Why do People Think we Move On After Death?

Understanding Grief / Understanding Grief : Eleanor Haley

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I always wanted an imaginary friend as a child, but my mind wouldn't stretch far enough. I envied kids who genuinely managed to conjure the idea of someone else's presence because I guessed they were never lonely. They always had someone to play with and talk to.

It wasn't until I was about 24 that I finally knew what it was like to keep company with someone no one else could see. That was the year my mother died. And after a lifetime of having relationships exclusively with people here on our earthly plane, I learned how to love someone who doesn't physically exist. 

For a little while after my mother's death, I mourned what I thought was a complete and total loss. But then, after a month or so went by, I began to see her presence everywhere. And unlike before, she wasn't anchored to the world. She was everywhere and nowhere, and I found I could talk to her and keep her close.

Though not nearly enough to ease my grief, her continued presence was a comforting realization. One I hadn't considered possible. I used to think you were either here or there. I didn't realize there was an in-between. Or that my mother would leave an infinite echo behind when she died.

Accommodating a new type of relationship:

In the 1950s, developmental psychologist Jean Piaget introduced the idea of assimilation and accommodation as a means to understand children's intellectual development.

Of course, Piaget's theory of cognitive development is complex and most often applied to children. But, I find the idea of assimilation and accommodation stands on its own and can be helpful in understanding situations throughout our lifespan. 

Basically, Piaget said people have specific frameworks for understanding the world and everything in it. He called these frameworks schemas. He said that when a person is faced with an experience that is new or unfamiliar, they first try to understand it using their existing framework (or schema). This is what he called assimilation.

If they cannot assimilate their experience, they must change or build upon their current understanding to accommodate the new reality. Through accommodation, the mind is stretched, and another layer of nuance is added to the world. And this is what I think sometimes happens after a loss. When a person's eyes are open to the possibility that people who are gone aren't really gone, they restructure their understanding of the world to accommodate this new reality.

Personally, to accommodate an ongoing relationship with my mother, I had to open my mind to dimensions of love, attachment, family, and connection that I never knew existed. It wasn't until the experience of loss forced me to redefine these things that I could have fully understood how it was possible.

Why do people think we move on after death?

Someone recently asked us, "Why do people think we move on after death?" I have a few responses to this question. But one of my best guesses is, many of us have to learn the truth about grief for ourselves. Before experiencing loss, many people have a framework (or schema) that doesn't accommodate an ongoing experience. Perhaps, in large part, because they've been told otherwise.

It's worth noting that a recent century of grief theory led us to believe that "moving on" was the goal. Throughout most of the 20th century, the idea that grief evolves through stages or phases reigned supreme. And these goalposts end with things like "detachment," "recovery," "acceptance," or "new life." Whether intended or not (and often it wasn't), the message received was that it's healthy to get over it and move on. 

And until you experience loss, you have little reason to doubt what you're told. It's not until someone wants to think about, talk to, and love a person who has died that they realize the goal of "moving on after death" is illogical. 

We should acknowledge here that there are reasons why a person might want to move on after death. For example, a relationship that was troubled in life may remain troubled in death. In these instances, the person may actually feel that staying connected is harmful.

Does it have to be this way?

I don't think humans can't believe grief and love are ongoing without having experienced loss themselves. Though a person may not precisely understand what it feels like to love someone who's died, they can still know that ongoing grief and connections are normal. The problem is that, as we've just established, many are not primed to see it that way. And we, as grievers, often aren't outspoken about the truth.

When I think back to life before loss, I wonder if I missed any clues about the realities of grief. For example, my mother showed me hints of her continued adoration of her mother who died before I was born. But were there signs of a continued and ongoing connection? I don't think so.

People often keep their relationships with deceased loved ones private for many reasons. Maybe chief among them, they're afraid they'll be misunderstood by a society that still partly believes ongoing connections are odd. Or perhaps they worry others will make them feel wrong for nurturing a relationship they cherish. 

Here at WYG, we often lament the burdens that fall to grieving people. Should grievers be expected to use their limited bandwidth to help others understand? Should they risk being judged or misunderstood? There is no right or wrong answer. Whether you talk about your grief and your loved one is a personal decision. But I do believe that when someone shares their experience it can help change how we all see grief.

For anyone interested in learning more about continuing bonds with deceased loved ones:
We invite you to share your experiences, questions, and resource suggestions with the WYG community in the discussion section below.

