Monday, August 26, 2013

Choices: Remembering or Forgetting

Dear Reader,

When I walked through the door on my first visit to a grief support group the air was so heavy I had to catch my breath. Memories weighted the atmosphere and almost crushed me. But I went back each week and we slogged through the heaviness, leaned into those memories, rode out the waves of grief. And then, finally, the air lightened. Faces brightened. We began to remember more than the pain. We remembered the life, the goodness, the love. Choosing to remember is one way to deal with the pain.

Sunset in Hawaii by Sherry Luttrell
But some individuals and cultures deal with grief by choosing to forget. Its like they shut the door to that period of life: take the pictures off the walls, get rid of all the person's belongings, start dating right away. . .

I read the story of a man who escaped the genocide in Rwanda and Burundi, Africa in the 1990's. His culture chose to forget. They called it gusimbura: you don't talk about the dead, you don't name them. You're reminding people and it's not acceptable.

Which do you choose? Are you a "rememberer," or a "forgetter" when it comes to grieving? I'm not asking if one is right and the other is wrong. I'm just asking which one you're inclined towards. Or are there days you wish for a fast forward button on your life? Click the word "Comment" below and send in your thoughts.

Here's something else: The first of every month I post the particular month's Memorial Wall. If you'd like to add your tribute, please take a look at how it's done and email me your information at I'll be glad to serve you by adding it to our wall.

Here's what to state:
  • Date of passing
  • Your name
  • Your spouse's name and (if you want to) cause of death
  • If you have children, their names and how old they were when their dad (or mom) passed.
  • Optional: Add a sentence or two you'd like to say.
  • Optional: general location--state or country

  • Each month I use this listing as a prayer guide and I'm thankful to know that others also use it to pray for you. Thanks for visiting the WCP today, and check back next Monday for the September Memorial Wall.



    1. I have to say I am struggling here. There are pictures that I want to replace throughout my house b/c it is not a reflection of my present family and the people in the pictures are mere memories and no one that I know now (mostly pictures of my and my husband). I am such a different person than I was. But then I dont want him eliminated from our minds and hearts, which I realize won't happen just by updating pictures in frames but pictures are a big deal to me. They jog my mind of memories and family, and in that way I dont want him eliminated. So my answer is I dont know. Not a great one but thanks for the post. It is very helpful to work through these things with a community, even if it is a cyber community.

    2. You're so right Michelle, it is helpful to work through these struggles with a community. I never did have a lot of family pictures on my walls, but when I see them in other people's homes I can imagine the feelings they'd bring. I'm getting ready to put up a wall full of pictures now though. There will only be one or two pictures of my late husband, Bruce, and of Tom's first wife, Marilyn, and they're in groups, not portraits. I had tried doing a scrapbook of Bruce's photos and stuff, but utterly failed---just didn't have the heart for it. I don't know why.... What I ended up doing was putting personal photos and momentos of Bruce's into some decorative wooden boxes he gave me for Christmas one year. Tom had Marilyn's things boxed up when he moved to marry me. They're available now if he ever wants to go through them. So we've kept their pictures and a few special things, but we keep them more private and that seems to work for us. I hope to hear from others and what they are doing with this struggle.

    3. I'm a rememberer, but as time passes I find that thinking of putting things away gets easier. I'm doing it gradually. I put his toothbrush away, but the thought of throwing it away was terrible! Now I think I could throw it away without regret. My mother-in-law made me and my kids and other members of our family photo albums. I treasure each one. I usually like the pictures on the wall, but one time, after being away at a church conference, I was feeling pretty good when I walked in the door and seeing the family picture on the wall hit me like a blow. I guess on times that I feel I've been able to move on I'd rather not have a reminder hanging on the wall. I still think it will be a while before I take any pictures down. I don't know what I'll do woth all of Adam's textbooks and notes - he taught physics and loved to learn, so I have boxes of books and notes. Eventually I'll probably donate or recycle them, but for now it's too hard to get rid of them. I definately wish I could fast forward through this grief!
      -Kristin Smith

    4. Photo's have been a real struggle and painful for me, to put away or not to put away? Then I read somewhere that pictures are just images of the real person and we must not allow an image to become an idol or replacement or a substitute of what was the real thing.

      God's word says that Mary in Luke 2:19, " treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart"
      to ponder means to reflect upon, to meditate upon to think over. Mary kept them in her heart for reserve for private personal pondering.
      It is in our heart where our treasures are.
      Almost everyday in my prayers I ask God to give my husband a hug for me and thank God for loaning him to me for such a short time. I thought of him as mine, and God reminded me he was just on loan, that he belonged to God.
      The real essence of their person is embedded deep into our hearts, their physical presence is absent, but how real and alive they are in the depths of our hearts. So it is a good thing to ponder upon those precious treasures in our hearts to ponder upon those wonderful moments, those moments of joy.

