Linking Objects

Hi, Nelson

My mom had a long battle with Parkinson’s. After several years fighting it, she finally died two weeks ago.

I knew it was coming. I thought I was prepared. But I’m a mess. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. I can’t stop thinking about her. There’s this great big gaping void!

I saw something that said a narrative therapy method of dealing with death (grief) is to relate something the person has to your current life. Am I right? And if I am, can you please tell me more about this method?

– Morning Mania

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Morning Mania

OK, your question…

Yes, there’s a death-grief technique we use in narrative practice called “linking objects.” This tactic involves finding an item or items (a.k.a. objects) that once belonged to the deceased—and that are worthy of your own sentiment—and consciously integrating that item or items into your everyday life.

How does this look?

Say your mother had an exotic doll collection; she was an avid traveler back in the day, and she accumulated a lot of these dolls—as momentos from the countries she visited.

Up till her death, however, they’d been stored in a box, which was tucked away in your attic, for safekeeping.

You fondly remember these dolls resting upon a large set of shelves in your family’s living room during your childhood. To you, they always represented how “worldly” your mother was as a human being.

Let’s also say that your mother stayed with you for the last couple years of her life, via some sort of in-home care. She used your spare bedroom.

Perhaps also—during the recent pandemic—you realized you wanted to establish a home office, if space ever allowed.

You might now take that spare bedroom on as an office. You might then pull out that doll collection, carefully erect it within a glass curio cabinet, and place the curio cabinet into that home office. Every day, as you work at your desk, you can glance up at the curio and know your mother’s always there with you…in all her worldly splendor. 🙂

Liking objects is a powerful technique…

If the objects have real sentimental value, and if they’re correctly “honored” or “showcased.”

This is where a skilled grief counselor comes in; that counselor offers the most beneficial direction.

Keep in mind, there can be dangers using this method, as well. Sometimes, we, in mourning, become way too attached to the sum of the deceased’s objects. We must not become “hoarders” in this regard. A few items—with real sentimental value and that are truly representative of the deceased—are all that’s necessary.

Hope that helps.

Until next week…

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