Resiliency in Death of a Loved One

Resiliency in Death of a Loved One

Resiliency in Death of a Loved One

© Judy Helm Wright

As playwright Robert Anderson said in Tuesdays with Morrie, “Death ends a life, not a relationship.” What is that new relationship going to look like, now that our loved one can no longer stand before us and talk about the weather? How can one hope to bounce back with resiliency from an ultimate blow to our hearts and a permanent change in our lives?

Death presents us with a challenge: how do we continue to grow as individuals without outgrowing our relationship with the deceased?

Honoring The Past While Looking Forward

Here in America, we live in a fast-paced society, and even in laid-back Montana, change can be viewed as golden, while the old is condemned. We’re encouraged to move forward, buy the next car, the newest form of media, and try the newest restaurant, all the while forgetting what came before, leaving it for the scrap yard or the garbage man.

New clothes, new parks, and new friends can be exciting, but especially we don’t want to forget what came before, what brought us as a nation, as a state, as individuals, to where we are now.

How Do We Continue Rituals and Traditions?

The words ritual and tradition make some of us cringe and others of us think of cults or other negative associations, but ritual and tradition are a part of the human experience. Every culture has its own unique traditions, observances, and rituals: every culture has its own set of ideas, its own ways of celebrating, acknowledging, announcing, and sharing events such as births, coming of age, weddings, and death.

America is a melting pot of cultures, so from family to family, traditions surrounding holidays and get-togethers can be different, and with our mobile society, sometimes traditions change from generation to generation within the same family. When we celebrate New Years or the Fourth of July, we each do it differently. Grieving need not be any different.

Honoring a loved one is personal.

Feel free to create your own traditions and invent your own ways to honor your loved one. If you have a family or religious tradition surrounding death, and it comforts you, then embrace it. Each one of us has our own way of handling death and loss.

If you lack traditions surrounding death, feel free to borrow ideas from friends, neighbors, even books. Best of all, tailor your own new traditions to the relationship you had with your loved one.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you create your own personal way to honor your loved one.

5 Ideas to Bring Resilience and Healing from the Death of a Loved One


1. Did my loved one have any projects or last wishes that I would enjoy completing?

2. Did my loved one and I have any special places that I could visit on anniversaries or some other regular basis, when I could physically go and acknowledge our relationship and what it meant and still means to me?

3. Did my loved one and I have any special traditions that I could continue on or share with others? Perhaps it was a love of art or music. What gift would help others remember your loved one?

4. Did my loved one have friends or relatives that I can keep in my life, so that we can share our memories with each other?

5. Do I have any actions that comfort me which I might incorporate into a nightly, daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly observance where I remember my loved one and allow myself to sit with my feelings? These actions may be as simple as lighting candles, looking at pictures, watching home videos, or curling up with a loved one’s blanket.

The death of a loved one is not easy to bounce-back from, but it is possible to be more resilient to grief as you practice new methods of remembering and honoring their lives.  I have confidence in your ability to rebound from the death of a loved one while honoring their memory.

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