Losing a loved one is a devastating experience and nothing ever truly prepares us for it. We wake up one day and suddenly realize that they are no more and that we will never get the chance to see or interact with them again. This can evoke a feeling of loss so strong that we are overwhelmed with grief. To relieve ourselves of this feeling, we might practice self-preservation in several ways, one of which is reminiscing our memories of this person.
Remembering the moments we shared with someone we've lost can significantly reduce our grief, which can go a long way in helping us reach closure.
However, as humans, we are bound to forget these memories sooner or later, and when this happens, we become overwhelmed with grief all over again. This is an example of a secondary loss, and it occurs when we feel like we've lost someone the second time because we've forgotten the sound of their voice, smiles, or some other memories of them that were so important to us.
A secondary loss is the loss a bereaved person experiences due to a loved one's death. It is all the unexpected ways someone's death affects us, especially in our daily activities.
Secondary losses can come in different forms. For instance, we might experience them when we realize that we are starting to forget the sound of this person's laughter, how they looked when they smiled, or the beautiful moments we shared with them. We could also experience secondary losses when we engage in activities that remind us of this person.
For example, if you used to catch up on the day's activities while doing the dishes with them after dinner, when they die, you might feel a pang of grief and loneliness every time you do the dishes.
Secondary losses are other losses and grief we feel, not primarily because of the person's death, but because of other losses and the void that comes with losing them.
Secondary losses are indirect ways by which we feel the impact of the death of a loved one. Secondary losses come in different ways. Some are very obvious while others are less subtle - this however doesn't make them less impactful. Secondary loss can come in the following forms:
The death of a loved one can affect how people regard us, especially if they were a public figure. In this case, we could lose the identity or responsibilities we had due to our association with the deceased person.
So if you are a minister's wife, when your husband dies, you might no longer be recognized in that capacity, thereby losing part of your identity.
If you shared a daily routine with your lost loved ones before they passed on, you might avoid that routine or do it less often now than you used to. You might also experience frequent pangs of grief anytime you try to engage in those routines without them.
If the person you lost was your benefactor, their death would mean less income than you were getting when they were alive.
Grief is a powerful emotion—so powerful that it can affect our lives significantly. Losing a loved one could make us lose certain beliefs we held.
For instance, you might have believed something, but then the death of a loved one might make you stop holding that belief. Say, you might have had faith in humanity, however, the brutal murder of a loved one might make us lose that belief and conclude that the world is wicked.
The death of a loved one could also mean the loss of some of our dreams that were tied to them. For instance, you might have fantasized about traveling the world with your partner after retirement, but then their death would make this dream impossible to achieve.
Human beings are naturally forgetful. This is why we rely on various methods to help us remember important information. When we forget pieces of information, it might sometimes look like they are gone for good. However, this isn't usually the case. Forgetting a bit of information does not mean you've permanently lost it. Rather, it means you can't retrieve it from your memory at that time. This is the same way our memories fade.
When a memory fades, it doesn't necessarily mean that the memory is gone. Instead, it could be that we simply can't retrieve the full details of the memory from our long-term memory. There are different reasons why our memories fade over time, but here are 8 likely reasons:
We experience new events, meet new people, and see new things every day, and our memories of them often displace our older memories. This is known as the interference theory.
The interference theory claims that one of the main reasons we forget memories is that some memories, especially those that are alike, interfere with one another, causing the earliest memories to slip deeper into our subconscious, which makes them harder to remember.
Events, interactions, and experiences lead to the development of memories. Thus, your emotional state during the events in a memory can also determine how long the memory will remain in your subconscious. Emotions strongly influence several cognitive processes in humans, including memory, learning, and attention.
Events we experience during a heightened state of emotions are more vivid and likelier to be remembered than those we experience when we are more relaxed.
You will find that memories formed when we were scared, sad, angry, or happy are much easier to recall. This is because these emotions are attached to the memories, thus making the memories easier to remember.
The emotions associated with our memories do not necessarily have to be positive. As long as they are powerful, they will evoke memories more easily.
Our emotions are like a cord tied to our memories. Once you remember or try to invoke them, you can easily tug out the memories associated with them, and the same is true for memories tied to less intense emotions.
