Why You Should Talk to the Dead: The Power of Continuing Bonds

May 15, 2024 ◊ By Elisa Everts ◊ |

Why You Should Talk to the Dead: The Power of Continuing Bonds

Freud, who meant well but missed the mark more than once, gave advice to people about dealing with grief that turned out to be dead wrong. He suggested that the best way to cope with losing someone was to just try to forget about them and move on with life. But as it happens, that advice wasn't helpful at all. It's actually more healing if we actively remember our loved ones and keep our connection with them alive in our thoughts.

In fact, Freud set up several generations for bad grieving experiences by insisting that the chief aim of grief work was to forget the deceased loved one, to end our attachment to them and get on with the business of living. We now know that this advice was way off base. Intuitively, we might have guessed this.

David Kessler, a grief expert who worked closely with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, says, "When someone dies, it doesn't mean our relationship with them ends." Now, you don't necessarily have to talk to them like they're still here every single day, although some people find comfort in doing so, and they may be surprisingly wise in having this practice. In fact, it can be a healthy way to honor their memory and maintain the bond they had with them.

That's because what grief experts now understand is that we resolve our grief most effectively when we very consciously remember our loved ones and continue our relationship with them.

There are many ways to continue your bond with your loved one. Here are a few ideas:

  • Talk out loud to them, write letters or poems to them in a journal, or ask them for advice
  • Keep photos around, make a collage
  • Wear their favorite clothing or jewelry, their favorite color
  • Find a way to include them in holidays: Visit the cemetery on special occasions, make their favorite food on their birthday, or spend time in a place they loved
  • Finish a project they were working on
  • Take a trip they always wanted to take
  • Adopt a hobby they were engaged in
  • Share memories with friends or retell stories about them
  • Listen to music that reminds you of them
  • Maintain rituals you shared with them, or establish new ones in their honor
  • Keep things that belonged to them
  • Do some of these things to remember them on the anniversary of their death; not as a celebration, but as a way to honor and remember them. This is super helpful to your mental health.
  • Live your life in a way that would make them proud

The healing process is facilitated, not by forgetting, but by consciously remembering and integrating the presence of our lost loved ones into our lives. Ultimately, honoring their memory not only enriches our lives, but also brings peace and healing to our souls and our mental health.

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About the author

Dr. Elisa Everts is the founder of Evertree Hope Management and is a dynamic public speaker, author and trainer. Dr Everts is passionate about helping cancer patients and bereaved people in their quest to survive and live a full life during and after cancer and grief. She has the personal experience of surviving Stage IV cancer and the loss of many loved ones. She understands the challenges inherent in these experiences and the importance of cultivating hope through the stories we tell others, and even more importantly, to ourselves.

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Elisa Everts, phd

Speaker | Author | Educator

Finding Hope in Cancer & Grief

Elisa Everts, phd

Speaker | Author | Educator

Finding Hope in Cancer & Grief

I speak to medical professionals and patients, helping them provide hope when there seems to be none. If you or your organization need someone to help process the difficult topics of cancer and grief, let's set up a complimentary call, 703-656-6691, ee@elisaeverts.com.

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