We invite you to share your experiences, questions, and resource suggestions with the WYG community in the discussion section below.

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After writing online articles for What’s Your Grief for over a decade, we finally wrote a tangible, real-life book!

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49 Comments on "Why do People Think we Move On After Death?"

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  1. Drew  April 28, 2022 at 9:29 am Reply

    I thought I already posted but I don’t see it. My fairly young wife passed in 2019. We had been married 24 yrs. I was in a bad accident in 2015. They thought I was dead. I was in the hospital and inpt rehab for about 6 months. My wife came every day. When I first awoke from my coma, my beautiful wife’s face was the first I saw. I didn’t know what end was up. It was like a very bad dream. Recovering, I didn’t want to live like this (contemplated suicide) My wife cried with me several times. It was her and our daughter that kept me going. Fast forward to 2019, my wife was suddenly admitted to the hospital where I used to work. I got a call to get there fast. I saw my wife being “coded”. I eventually had to tell them to stop. I knew it was futile (I don’t want to open up the “miracle” can of worms here). Before she passed, I told her that she was my “soulmate” (I never believed in this concept….now I do) and that I would be here for our college aged daughter. My wife knew that I was always a man of my word. I still miss and think of her 24/7. I’m a bit disabled from the accident but she and my daughter are my inspiration to carry on and push to get better. I miss her dearly. I really appreciate the fact that I can relate to other people going through similar circumstances. I don’t think one “moves on”. One exists and carries on with life for their own reasons (mine being my promise to my wife and my daughter). I really appreciate all of you though I’m sorry for what we had/have to go through to join this club.

  2. m  February 24, 2022 at 7:57 pm Reply

    Dear Gwen Thank-you for Your Kind words. MY SON was the Greatest Gift I had. HE was MY only child. People Don’t Understand what this Loss Feels like . I’m in Grief Counseling and Those people are Kinder to Me than Some of My Friends Sometimes I Feel like No One Cares The World Goes On and It Feels like Mine Stood Still on December 20 21 The Thought of Him not being Able to Hug is Something I can’t Explain I Pray for Your Heart as well as Everyone Here May God Heal Us You too are My Sister and May We get through this together

    • Harry  March 6, 2022 at 3:09 am Reply

      msavinetti,, You do realise that you have only lost the physical part of your son: his spiritual side still very much exists and that the spirit of your son still looks in on you in real time and see’s what you do and also how his physical parting has left you feeling, I have read on here of people writing about grief and missing people after they have passed over but I have not yet read anything about life after so called death as if people are afraid to mention this due to ridicule or whatever: Well darn all that because nothing sceptics can say or do will stop the spiritual side and what happens out on the ether existing, and further more for a website that purports to offer any sort of solace to the grieving I think the spiritual side of things MUST get mentioned as it is part and parcel of what happens to us at our moment of so called death or as I would say > passing, I mean you cannot have fish and chips without the fish and still call it fish and chips just like you cannot have whisky and soda without the whisky and still call it whisky and soda, It is a fact that we pass over or go back home to where we came from as this existence on this realm is only fleeting, I do not intend to get too involved in all the whys and wherefores of the other side unless I am specifically asked to do so: I am simply trying to explain to you that nothing or no one ever loses anyone and that at some given point in the future you will be together again with your son and indeed other family members passed and not only that but members of previous families from previous existences, Knowing this should make you feel better but never to a point where the grieving ceases, I lost my mother 14 years ago and I am still grieving- As humans that’s what we do- but do not ever think you won’t ever see your son again, You can still talk to your son and he will pick up on your thoughts and may be he will try to send you some kind of indication that you will recognise, These are many and varied such as his or your favourite song on the radio just at the moment you think of him or a flickering light at the moment you pick up something of his – the list is endless and I know for one that this has happened to me numerous times and even on one occasion I asked for one of these indications and a few seconds later it was there, Speak to your son often – he already knows how you miss him as they can sense our thoughts, Take your grief to another level and realise that you have not really lost your son at all and when the time is right we will all unite. Bleesings, Harry.