One factor that affects our retention of an event is how often we think about the event. Naturally, memories that we often think about will last longer in our subconscious.
However, our daily lives and activities might not leave enough room for us to reflect on our memories of our loved ones. So, sooner or later, we forget these memories.
Some of us might even choose to bury these memories because they cause us sorrow and remind us of our loss.
The health of our brain also determines how easily we recall memories, especially when we're old. As we grow, our brain's health deteriorates, and different neurological conditions can set in, which might further weaken our brain's health and make it difficult to recall memories. Popular examples of such conditions are dementia, stroke, and Alzheimer's.
Any information our brain processes is first stored in our short-term memory before moving into our long-term memory, which holds memories for a long time.
However, if the received information is not stored properly in our short-term memory, it might never get to our long-term memory. As a result, the information would be difficult, if not impossible, to remember.
Even if the memory can be recalled, its details would be lost in time, so we would only remember it vaguely.
According to the trace theory of memory, the interval between the formation of a memory and its recall determines whether or not the memory will be easy to recall.
If the interval is short, the memory will be easy to recall. However, if the interval is long, the memory will fade over time and become harder to recall.
Retrieval cues are pointers or elements present during process of a memory storage. Sometimes, our brains store and encode memories using retrieval cues. Thus, our ability to recall these memories depends on our ability to recognize their retrieval cues (that is, whatever triggers them).
For example, the memories of your wedding day will be easier to remember if you smell the flowers you used for your bouquet. In this case, the flower's scent is a retrieval cue, which makes it easier to remember that particular memory.
Naturally, we focus primarily on the parts of our memories that are most meaningful to us. Hence, it is easier to remember these parts than other less significant parts.
For instance, if you try to remember the day you gave birth to your child, you might forget the color of the clothes you were wearing that day. However, you would surely remember when your child first held your hands or curled toward you because that moment means a lot to you, which makes it so easy to remember.
Even though there are various theories about why our memories of our loved ones fade, this doesn't make it easier to deal with the grief and disappointment that come with forgetting these memories. This is why we'll share 10 effective ways to help you remember your long-cherished memories of your loved ones. These tips will help you reconnect with the memories of your loved ones and keep your memories fresh and alive in your mind.
Videos have a way of capturing moments as they unfold. So, naturally, they are a great way to trigger memories of the moments we shared with those who are no longer with us—not only because we get to see their faces but also because we get to hear their voices and remember what they sounded like. This will keep your memories of them burning brightly in your mind.
Looking at their photos from time to time will also make it easier to picture them in your mind's eye.
Thanks to advancements in technology, it is now easy to store as many videos and photos as possible. You could store them in the cloud and other online spaces where they will always be safe.
You could also place the pictures inside picture urns or photo engraved jewelry in memory of your loved ones.
We understand that it might be hard to go through these old videos and photos at first, as they will mostly remind you of what you've lost. Still, we encourage you to give it a try because it will give you the closure you need and help you retain your memories of your loved ones. Fortunately, you do not have to rush this process; simply take your time and go at your own pace.
Celebrating the birthdays of those you've lost can be painful, especially if the loss is still recent. But you'll find that it's worth the effort.
Take your loved one's birthdays as an opportunity to honor and celebrate them. See them also as a chance to bring your loved ones up to speed on everything that has happened in their absence; because while our loved ones have left this plane, they are still very much alive in our hearts.
You should also take this time to reminisce the beautiful moments you shared with them and how they positively impacted you.
Remember their old birthdays and how they celebrated them, look at their old birthday photos and videos, and smile at their antics and how it all went.
You don't have to do this alone. You could always invite their other friends and family to celebrate with you.
This will help you retain your memories of those you've lost and make it seem like you're creating new memories with them.
One of the ways we bond and make memories with people is over food, which makes food an excellent way to keep the memories of our loved ones alive. For instance, you could prepare your loved ones' favorite meal just like they used to or eat their favorite cookies or candy. This could serve as a retrieval cue for your memories of them and help you retain these memories better.
Food is also a great way to spark conversations about your loved ones with people around you.
Whether we use their mac and cheese recipe or eat their favorite ice cream dessert, preparing and eating the food our deceased loved ones loved is a powerful way to reconnect with them and keep their memories evergreen in our minds.
