In Search of Solace: How Memories Help Us Cope with Loss

When attempting to cope with the loss of a friend or loved one, it can feel overwhelmingly difficult to ever be happy again. This is especially true if the loss is greater, such as that of a spouse or child. Nevertheless, we persevere, and many of us turn to the past in order to face the future with as much strength as we can muster. When in search of solace, memories of happy moments can warm our hearts – and prevent our minds from straying into darker territory. Today, we will take a deeper look at this phenomenon and why it occurs.

The Presence of a Loved One

Watching old home movies, wedding videos and favourite films of those who have left us can act as a link or connection that is unbreakable. The same principle applies when going through photo albums of all the moments shared together over the years – a very common thing to do during the coping process after we are too tired to shed tears anymore. The effect of revisiting these moments is that we feel as if the person we miss is still with us, making us smile, laugh and feel emotions that we did not believe we would feel again during their absence. This is especially true for individuals who lose their other half and have had a life full of memorable experiences together. This is why many of us yearn to grow a family, travel, and share moments together while we have the luxury of doing so. This is a very healthy reaction and ought to be encouraged. Dig out those old slides of Hawaii, find a loved one’s favourite album of upbeat music, or put on their favourite movie with the kids. You may be surprised at how much help it can be in easing tension and making you feel as if that loved one is still there physically.

A Good Kind of Nostalgia Trip

After losing a dear friend or loved one, we often revisit places where we created happy memories with them. Whether the timeless comforts of a movie theatre or that stretch of Cuban shoreline where a proposal was made under the palms, there are good kinds of nostalgia trips to embark upon. The only trick is to avoid spending too much time in the past – linger around for long enough to reflect, remember, bask in the memories, and move forward with them in your mind. After all, just because this chapter of someone else’s life has come to a close, it does not mean the same applies to you.

Also, it’s almost a given that the dearly departed person in question would be excited and happiest to see you continue onwards.

Coming to Terms / Healthy Coping

Let’s say a grieving mother is struggling to comprehend and move on from the passing of her son. Attempting to make sense of it all and find some sort of solace, she wanders into his room where all of his possessions – and unmade bed – are left in-situ as if he were still coming home. Noticing his favourite video game system still plugged in, she moves over without even thinking about it, picks up the controller, and turns it on. The mother is unsure about what she is doing, but there is a sense of comfort and connection with her son. Before she knows it, an hour has passed and she is smiling, entertained by the same passion her child shared. What is important, however, is that she does not spend the rest of her days in front of that screen, only revisiting on occasion when she needs a little emotional pick-me-up. This can serve as an ideal substitute for truly toxic coping mechanisms such as alcohol and drugs.

Gravitating towards aspects of a loved one’s life that were familiar to us acts as a mental anchor of sorts, keeping us grounded in reality while still able to enjoy healthy distractions such as this. On one hand, the mother is remembering the joy her child experienced with that same controller and video game. On the other, she is drawn to something that sparked this initial joy because she is desperate to find it herself. While it can be very unhealthy to leave everything frozen in time as it prevents us from moving on, applying moderation in the sense of getting to understand the loved one who passed on – such as via this example – can serve as a way to take our minds off the more bleak aspects of the loss.

Loss is a very difficult thing to deal with on our own, and every one of our experiences will vary in terms of emotional intensity, mental strength, and perspective. If you are suffering from losing a loved one, do not face it alone. Should you need the unbiased perspective and guidance of a professional therapist away from the support of family and friends, we are here for you. Contact us today to get in touch – it would be a pleasure to get to know you and the individual who means so much to you.