      • Beth  April 28, 2022 at 10:15 pm

        Thank you Harry. I’m not sure that I can ever read or hear too many first accounts of continued connection to a loved one no longer in a physical body. I’m trying to learn how to see, hear, experience, my love, every day. One sign was so remarkably exact (a trifecta – three specific things at once like I’d asked for so there’d be no mistaking…) I took a picture and it took me a few
        Days to really receive the magnificence of the communication. Unmistakably unique communication from her to me.
        My true wish, my true ask of God remains, please let this be a dream and I wake up to life before her departure. Death is such a burden, one I do not understand – I’d always wish for her to be here beside me, I do not relinquish this truth as I accept these new ways of hearing, seeing, and feeling her presence.
        Thank you Harry – consciousness lives on, spirit lives on.

    • Alexandra  June 10, 2022 at 5:05 pm Reply

      Thank you from my heart for your open, vulnerable words. I have lost almost everyone I’ve ever loved either to death or estrangement. May we all find peace.

      • Lynn Middleton  November 22, 2022 at 3:22 pm

        I know how it feels to lose your parents, then an only sibling, then your only son, your pet of 17 years who loved you when no one else did. Then your only remaining adult child chooses to not have you in their life and to make it worse chooses your mother in law as my replacement, my mother in law rubs it in my face even tho she knows what its like to lose a child herself. I feel anger I cannot contain. I have lost all belief in organized religion which I feel is a good thing. Although my connection with the grand creator has deepened which I have found to be a truth as opposed to false man made constructs. I am vibrationally attuned enough or just so darned sensitive to have connections with all of my close family after they have passed. My sister stayed with me closely after six months, my mother stayed very close for two years until my son passed then she seemed to withdraw maybe to help my son or make room for my son to make himself available as it seems its hard to have personal relationships with several of your departed family all at once. Its like a psychic overload or a vibrational overload. It takes concentration and paying attention to things or thoughts that come thru. One time, soon after my sons death he came to me and I said to him I was so afraid no one would meet me when I passed, my son said to my utter surprise that “mom you have hundreds and hundreds of people who love you here“ I said how our family is so small? My son said “mom, you are not my first mother and I am not your only son, you have been a mother to many others during many lives and you have every being you ever loved for a thousand lifetimes here watching you, waiting for you and you are intensely loved by many many others“ He also is acutely aware of what his loss has done to our lives and he makes it well known he is helping out all that he can. I also knew that he chose that exit point to leave this life because his future was going to be a difficult one. I guess I’m sharing all of this because I understand how lonely it feels when everyone leaves but you remain to feel the grief and loneliness. But know it is true they are in a dimension very nearby, loving you and also know you have lived many lifetimes and have many loved ones watching over you. Even when I was a christian I believed in reincarnation and now that I have an even deeper understanding of life here on earth and our true home of our souls the hardest part is staying here and waiting for my exit point. I had an NDE at age 29, it was brief compared to other people but I found out then that life never ceases to exist even for a moment but merely changes form, we keep our memories, our love and even our sense of curiosity. We are eternal beings, we are loved unconditionally and do not let anyone tell you different! I hate the holidays, the grief knife digs in deeper and the lonliness stands out more than I can bare.

    • Mrs g  January 16, 2023 at 3:46 pm Reply

      Do you think its faiir for you to hold on and not tell those who loved him what happened?
      Please share with us what happened to your son..,Miss S

  3. Janet  February 23, 2022 at 1:47 am Reply

    My husband died of cancer December 2019. We were married for over 45 years. He died within 11 months of his diagnosis. That same year I underwent treatment for breast cancer. The fact that my son lived close by and I had a 1 year old grandson gave me the will to carry on through extreme grief. My own mother had 2 abusive husbands, so I know I was fortunate to have a decent, kind and loving husband.

  4. kenetrauzuriel@gmail.com  February 18, 2022 at 2:15 pm Reply

    I lost my fiancé, my soulmate, my everything on 8/16/2021, we were together for 7 years…he was only 31. That day my life changed forever, I feel like no one understands my pain, I hide behind a smile everyday, but I manage to focus on helping others who are less fortunate or just need help period. I try to imagine living the next 30+ years without him & I can’t. I don’t know what signs to look for as far as communication, I’ve always been a little scary when it comes to spiritual entities but we always had deep conversations about the spiritual realm & God. I just want comfort, assurance that he’s ok…I don’t know where to begin this journey…hopefully you’ll can give me some advice. Thank you for taking the time to read this, God bless us all❣️🙏🏾

