How to use connecting objects as you grieve and move on with your life
Connecting objects are literally any type of physical object or image that connects the grieving person in a comforting way with a deceased loved one. They can also be used to create a ritual of remembrance or continuity, as well as a reminder of required behavior when establishing new routines.
The use of attachment objects is not widely recommended because many support people mistakenly believe that they tend to encourage pathological attachment to the deceased while neglecting the task of reinvesting in life. In fact, bonding objects can be major motivating factors for accepting the death of a loved one and starting a new life without the loved one’s physical presence.
Here’s what you need to know to use this important coping tool.
1. Choose any item belonging to the deceased that has special meaning for you. It can be a key chain, a medal, a photo, a piece of clothing, a letter, a toy – whatever you want. (One woman in one of my support groups carried her sister’s purse in her own purse.) You can also use something the deceased bought for you or you bought for yourself on a memorable vacation with him or her.
If you had a dream about a visit from a loved one, consider taking something from the dream as a connecting object. It could be jewelry or clothing that you have worn and still own. Also, consider an award, diploma, teddy bear, or birth certificate if the deceased loved one was a child.
2. Another type of linking object to think about is choosing a word (love, hope, care, compassion, etc.) or saying that describes the character or kindness of the loved one. Take it to a calligrapher and write it so it can be framed or reproduced. It can then be placed in various places that are meaningful to you and used as inspiration, tribute or reminder.
3. Call upon your creativity to bring special meaning to your life from your connecting object. A woman I know melted down her and her husband’s wedding rings and made a new piece of jewelry that brought her a very special message. Or go to your local library and find a symbol book that gives long-accepted symbolic meanings to various objects or colors. For example, the color green is a symbol of life and growth. Decide how you can weave the information you find into your choice of connecting object.
To summarize, bonding objects are actually transitory objects that help the mourner maintain a healthy bond of remembrance and gratitude as one begins the journey of finding new ways to reinvest emotional energy in life. They have an intimate meaning only for the bereaved and others often do not see the meaning.
These subjects are a kind of learning tool for bringing empathy, understanding and the awareness that love never dies to the experience of tremendous change. Psychotherapist Thomas Moore, with extraordinary insight, puts it another way when he says, “Grief is just a change in being, in the way you live, think, and relate to the world.” You can emerge from your grief and sadness with new strength, compassion, and vision that you never knew you possessed.
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