Letting Go Does Not Mean Forgetting - Jenny Kander
by Lerato Maribe
(Johannesburg, South Africa)
I joined a support group called Compassionate Friends, and I got this article from the newsletter they send to members. It really touched me, so I thought it could help someone else out there.
First of all let me say to you that the mind holds on whilst the heart does not forget, but it does not seem as if, in the face of loss, we trust our hearts. Something to think about.
I would like to draw an analogy between parenting in life and parenting in death. (I am going to refer to the child as "him" although I am speaking about both sexes.) At the beginning, when a child is born you hold him, nurture him, protect him because he is so helpless and you love to take appropriate care. As the child grows you gradually let him move away from you for short distances, delighting in the first signs of independence and the developing sense of self. He repeatedly returns to his parents for reassurance and then ventures out again.
As time goes on you send him to nursery school, primary school and then high school. He goes through stages of modelling himself on his peer group and then, later on, challenging his parents' authority. Thereafter he pursues a trade or a career, marries. He becomes relatively independent of you as you do of him. All this time, if the family is emotionally healthy, the parents, have been progressively holding less and freeing more. It is a natural process of seeing your young out of the nest.
Parenting in death needs to follow the same pattern. At first there is the holding, when any suggestion of letting go is unthinkable, the child, whatever his age, has newly died (or been reborn into afterlife (whichever way you wish to look at it) and needs your loving thoughts, your prayers, to be held safe in your hearts. As time passes and he continues to evolve, as he has been doing here on earth, it is necessary that he be let go of a little more and a little more. This is important for your well-being as it has been for his during his lifetime here. In afterlife he is being taken care of perfectly appropriately, that is something your religion will ask you to trust. You, left here with your immense sense of loss, and must once more gradually let go. Change is an inevitable part of the process of life, your child needs to journey on as you do.
This might raise the question of how you are to recognize one another when it is your time to die. Soul to soul, in essence you are bonded, the heart never forgets, so there cannot ever be any danger of non-recognition.
Why is letting go so important? It seems so unwelcome a request and so hard to do. Its importance lies in your progress through your grief towards healing; the health of your existing family relationships; your freeing up of your energies to begin to live a life that can regain meaning.
Your surviving children need to live their lives and to have parents who are not inconsolable but who are returning to normality again, however changed they may feel.
The time comes to give away toys, clothes, belongings; to allow your child's room to be used by the family and not to be kept as some sort of shrine. Your surviving children need to know that they are as important to you as is their sibling who died. Parents so often tell me that of course their children know how important they are to them, but ask the children and often there is a different perception.
Send your love again and again to your deceased child; talk to him; share with him your desire for his well-being, but do the same for the children you have with you and allow your focus on your deceased child gradually to shift more and more to the living. This is not disloyal and it is not desertion. Your child wishes you well too; they all need your recovery.
As marriage partners, if you do not gradually learn to let go of the child who has died, you will continue to have a depleted energy resource for your marriage. All your children want to see you live a fruitful life of mutual caring once more; do not deny that to yourselves or them.
Developmentally speaking (returning to the analogy once again) it is appropriate that as time goes on you and your children, whether alive here or in afterlife, become more independent of one another. Letting go is not forgetting; it is trusting the process of which we are all a part