    • Beth  April 28, 2022 at 10:33 pm Reply

      I’m so sorry for your loss. The future can seem daunting, one day at a time, even one hour at a time I found more manageable. Journaling helped me, along with crying whenever I needed and need to do so helps. The most helpful book I found is “it’s okay that you’re not okay”, written by a woman who lost her husband – he drowned in front of her. Her book gave me the strength to feel like my grief was MY grief, and I would make my way, my way – as there is no “one way or right way” to learn to live with grief. Two years for me, and life is easier though in no way nor will it ever be the same. To your question about signs and communication from your love — google near death experiences (NDE) there are many comforting accounts of people dying and meeting there loved one ( Mary McNeal’s is on Netflix, YouTube is a great source too with interviews.) The university of Virginia has Division of Perceptual Studies, their research supports consciousness surviving physical death, look them up online and read some of their studies. Talk with your love, journal with your love, ask for an unmistakable and no doubt in my heart that he will provide you one. Then continue, be open, mindful, slow down a little in tour life so you can notice what your heart feels first. Many Blessings to You and Love.

  5. william conjelko  February 12, 2022 at 1:06 pm Reply

    I lost my wife in 2019 to a six year struggle with alzheimers. I was her care giver and we were married for 56 years and dated thru high school for five years. I miss her so much/ I pray for her and talk to her every day. I never had to put her in a home but had to see her failing each day; Nothing seems to help the pain – even the things we did’nt agree on take on added meaning; I have a saying that I will never get over her death but with faith I will get through it; Life is so empty without her -thank you for listening – Bill

    • Beth  April 28, 2022 at 10:56 pm Reply

      I’m so sorry for your loss Bill, I understand your deep profound grief. Be gentle with yourself, and try to get out of the house even for a
      short walk, fresh air, sunshine or rain, nature seems to have lessened my sorrow or at least distracted me. Your wife will aways be with you, truly love never ends. It sounds cliche yet it is true, you will begin to feel her presence in your life. Some people find grief support groups helpful – I never was able to be a
      Part of one due to covid, I think
      I would have gone though, people who are grieving understand others who are grieving, a safe place to just be yourself with all of your sadness and be accepted. This website is so helpful too – the best one I’ve found in two years. Be well Bill, you will feel better, be easy on yourself.

  6. Ashley Swartz  February 8, 2022 at 5:30 pm Reply

    Your articles are quite helpful.
    Lost my 91.5yr d mother two weeks ago.
    Unable to sleep.

  7. Alex  February 5, 2022 at 6:11 pm Reply

    I lost my childhood love in my early 20s, she dying at 21, but I didn’t hear until a few years later. It’s never left me. I don’t think about her all the time, but the thought of her is threaded through my life. When I got married, when I was naming my first child, in the stories I write (I’m a playwright). Sometimes years will pass when life is too busy. Sometimes the feeling of loss is intense, daily and almost tangible. Recently her mother sent me pictures of her and though it was 20 years later, it was like being hit by a truck and though the feeling of sadness was intense lasting months and months, but also beautiful and unforgettable. I couldn’t say if it’s a madness or an inspiration or both.

  8. Monica D Lairsmith  February 2, 2022 at 2:01 pm Reply

    I am so grateful for this forum. thank you!

  9. Eileen Becerra  January 28, 2022 at 10:25 am Reply

    My husband passed away of Vivid 11/11/2020. We were married 62 yrs. He was in ICU for 26 days and suffered every indignity possible. Saw him once on FaceTime and no more until he was gone. He took on every option available because he wanted to live. Vivid stole from us the chance to comfort him, tell him we loved him, etc Now on a journey I never imagined.
    He’s was the love of my life, my everything.

  10. Cindy  January 21, 2022 at 10:40 am Reply

    Your writing in this post makes perfect sense to me as does the application of Piaget’s theory of development. I imagine the whole of myself as a weaving made up of the threads of people who have intersected my life. Everyone of them is in that weaving but those most dear make up many, many threads. Their death does not remove the threads, they are still a part of me. I think the memories I carry, continue to add threads because they are part of my current life. I can’t even imagine the concept that I should pull free every single thread of those who have passed. To me, that is an absurd expectation!!!