      I have two 2x3 photos downstairs and one 2x4 upstairs. Photos does trigger my emotions and that's when the battle begins. But then I remember he is alive in heaven and alive in my heart. So if he is alive with God and God is with me, then we are not far apart. (just a small way to solace my heart)

      1. ** I remember he is alive in heaven and alive in my heart. So if he is alive with God and God is with me, then we are not far apart. (just a small way to solace my heart)**

        That's how I feel too.

    5. A Fast Forward button is exactly what I wanted during grief, Kristin! I sure can relate to all these comments. Let me assure you it does get less painful; it's a struggle, but God is on your side and helping you with his love and watchcare. The song I posted on Saturday keeps singing in my heart. He is with us!

    6. I am a rememberer.

      It's been almost 9 months since my dear husband went to be with Jesus. I picture him healthy, happy and at peace and that blesses my heart.

      Different things can trigger the grief for me. Sometimes it just sneaks up on you and hits you with a double whammy. Other times it's quieter. I do know that it's not as RAW as it was in the beginning.

      I am so thankful for the 43 years we had together.


    7. Oh, wow - what an example of God's timing this post is today! Over the last 6 months or so I've turned what was "our little nest" into my own, and have even been able to refer to it as "my house" instead of "our house". May not sound like much to anyone else but another widow, but it's been huge for me. Now I'm beginning to tackle the hardest project - I've taken down the dozens of pictures in the hall and am trying to decide which ones to re-hang, which ones to put away somewhere to make a final decision some other time, which ones to mail to Gordon's brother (the only one of his family to keep in touch with me), etc. Don't think I'll be able to actually throw any away, though - I'm too much of a "rememberer". It'll be three years in October since Gordon went Home but the loneliness is still overwhelming at times. If I didn't have that blessed assurance that he's healed and happy, and that the Lord is with me every day, whether I feel Him or not, I simply do not know how I'd keep on keeping on. Thank you so much, Ferree, for all your hard work and efforts to encourage us. You're such a blessing! P.S. Since I don't have any idea what a URL is, apparently "Anonymous" is my only choice? Oh, well - guess it doesn't really matter, does it? Thanks for letting me share anyway. It helps to unload, even anonymously. :-)

    8. Dear Anonymous--- It's great to hear God's timing is once again perfect! Don't throw away any of the pictures tho, but it won't hurt to box them up so you can take them out again in the future. And if you have a blog or website, that'd be your URL (I think). In my opinion Anonymous is easiest and fine with me. If you'd like, add your first name at the end of the comment and that'll help identify your comments in the future. ((hugs))

    9. Dear Flower Lady Lorraine, You're such a treasure. Picturing your husband peaceful and happy in heaven with Jesus is the best picture of all. I love that comment about solace too---heaven is just a heartbeat away, not far at all.

    10. I am one that wants to remember. How could I possibly "forget" or put aside someone that has been a part of my life for 21+ years. I would not do that if I lost a child, or when I lose my parents, etc., etc. That does not mean I have a "shrine" for the person. (But some may have a special spot for mementos and that is o.k.) I have pictures in boxes because, frankly, I was never good at getting them in albums even when he was alive. :/ One day! But I do have one picture that I have in my bedroom and my wallet that one of my children said looked as if "daddy" was looking to heaven. That is a priceless picture and I am reminded of our life together and where he is now. I don't talk of him in the present anymore but I do talk about him because to not, would be a great disservice to my children and to his memory. He did exist and I want that to never be forgotten. I do want to say that everyone is different and there is no cookie-cutter approach to grieving and moving forward. I think sometimes we can get more stuck and question ourselves trying to be like others in how they handle their losses. The way I do things because of my personality or circumstances surrounding me may be quite different from others. And that should be o.k. with everyone, mostly myself.

    11. I want to remember. I want to still feel close to him by seeing his pictures or things. Even though he is no longer here with me he is still a big part of my life. Having pictures out also helps keep his memory alive for my granddaughter.
      The couple who led our Griefshare group both lost their spouses and got remarried and when they combined their household they each have a memory wall of their first loves photographs in their basement. I think it takes a strong relationship to be able to do that.
      I hope to someday also make a memory wall, not only of my husband but everyone important that I have lost. DT


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