When you are grieving, what 'letting go' really means

When people talk about grief, they will often describe it as one of 'letting go', 'moving on' or 'getting over it'. This idea comes from Freud and psychoanalysis. It was thought that people needed to 'detach' their emotional investment from the person who died, and re-attach it to something or someone else.

In 1996, the ground breaking book Continuing Bonds, looked at how people grieved from all around the world. What the authors uncovered, was that people from different cultures and backgrounds didn't let go. What they did was maintain a bond with the person who died.

In the aftermath of a bereavement, we are often left with the memories of the events leading up to the person's death. Our other memories get pushed to one side. Counselling is often about helping the person to add back in to these other memories.

This 're-connection' helps to add back in the other feelings we have. Our grief becomes more bearable and we often have a sense of feeling more whole. When people talk about 'letting go', what they usually mean is letting go of the intense sadness and allowing back in their other feelings about the person who died.

Six things you can do to reconnect

  • Create a memory box - buy, make, find a box to keep things which remind you of the person.
  • Make a special place - plant a tree, put up a plaque, or set aside a shelf or cabinet where you keep reminders such as photographs.
  • Keep a journal - make a record of the person's life. You can include photos, poems and cards.
  • Share your memories - talk about the person with other people who knew them.
  • Set aside important dates - do something which reminds you of the person. Perhaps visiting a special place or an activity you shared.

These six things also happen when talking to your counsellor/therapist. Such as sitting with you whilst you talk through the items you have saved in your memory box, or entries you have made in a memorial journal. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Eastleigh, Hampshire, SO50
Written by Mark Redwood, BA (Hons) Counselling
Eastleigh, Hampshire, SO50

I am a humanistic counsellor, which means I believe we are born with the potential to lead full and rewarding lives. Sometimes, we can get stuck and need some help to get going again. I have a BA (hons) in counselling. My experience includes working with young people, bereavement, anxiety, depression and anger.

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