    • ~k  May 21, 2022 at 8:28 pm Reply

      I have heard that Life is a stage which you stand on- (high school play, grand theater production) that everyone’s a “walk through,” as in time waits for no one, change is always evolving…people come and go- nothing stands still.

  11. beryl  January 17, 2022 at 1:08 pm Reply

    my husband passes july62021 i grieve every day it creeps up on me and overtakes me i have uncontrolably crying and sadness my dr put me on depression meds which do not help we were married 53 years its so hard to try and forget or dismiss all the memories we had my kids are grown and they dont want me to talk about their father they say it is too upa=setting to talk about i just want him back he suffered a lot with pain from stroke and cancer im probably being selfish wanting him back but im not sure how i can go on without him

    • Litsa  January 21, 2022 at 11:56 am Reply

      Beryl, I am so sorry for what you are going through. There is no reason you need to forget, dismiss, or put these memories behind you – grief is very much about keeping connections with those we’ve lost while also moving foward. I am sorry your children are not in a place of wanting to share memories together, but perhaps you can connect with memories with friends or other extended family, or perhaps writing/journaling some of your fond memories. Most research shows that anti-depressants are not useful for grief – they are for depression, which is different than grief. Talking to a grief counselor may be more helpful for you, or joining a support group for widows/widowers. Have you looked in to anything like that?

      • ~k  May 21, 2022 at 8:32 pm

        I agree with group grief meetings. Who knows, at the group meetings you might even meet an acquaintance, or a new friend, get new ideas on how to cope, network.

    • Monica D Lairsmith  February 2, 2022 at 1:44 pm Reply

      Dear Beryl,
      My husband died 4 days before your husband did. I also wonder how I will go on without him. Life seems so empty and hollow. I feel like I go through the days in a painful and fearful haze and wonder if I’ll ever feel good again. but something always tells me, maybe it’s him, that it will someday be ok. I have no family nearby, and I also lost our home. So, I grab on to any small thing I can, to look forward to. Seeing my daughter in April, my new granddaughter in June, my brother in Canada in June as well. I may be younger than you, as I still work part-time. It’s the only “normal” thing in my life right now, and I look forward to those 2 days. Any get-togethers with a close friend. I take walks whenever I can. I still avoid all the places and things we did together. too painful. I stay busy with projects. But the pain is always there. Sometimes I get angry and ask my husband why he left me. I know he didn’t leave me on purpose, but sometimes I just feel abandoned and angry that life is not like it was, and that I’m left to navigate life alone.
      this forum is a blessing for us, as friends and family do move on, and we are left with our loss. I am grateful for it and for those that are sharing. Hang on Beryl, we’ll make it.

    • Gwen  February 14, 2022 at 9:08 pm Reply

      Have you found a Widow/Widower Grief Group to attend? My husband and I attend a Grief Group for parents who have lost their children….it is so helpful to be with others who are in the same horrible club. I highly suggest you try to find one. Best to you!!

      • Mark  April 9, 2022 at 11:14 pm

        “Move on” is exactly what my doctor told said to me three weeks after my wife’s passing this last New Year’s Eve.
        It would have been our 36th New Year’s together, our 35th as a married couple.
        She suffered a year long horrible illness before finally passing. She was home with me and I had little to no help as it was very difficult to find home health care with the COVID pandemic ongoing.
        The best we could get for her was once every other week visiting nurse.
        Hospice took weeks to finally come for an evaluation, literally the evening before she passed. I was constantly heartbroken over the entire year as she was unable to do even the smallest thing without assistance from me. I could see the embarrassment and humiliation in her face every time I would clean up and launder her bedding and clothing after the unavoidable “accidents” and we cried every single time.
        I’d do my best to comfort her by telling her not to cry, it was okay, I was there for her because I loved her more than life itself and it was not in any way a bother or chore for me to take care of her. I was there because I wanted to be there not because I had to be. And if the roles were reversed she would be doing the same for me.
        Today is the 100th day. I still cry everyday, unless I stay very busy, but you have to sit down eventually and rest, and it creeps back up on me.
        “Move on?” Move on to what? Forgetting? In my mind that would be the most dishonorable thing I can do to her memory. We had an unbelievable love affair, and by no means a perfect marriage, we had the same arguments and disagreements that all married couples have from time to time. And every time I looked at her and she looked at me in that way that she only looked at me in that way it always felt like the first time even after more than three decades.

