Things to Remember Me By
When tragedy strikes and snatches a loved one from us, it's effect is downright heartbreaking. For many, however, the only way they cope with such a significant loss, is to keep something thing that once belonged to that loved one close, to keep their memories alive and have that as a reminder of how much they mattered in their lives.
I can relate to that all too well. My grandmother was always looking out for me, so when she passed while I was still in the process of discovering who I was, it was unbearable. A few say that she would love the woman I've turned out to be because I am a lot like her. To keep her close, I carry around with me one of her most prized possessions - her engagement ring. She loved jewellery so I was honoured to receive her engraved ring which symbolised the union that brought my mother into this world. I wear her ring everyday with great pride, knowing that she still walks with me and continues to watch over me. I was pleased to know I wasn't the only one who saw the silver lining among the looming clouds.
According to associate clinical psychologist Matthew McKenzie, memories are an invaluable part of the human experience. "Loved ones who have passed on are a part of our life experience that won't be allowed to continue with us, and so it is natural for many people to find ways of holding on to them. For some people, this becomes easier to do when they have an item that belonged to the deceased," he explained to Outlook.
A few readers shared what they kept to remember their loved ones by:
My father was very talented, known for his service as a fireman, barber, and artist on the side, singing and playing the bass guitar. He went to do an exam to move up the ranks of the fire department, and during the exam, he complained of not feeling well. He then collapsed and by the time they got to the elevator with him, he was covered in cold sweat. By the time, he received medical attention he was gone. The autopsy showed he was healthy but the paperwork ruled it as a sudden heart attack. The family was devastated as no one saw it coming, so, I carry a picture of him in my purse so that I can always keep him close to me. And seeing that it has been almost 20 years now since his passing, I don't ever want the memory of him to ever fade.
- T.S., female, 32
The closest person I've ever lost is my best friend O'Brien. He died in a car accident in 2013. He went to the Maritime Institute and would leave the country for couple of months at a time for his training. He claimed on one visit to have learnt some expletives in some other language. I asked him what they were and he sent me a voice note saying a bunch of weird stuff. When he died, I decided to put it on my iPod. So every now and again, when my music is on shuffle, he randomly pops up saying foreign curse words. The reason I keep it is because it's the only way I can actually still hear him, and still laugh at him for being so crazy, despite the situation.
- B.C., male, 28
I treasure everything about my ex-boyfriend, who was killed a few years ago, in particular, two T-shirts he used to wear and a watch I bought for his birthday. I cherish those because they make me feel like his presence is still around. They also bring good memories. The shirts I have still has his scent, and I keep them tied up in a bag to trap the scent - his scent for when I really miss him and feel like smelling them.
Call me crazy, but they make me feel like he's right there with me. Also, he passed away when I was five months pregnant, so the biggest treasure he left me was our daughter. It's hard that she is growing up without her father, but she looks so much like him, so I tell her stories about him, and she is very close to his extended family, so they share stories as well. She is my constant reminder of the great man he was, and I'm happy that he left a piece of himself with me.
- S.D, female, 26
Based on the evidence provided by the aforementioned testimonies, McKenzie highlighted that the power of these item or memories and their symbolism. "People hold on to objects that have shared significance for the loved one and themselves. These personal items elicit what psychologists refer to as emotional memories - and while emotions that are activated by memories aren't always experienced as intensely as the real-life event, they can come pretty close and still create a powerful experience. In instances such as these, the emotions are usually a mixture of happiness and sadness and where the individual puts their focus, can direct the emotions resulting in a more positive or negative overall experience."
He argued, too, that if holding on to a personal item contributes to the healing of the living relative, then it is an effective way to cope with loss, "However, excessive hoarding (retaining large amounts of material items) of the loved one's possessions can be a concerning indication of the living relative's challenge with coming to terms with the loss and moving on with their own lives."
He notes that there is no one formula for grieving, and often times we are not quite sure of the formula until we're placed in the situation. The key, he advised, is to always maintain a state of mindfulness or awareness about our own well-being and also rely on support systems around us to keep us grounded.