If your loved one once mentioned a place they would have loved to visit or a place that was special to them, you could visit this place and try to see it through their eyes.
If you haven't visited this place before, that's all the more reason to go there, especially since it would make you feel like you've just discovered something new about your loved one. It would also help you to learn to travel again without them.
You can also visit places that were special to both of you. This could be a bookstore or the cafe where you first met each other; just make sure wherever you decide to visit was special to your loved one.
Visit these places and do what you would have done if they were there with you.
During your stay there, you could order what the two of you usually ate or listen to the song that was playing the day you met them.
You could also write them a letter while you are there. Make it seem like you are talking to them. Tell them what has and hasn't changed about the place. Also, tell them what you did there and which memories you remembered when you visited the place. This is a beautiful way to reconnect with them and create new memories for yourself.
As we said earlier in this article, nothing ever truly prepares us for the death of a loved one. Even if it was a death we were expecting, it doesn't make dealing with it any easier.
One of the biggest reasons we deeply feel the loss of a loved one is the realization that there are conversations that we will never get the chance to have with them again. But one way to ease this feeling and reconnect with them is to write them a heartfelt letter or express our feelings for them in a video.
This is your opportunity to share all the unsaid words and feelings you've held inside for too long.
The letter doesn't have to read like a college essay, so don't worry about your punctuation or spelling. Just grab a pen and let it all flow out.
If you find that you can't express yourself adequately in writing, you could consider recording a video instead.
Set up your camera, sit in front of it, and start talking. Pretend you're having a conversation with this person. You can also imagine their answers to some of your questions and follow up on them. This is another beautiful way to reconnect with your loved ones, express yourself, and get some form of closure.
It's easy to feel isolated when we're grieving. Sometimes, we might feel like nobody understands what we are going through. This might be true, but there will always be other people around us grieving the death of the ones we've lost; they can relate to our grief, comfort us, and offer us some closure.
Meeting up and interacting with the friends of those you've lost will show you how much of a positive influence they were on other people around them. It could also help you remember some events or memories that you might have forgotten or fill the blanks in these memories, making them more vivid in your mind.
Finally, you could host an event or a gathering with your loved one's friends and family and talk about the memories you all shared with them. This gathering can take place at your loved one's favorite restaurant and also feature their favorite dishes.
You can create a memorial box for some of the items your loved ones held dear. These items could be anything from their favorite t-shirt to a frame of their favorite recipe. If they had any kids, creating a memorial box in their memory will make it easier for the kids to remember them, especially if they didn't spend much time with the kids before their death.
Using these keepsakes, you can tell their kids beautiful stories about them so that the kids only have happy memories of them.
When it comes to memorial boxes, there's no limit to your creativity, and you can decorate them however you want. For instance, you could paint a memorial box in the favorite colors of your loved ones or glue quotes from their favorite movies all over the box.
The memorial box could also hold some remembrance jewelry you created in honor of your loved one, and you can explore this idea in many ways. You could use their ashes to make remembrance jewelry and other memorial keepsakes. Or you could repurpose these keepsakes as personalized memorial gifts for their other close friends and family members.
If your lost loved one had a thing for thriller movies or rom-coms, watching such movies is another cathartic way to keep their memories alive. So, after a long day, you could relax in front of the TV and watch one of their favorite movies. Or you could take this further by sitting on their favorite side of the couch, eating their favorite popcorn flavor, or even using their favorite blanket.
Doing all of these will help you relive some of the moments you shared with your loved one. You will remember their jokes, how they cried when their favorite character died, and how they smiled during a mushy scene.
You could also listen to their favorite songs and try to remember how they sang and danced along to them. You could even mimic the way they sang or danced if you want.
Reconnecting with your loved ones through their favorite songs and movies is one way to keep their memories alive and have fun while you're at it.
To celebrate the remarkable life your loved one led, you could gather a couple of friends, acquaintances, and co-workers and hold a fundraiser in honor of your loved one. The proceeds from the fundraiser could then go into a cause they were passionate about.
If they were passionate about stopping animal cruelty and abuse, you could use the proceeds from the fundraising to open an animal shelter. The animal shelter doesn't have to be an expensive operation. It's okay to make do with what you have.