  12. Saul  January 17, 2022 at 12:32 pm Reply

    I will never ever move on, moving forward one step at a time is hard enough. My wife died exactly one year ago and I still talk to her everyday. I have her picture in my wallet and car as she goes with me everywhere. My son passed away December 2,2021 and had I not kept my relationship going with my wife I think I would of gone out of my mind. Thanks for the article as I now know im not crazy.

    • Gwen  February 14, 2022 at 9:12 pm Reply

      I lost my son Dec 16, 2019, at the Mayo Clinic. I am one who can understand the loss of your child. I’m also sorry about your wife. I hope you can find some help with counseling and a grief group. I do both. The Grief Group for Parents it he best, but it’s only in this area of the Twin Cities. Compassionate Friends is national I believe. Maybe you might like that group and it will help how.

  13. Jenny  January 16, 2022 at 9:32 pm Reply

    My sister passed 4 months ago at a young age of 59. My parents transitioned to heaven over 14 years ago. It’s always hard – like an ocean wave that come crashing in unexpectedly. The best thing you can do is allow yourself the time to grieve when that happens. I am a firm believer that they are free of pain and whole again. Vibrant and full of energy to be able to watch over us and send us loving signs that they are with us. I have recorded many signs from each of them already. Thank you for giving us a place to share on this platform! 🙏💕🙏

  14. marcia harris  January 16, 2022 at 3:24 pm Reply

    This article helped so much. Many people said “you’ll have a new life.” I always replied, “I don’t want a new life” Now 5 years later, I have a life and I miss him daily, still wear my rings and get misty eyed at the grocery store thinking about what I used to make or buy just for him. Accommodation. I like that idea. So thanks again for the support.

  15. anonymous  January 16, 2022 at 12:16 pm Reply

    I am choosing for me, in 2022, to officially retire from the burdens of helping others to understand what the sudden death of husband has been like for me.

    I realize now how truly exhausting it has been for me. Deeply exhausting.

    I continue the daily practices which have helped me since my husband died in 2017.

    I write every morning– my “hi, honey” letter in my art sketch book, a small scented candle lit, my coffee brewed and hot nearby, and some kind of music playing softly. I write what comes.
    I do this on the mornings I want to, and on the mornings I wake up hopeless.

    Then my daily reading from “Around The Year With Emmet Fox”– hubby and I began reading this in the 1980’s.

    The sun comes up outside and peace begins my day. This ritual takes about 30 minutes and is a steady anchor.

    These past years have been like living on another planet for me– I have done my best in this stunning new world and I have much I can look back on now and place in the “Wise Choice” category.

    I have also made poor choices, and felt at times that I would not survive this massive grief.

    Always though I have somehow felt guided by energies not of this earth — including my husband! — and I am grateful.

    I am living 2022 trusting my gut and using the earthly red light, yellow light, green light traffic system.

    Red = STOP (not for me)
    Yellow = Slow Down Use caution May or May Not Be For You Take Your Time
    Green = YES (this IS For You)

    It works for me and I have become pretty good at recognizing the colors in my gut– I must say that I’ve not always had this much trust in myself to follow the signals before!

    Still, my darling is always nearby, as are other soul helpers.

    I released my husbands ashes into the river on December 21, 2021 in a spot near our home.
    I felt the peace and beauty of this place fill me up.
    It was a courageous thing for me to do alone, and a sacred honoring our life together.

  16. Nancy  January 15, 2022 at 9:55 pm Reply

    Til death do us part, I don’t think so. I lost my husband in 2020 and while I’m coping with my day to day better, I won’t ever lose my connection with my love.

  17. Mary  January 14, 2022 at 10:08 pm Reply

    It’s a true blessing that I received an email from this group & chose to read it. My dear husband died in April of 2021, I’m grieving hard & will never move on from Dave & our true, everlasting love. He died at home sitting in his favorite recliner after a grueling 2 year battle with cancer. I didn’t call the funeral home but instead sat next to Dave for 24 hours crying, talking to him, sleeping by him for the last time. A couple of friends came over the next day before the funeral home came. I had Dave cremated (no embalming) & keep his ashes with me 24/7. I talk to him & feel connected to him & always will. Until reading your article & other’s posts, I didn’t know there were others who view death like me. It’s been very refreshing to know there is.

