Handbook for Mortals : Enduring Loss : Reinvesting in life after the loss of someone you love

Eventually, those who live on will find ways to become engaged in life again and, like old Badgerís friends, will remember good aspects of the time before the illness, or even during the illness. At various points, a survivor will often feel ready to reinvest in life. Someone living without a spouse, for example, might find a new job or hobby. Someone involved in a bereavement or support group might feel ready to share experiences with others. People do discover new loves, interests, and habits.

Survivors often devise their own ways to remember and honor the person who died. Some people create special areas in a home where they arrange items that belonged to their loved one, such as toys, collections, books, photographs, trinkets, that serve as glad reminders. Perhaps ask members of your worship community to remember the family at special times. Family may visit the graveyard, feeling there a place to talk to the personís spirit. Some plant a tree or garden, install a special stone somewhere, or make donations to a charity. One woman, to honor her late aunt, donated books to a school library, with special bookplates in her auntís name. Some say prayers on behalf of a loved one, or talk to him or her. There are as many ways to remember those who have died as there are people to remember them.

It can be very hard to cope with loss during holidays that encourage family togetherness, or on anniversary dates, such as the personís birthday or the anniversary of the death. Again, people often develop rituals or prayers to honor the dead on special days.

As a survivor reinvests in life, he or she may feel pangs of guilt that somehow, by finding pleasure in life, the loved one who died is being forgotten. Try to honor your memories by letting joy enter your life. One mother, writing about the loss of her teenage daughter, states it most eloquently: "The memory does not go away when you start to heal, and living a full life does not deny the emptiness left by loss."

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Handbook for Mortals book cover Copyright © 1999, 2006 by Joanne Lynn. This extract from the Handbook for Mortals by Joanne Lynn, M.D. and Joan Harrold, M.D. is used with permission. To learn more about improving care at the end of life visit the main web site for Americans for Better Care of the Dying.
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