Life after death: Survival strategies

After some very sad blog postings, I decided it was time to write something more upbeat, or at least as upbeat as a blog about bereavement can be.

For someone who has lost a very dear loved one, we can wonder if there is life after death. After I lost my daughter, I became quite confused and unsure about what lies beyond, but one thing I was sure of–my own life had for all intents and purposes ended.


Apple tree, hand-created using needle felting and embroidery

And in a sense, it was true. Life as I knew it was gone. Yet I was still living, a painful existence, but nevertheless a breathing, living one. And as time went by, as I travelled that long painful bereavement journey, I discovered my own life after death. (I’m still on this road and obviously will be on it for the rest of my life, but I’ll skip writing about that today.)

Survival strategies for adapting to life after your loved one’s death obviously vary on your personality, circumstances, and a myriad of variables. So I can’t speak for everyone, but I would like to tell about some of the things that have helped me.

One, as you may have guessed, is therapeutic writing. In my opinion, it’s not quite the same as a blog or participating in an online forum, as in those places, you know what you’re writing is going to be read by others, so it is natural to think of other people’s reactions. Therapeutic writing starts in a different place. It might end up something you share, with or without modifications (and that’s how A Valley Journal came about), but I think when you’re writing therapeutically, you’re really pouring out your thoughts without any concern about anyone else.

Sometimes grief counsellors may encourage you to write a letter to your loved one. I have never been able to do that, as one letter would not do the subject justice. For the first couple of years, when I wanted to talk to Catherine, I would call her mobile. I would listen to her voicemail greeting, and then hold a long one-way conversation.

Keeping your loved one in life’s conversation is also a survival strategy. Keeping and using her favourite furniture has been a help, though it runs the risk of eventually wearing out. But for now it is comforting, somehow incorporating the memories of her happier times into my daily living.

On the other hand, I have also found the need for doing new things, to create new memories, to pass the time.
One of the best weekends was a Felt Craft event along with other members of The Compassionate Friends, organised by a very kind lady who has been a good friend to me. We stayed in the Lake District and went to a workshop where we learnt about wet felting. The host of the actual workshop was fantastic. She gave us instruction, but lots of time and space to experiment, and was very supportive. How wonderful it was to be surrounded by the skeins of colourful, soft merino wool. Quite unforgettable. (I would include a link to her site but sadly I can’t find it. I might fill it in later.)

Since then I kept on felting as a hobby, and branched out to needle felting and just plain experimenting. I have found it very helpful to do things with my hands, often with the TV, radio or music on in the background. Not caring too much about the product has been important; it is the process or the doing that has been most helpful, but I have also been happy to create some pictures that have been good enough to sell.

There is so much more to write about survival and even re-finding some joy in life, but I’ll leave this here with just 3 ideas you might like to consider:

  • Try therapeutic writing. Just pour out your thoughts on paper or on screen. Don’t think of anybody reading them. Just get it out.
  • Try keeping something your loved one enjoyed as part of your daily life, like a chair, a picture, even a favourite recipe.
  • Try a new hobby. Don’t worry about it being “good enough”; it’s the process of doing that you may find helps, as much or even more than any product.

Greedy robin. Another mixture of needle-felting and embroidery.


2 thoughts on “Life after death: Survival strategies

  1. Pingback: “The phone calls I made to my dead daughter” (BBC article) | A Valley Journal

  2. Pingback: The creativity of grief | A Valley Journal

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