How to reduce grief

I was lieing on my bed, my teenager daughter in my arms sobbing her heart out at the death of her grandmother.  In some ways, the pain I felt was worse than being at Mum's side as she took her last breath.  As Mum died, so did her pain.  But here was my precious baby girl, in agony, and there was little I could do at that moment to take her pain away.

Once she had calmed down, I went through the dialogue that I guess has been said by many people at such points - that Gran lives on inside our hearts and in our thoughts.  At that point, another wave of tears broke as she said, "I am scared I am not going to be able to remember her soon".  That one flumoxed me for a bit and I had to dig deep for a solution. Thankfully one came...

I spend much time with clients talking about how to get rid of thoughts that are negative and this was the first time I had to think about how to actively keep the thoughts that are positive.  The tennis racket approach is what I teach to bat the bad thoughts away so it seemed to make sense that an opposite strategy was needed.

I told her that it was a bit like exercise.  The more pressups you do, the stronger your arms get.  So she had to go to her mental gym and keep calling up all the memories she wants to keep and 'exercising them'.  Keep calling up those memories and as you remember them, feel the feelings that you felt when those memories were created.

As a therapist, I always feel more comfortable giving people suggestions that I have experienced or done personally.  The advice I gave to her was not something I had done; so time to put my money on the table too!  

I spend about an hour a day out walking the dog.  Normally I plug myself into audio books during this time but since Mum's passing, I have spent every walk thinking about her.  Whilst many may see it as morbid, I really want to hold on to the memory of the moment she died.    She no longer looked like the Mum I'd cared for, she could no longer speak.  But she died holding my hand and I felt such incredible love and it is that that I want to hold on to.

I had read somewhere that we are born connected to our mothers through the umbilical cord.  I love the thought that she ended our lives together with us still connected through holding hands.  This memory still brings tears to my eyes, a lump to my throat, but in keeping that memory alive, I can also still feel her hand and that incredible love that a mother and daughter share.

So I wanted to share this story becuase I imagine that everyone has moments in their life that they want to keep preserved forever.  There is a way of doing that in the moment but if ithe memory has already been assigned to the memory banks and is perhaps fading, then I now know that you can keep it alive. You just need to create space for yourself to enter your mental gym and exercise it to make the memory strong again.

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