  18. Patricia  January 14, 2022 at 6:04 pm Reply

    The email bearing this article arrived on the second anniversary of the very unexpected death of my husband of 28 years. I know I’ll always mourn his loss, and so far I feel his absence very intensely. Maybe that’s why I’m not yet feeling his presence as much as I wish I could? This article feels like a small opening. Thank you.

  19. Carm  January 14, 2022 at 9:22 am Reply

    Love this blog…Being a retired educator the idea of Piaget’s concept as it applies to those of us who grieve is spot on! And the idea that many of us do not “move on” but assimilate our loss(es) into our lives gave me a peace that I haven’t felt in the almost 8 yrs since my husband passed as well as the other deaths over the span of my life in my 62 yrs. I suspect many, even ones who say they have “ moved on” have really assimilated it into their life such that it fits their idea of having “moved on”.

  20. Gwen  January 14, 2022 at 9:16 am Reply

    My 35 year old son, Dominic, died after eight days at the Mayo Clinic two years ago. I have lost both of my parents, a best friend, and been divorced. All of these things are extremely hard, but to lose a child is the absolute worst kind of pain. Please write some articles for parents who will never “move on”, but how to live “through” the grief of losing your child.

  21. Mary  January 14, 2022 at 8:46 am Reply

    Ex husband’s suicide Dec 30. Cannot wrap my head around why. Now my son has only one parent left, he’s grieving in his own way. Dad left note but son won’t talk about it, don’t blame him, I don’t really want to know. Am conflicted on should I move down to where my son lives or stay here? Where and when is the catalyst that will help me decide? (A rhetorical question.) All these vignettes keep going through my head, married in ’73 and there’s close to 50 years of memories to sort through and re-experience and hurt. Regret. Sadness. Now what?

    • Gwen  February 14, 2022 at 11:55 am Reply

      Dear Mary – this is only my opinion, but from losing my son two years ago, and since your son’s father has died by suicide, believe me, your son needs you even if he says you don’t need to be nearby. YOU do – again my opinion. Your son’s wellbeing is the most important thing, and you will feel better living close to him. Nothing hurts more than when our children are suffering. I AM an expert on that, and when your child dies, it’s the worst kind of grief, so relish in your love for your boy. Sending my love to you!

  22. Maria S  January 14, 2022 at 8:28 am Reply

    I just Recently Lost My Son . He was My Greatest Accomplishment. He was My Biggest Blessing . The Love of My Life

    • Gwen  January 14, 2022 at 2:06 pm Reply

      Dear Maria! I am so very sorry and can truly say I know how you feel. As my comment above yours tells, I also lost my son. Everyone thinks the “firsts” are the hardest. Not true. I’m starting my third year and it is harder now because it’s been longer since I’ve hugged him, kissed his whiskery cheek, wonder where he’d be working, if he and his wife would finally be able to have a baby, what he’d look like, etc. Please be assured of my prayers. If you can, look for “What Have You Done Since I Left”. Donna and her husband, Dick, are the leaders of a Parent Grief Group my husband and I go to twice each month. She is wonderful and has helped me so much. Please check out her book if you can. Maybe even your local library would have it. You are my “Sister as Grieving Mothers”.

  23. nick  January 14, 2022 at 8:16 am Reply

    I wish I could have a comforting relationship with my wife, but every time I think of her, all I get is pain. I know others get consolation when they think of their lost loved ones, but all I get is sadness, followed by more pain in my heart. Of course I can’t stop thoughts of her popping into my head all the time – and why not? We were together for 50+ years and reminders of her are all around me. But they are not welcome reminders – only sources of sadness and longing to be with her again. This topic is yet another manifistation of the grief axiom – everybody’s different. What brings comfort for one person brings pain to another.

    • Litsa  January 23, 2022 at 9:08 pm Reply

      I am so sorry that what you find in your memories is primarily pain. It is so true that grief is so different for all of us. I think it changes as well – songs or memories or photos that at first bring exclusively pain may later bring comfort and then may at other points bring primarily pain again! It is one of the most complex things about loss, even when we think we understand our own grief, even it can change.

  24. Catherine  January 14, 2022 at 7:39 am Reply

    My middle child has not spoken to me since their brother’s wake in February 2021. They are transgender and still dealing with transition. I get an occasional email but no acknowledgment if Mother’s day, my birthday, Christmas or any other day. I feel like I lost 2 of my 3 children. I have struggled, successfully, to avoid calling or texting, but rage and grief can be overwhelming. Interested to know if this happens to anyone else.

