Continuing a Relationship After Death

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York photoshops photos of her daughter to illustrate continuing bonds grief theory.“Become all the things you love about the one you lost.” This was a post that appeared on Facebook recently. Shortly after finding it, I discovered that one of my favorite authors, Alexandra Fuller, wrote a new memoir, Travel Light, Move Fast, that suggests the same idea. Due out in August, its description begins:

After her father’s sudden death, Alexandra Fuller realizes that if she is going to weather this loss, she will need to become the parts of him she misses most.

You may be wondering, how does one ‘become the parts of’ someone else? This is something I’ve been practicing ever since my daughter Marika died eight years ago. Broken and miserable, first I wanted to die too. But I got distracted from that as I searched through all Marika’s belongings to learn everything I could about her. Then I made desperate efforts to honor, imitate, follow, dress like and eat like my daughter. She sang, so I sang. She wrote, so I began writing. She was courageous so I tried to be less fearful. She loved photography, so … Allowing my daughter to inspire me, I simply did what she did and learned to love what she loved, until I could barely remember my life as it was before.

Holding on to Marika and continuing a relationship after death was the only way I could survive. It has turned me into a better person. A happier person. Having incorporated different parts of her life into my own life, I carry her with me as I continue to participate in the world. This is one approach to the Continuing Bonds grief theory that is based on redefining or creating a new relationship with a deceased loved one rather than detaching oneself and moving on from the loss.

Sometimes I think of myself as the mother who swallowed her daughter , and then really became alive herself. I am here now because of Marika. When I found who she had been, I discovered who I could be.

 

Who would you die for? Who would you live for? Who would you change your entire self for, to keep alive and present in your life?

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6 thoughts on “Continuing a Relationship After Death

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    I wanted to differentiate myself from Vic and grief, but since he now resides in my heart, I can consult him daily–and I’m not different from him at all. Thank you, Robin.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Yeah. I kinda know what you mean, Elaine. You are Vic now, and he is you. I am my daughter. And I am bigger and better for that now. As for the grief – well, it makes everything else sweeter, more fragile.

      Reply
  2. Lynne Taetzsch

    Wow, Robin–I had never thought of approaching the death of a loved one this way. Thank you for this insight. And I love your photo-collage!

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Yow, Lynne. Thanks. That collage really bothered a lot of people. So it made me happy to hear you liked it. I wish I could say I created Continuing Bonds but really I just did everything I could to feel a bit better about the huge hole in my heart when Marika died. Turns out, lots of people have been doing this – keeping their relationships going with deceased loved ones – for a long time.

      Reply
  3. Monica J Sword

    It was unsettling for me when I found I had so much more to learn about Lena, my daughter who died, after her death. I thought I knew everything about her. How naive I was. Mimicking and walking in her footsteps became a pastime for me. My choices were often guided by what would she have done in this situation. I live for her because she died. She once asked a friend to “live it twice” knowing that she couldn’t.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I guess I know what you mean, Monica, when you write that you “live for her because she died.” I feel so much better hearing that you spent time mimicking Lena and doing what she did – for me it was the only way to hold onto my Marika, our relationship, to life and living on without her. Oh, the ways we find to survive.

      Reply

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