Relationships with Deceased Loved Ones Continue, Change, and Grow

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a collage of herself and her daughter's images to represent ongoing relationships with deceased loved ones.My daughter used to tell me “Go fall off a mountain, Mom” and “I hope you drown.” After she died, six years ago, I kept hearing her voice.

Rocky relationships lead to complicated grief. Bonds with your deceased loved one, complex or otherwise, continue unless you intentionally detach yourself. Current grief theories no longer demand an ending point or detachment from the deceased in order for an individual to be considered healthy and well adjusted. Counselors acknowledge that we find ways to redefine our relationships with loved ones after they die, often creating ongoing connections that can last our lifetime. These relationships can evolve and mature, especially if they were of an abusive or dysfunctional nature. They can make you into a stronger, more compassionate person. If you want to witness this, listen to Sherman Alexie’s audiobook version of his new memoir You Don’t have to Say You Love Me, produced by Hachette Audio, 2017. Renowned author, poet, and filmmaker, Alexie struggles to come to terms with his chaotic childhood on the Spokane Indian Reservation with the mother he simultaneously loved and hated.

There are many ways to maintain long term ties with loved ones after death. Some of the ones Alexie employs in his memoir are: talking to his mother, keeping her photos, remembering the ways she influenced his life, imagining her advice or opinions on current issues, living in a way that would make her proud, saving her quilts and other special belongings, allowing himself to experience her presence, doing things she liked to do, writing letters and poems to her, and researching her life to learn what made her the person she was. In the audiobook version, read with great passion by the author, Alexie sings, cries, reads his mother’s words aloud, and speaks for her. She becomes a part of him. “I have a better relationship with my mother – with the memory of my mother. A better relationship with her ghost,” he writes on the box that contains the CDs.

Long after my daughter died I kept talking to her. With time, her harsh words softened and I heard her begin to support me, cheering me on when I was scared, “Go for it, Mom. You can do this.” Each day I carry her with me to whatever new venture the day brings. I’m a bigger, better person because of her.

 

Do you talk to any ghosts? How do you feel about listening to audiobooks versus reading? Have you listened to or read any great memoirs lately?

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8 thoughts on “Relationships with Deceased Loved Ones Continue, Change, and Grow

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thanks, Monica. Just got my copy of HOOFEN FLOOFEN ISLAND. Looking forward to reading this aloud by the pond, my favorite place to read things lately. Aloud.

      Reply
  1. Sandy V

    Very powerful piece, Robin! Keep missing you on the hikes, we need to connect soon.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thanks, Sandy. With all our travels, yours and mine, we are rarely in the same spot at the same time. This too will change. Summer in Ithaca is like beginning a huge jigsaw puzzle. All the pieces all over the place, waiting to be put in order. September. It’s coming soon, if August races by like July did. September is when all the players convene in Ithaca for The Start. The new semester, the new season. We’re gonna find ourselves in the middle of September wondering, where did the summer go. And what’s next?

      Reply
  2. Lucy Bergstrom

    A lovely story of transformation. How wonderful that the sorely missed loved one can turn from a cranky, sometimes nasty voice to one that cheers you on!
    I’ve had a few lovely encounters with my father, who died in 1973.
    I love to listen to audiobooks when cooking, driving, etc. But prefer “real” books. I recently read Astrid Lindgren’s biography by Jens Andersen. Very moving – what a magnificent person!

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Cheers, Lucy. The thing about audio books read by the author is that you get more meaning simply from their way of reading aloud their own words. I found Alexie Sherman, who is so gifted in voice and presentation, to be a powerful “read.” It just adds another dimension to the written material and in Sherman’s case, it was a very raw emotional quality that made the text come alive for me. I like “real books” too but when read by the author – I cannot resist.
      I wonder what the nature of your encounters with your father was. Dreams? Visitations? It is so beautiful to feel like they are still present in some way. I’m really hoping my reading with the medium in December doesn’t negate or destroy that. I’d love to be able to report back that this mediumship stuff is real and really helps.

      Reply

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