    • Litsa  January 23, 2022 at 10:19 pm Reply

      Catherine, this is very normal and there is a name for it – Ambiguous Grief or Ambiguous Loss. We have a couple of posts about it that you might find useful -https://whatsyourgrief.com/ambiguous-grief-grieving-someone-who-is-still-alive/

  25. Michael  January 14, 2022 at 7:23 am Reply

    Thank you for that article! It describes exactly what I’ve experienced from my sister. Her talk of moving on, etc., has been upsetting, & has been continuing to bother me, even though I told Sister to not contact me again.

    You asked if we should devote our time & energy trying to explain our feelings to someone like that.

    My answer:


    The only people I’ll talk to on these matters of grief are the people at this discussion-board, where people understand, because they’re experiencing it too (…or are familiar with it because they’ve listened to us.)

    When I started this comment, it turned into a long letter, and so I deleted it, & am writing this briefer version.

    When Sister, in one e-mail, brought up “Closure”, I replied “Closure, Yes 🙂 “.

    …I then achieved a needed closure by telling her to not contact me again.


    • Gwen  January 14, 2022 at 2:11 pm Reply

      Dear Michael – when I lost my 35-year old son two years ago 12.16.19 at the Mayo Clinic, I found out how people we thought were friends and even some family, leave us. Why? We need them the MOST NOW! But, from the Parent Grief Group I belong to, I have learned that people who were acquaintences are sometimes more caring than the other people we relied on. We have been told to find new people to be in our lives if those we counted on have decided we are the ones who need to change. GRIEF needs to be known by those who do not grieve, as to do the right and thoughtful things for those of us who have lived this and belong to the club no one wants to belong to. God bless you!

  26. Vivienne  January 14, 2022 at 3:50 am Reply

    Do I tell people this? Only a very few know. Others would probably think I’d lost it.

    • Tam  March 14, 2022 at 12:47 am Reply

      You’re not alone in that Vivienne, I have an ongoing relationship with my husband who died 2 years ago this week.
      I talk to him everyday, ask him for help, advice, protection and he gives them to me.
      He’s here with me, and guides me through life. I tell jokes and make wisecracks and laugh, and I know he’s laughing too.
      They’re with us.

  27. Vivienne  January 14, 2022 at 3:47 am Reply

    I have an ongoing relationship with my husband since he died 5 yrs ago. I talk to him every day, throughout the day. I ask him questions, I ask for advice for help etc and it always comes.
    It gives me great comfort and strength to know he is still with me , besides me all the way until we meet again.
    When I first lost him it wasn’t enough, but now if this is all I can have, then I’ll settle for it knowing he’s nearby.
    I bought myself a camper van this year because I decided it’s time to live again. So I’ll be off travelling with my cocker spaniel and I know he’ll be in the passenger seat alongside me. He’s giving me the courage to do it. We’re still together but differently.

  28. Megan  January 14, 2022 at 3:21 am Reply

    Losing my 20 year old youngest son who was still living at home . Though independent he was still needful in many ways of his mom and dad.
    Figuring out and navigating the next phase of the of his life . . He battled the demon of addiction.
    He died in my arms . For this reason the grief and trauma have been a long road I am still traveling . Currently I too just like this article can not move on.I cherish the moments in life when I find myself talking to him as though he is in his room or driving with me as I go about breathing oxygen each day . It’s just a new chapter our lives we are learning how to relate to one another ,me and my recently “departed” son(who tragically died )❣️

  29. Jo Ainsworth  January 14, 2022 at 1:38 am Reply

    My husband, my best friend & soulmate died 2 years ago Christmas 2019. I still have his phone, keep it charged up & I WhatsApp him most days, it’s like a daily journal of what’s going on. I sleep with his jumper sprayed with his aftershave. Our Alexa says good morning to both of us. I’ll still talk to him like I used to do whilst watching something on TV, especially the bits I don’t understand. It brings me comfort & I don’t feel so alone. Moving on is just a saying that’s misinterpreted & I suppose because we ourselves aren’t as open about our feelings after time. We expect perhaps that we shouldn’t be so sad all the time so you start to hide it away, that’s learning to live alongside it, not moving on.
    Take care ❤️


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