This way, you will keep their memories alive, not only for yourself, but also for others who didn't get the chance to meet the amazing person they were.
Holding a yearly or monthly tradition in honor of your loved ones who have passed on is an incredible way to preserve their memories for years.
If your lost loved one had a penchant for painting, you could make it a tradition to host a painting event every year to honor their memory. If they enjoyed watching crime documentaries, you could set a monthly date to see some crime documentaries yourself.
By dedicating a tradition to your loved ones, you'll remember them and what they stood for many years.
Looking at the tips above, you'll realize that to reconnect with old memories and keep them alive, we must have created those memories and found a way to store them, both in our minds and in other places that are easily accessible–which brings us to the next set of tips we'll be looking at.
Keeping a journal of your daily activities, memorable events, and the people involved in these events will not only make it easy to remember these memories after a long time; it will also preserve your memories for people to remember you by after you pass on.
Make it a habit to keep a journal of everything that happens to you, including those things you think are insignificant. In your journal, describe what happened, what led to it, how it made you feel, and the people involved in it.
You don't have to be a great writer to do this; you just have to describe the memories in your mind's eye and how much they meant to you.
Doing this activity will make it easy to reconnect with old memories if you ever need to. What's more, as you write about these events, they will become ingrained in your memory, which will make it easy to retrieve them later when you want to.
With the many activities we engage in, it is easy to get distracted and miss beautiful moments as they unfold around us. However, we should make a conscious effort to be present in our daily lives. We should not allow the days to pass by in a blur. Try to be present and involved in your daily activities by paying full attention to everything happening around you.
Avoid distractions from your mobile devices, live in the moment, experience the joy that comes with living, and be grateful for each day and each person in your life. When you do this, you will consciously keep your cherished memories alive.
Thanks to advances in technology, recording events as they are happening has become so easy. Today, anyone with a mobile phone, camera, or video recorder can capture beautiful moments unfolding around them.
These events don't have to be big events like birthdays and weddings. They could be normal day-to-day activities.
For example, you could take a picture or make a video of your loved ones as they try their hands at a recipe and capture their face as they take the first bite of the meal. You could also take photos of your kids in the bathtub with bubbles all over their bodies.
Just capture random, cute moments. They might not look like much when you're recording them, but you will come to cherish these memories as time goes by. So make it a habit to take videos and pictures of your loved ones, both on special days and regular days.
We all have busy schedules, and it might be hard to meet up with friends and family. But we should try to meet up with our loved ones once in a while. We should strive to be up to date with the activities in their lives.
Likewise, we should take out time to talk about some of the moments we've shared with them and what they mean to us.
You could plan a monthly meet-up as a tradition where you all meet up and talk about the precious memories you've made and then create new ones.
Creating a box where you can keep mementos that hold special meaning to you and your loved ones will help you preserve the memories associated with the keepsakes.
Your keepsakes can be tied to any memory, event, or vacation. Let's say you're going camping or going on a road trip soon; you could pick a uniquely shaped stone or a postcard to keep in the box.
There are various reasons you might find it difficult to remember some past events:
In some rare cases, the reason you struggle to remember things might be that your brain has repressed these memories to prevent you from reliving certain traumatic events.
Trying to retrieve an old memory, especially that of a loved one might be a frustrating experience. Below are some ways you can retrieve old memories and recall them from your subconscious:
Memories fade over time due to many reasons. It could be that the memory wasn't stored properly in our short-term memory, or our brain is in poor health. Also, our awareness and emotional state as the memory forms determine how vivid the memories would be. The visual information stored in the memories might have also been lost. These are some of the few reasons why memories fade.
There is no universally specified time for memories to fade. The fading rate of our memories might differ depending on how important the memories are to us. This is why you might vividly remember a special memory from 4 or 5 years ago but not a simple memory that you formed a year ago.
Practice the following activities to improve your memory strength:
We will all have to deal with grief at some point in our lives, although knowing this won't make the experience any easier, especially if the grief is caused by the death of a loved one. Even when it seems like we're about to recover, we might experience a secondary loss and relapse into grief.
This, among many other reasons, is why reconnecting with the past and preserving our memories of our loved ones is so important.
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May 21, 2022 by Frances Kay