with your eyes so you pick up visual cues, and listen so you actively pay attention to what is being said, not busy rehearsing what you want to say.

The honesty from those conversations builds trust, one of the foundation stones of good relationships. A useful exercise is to take it in turns to speak, five minutes each, and the listener has to reflect on what they’ve heard before taking their turn to speak.

It means making our key relationships a priority, which involves really making time: time to have fun together, play together and time to just be together. Perhaps regularly have a date night, or commit to do a hobby together or simply go for walks together.

Relationship with Oneself

As our relationship with the world and others is changed by grief, so does our relationship with ourself change.