Continuing bonds may not be a term many of you are familiar with but once it is explained it’s probably something you do naturally. We thought it would be a useful theory to share at this time as for many people it provides a lot of comfort. Bereavement professionals generally agree now that grief is not linear or staged. The Kubler Ross stages of grief model is not really a very accurate model for how we grieve after someone dies. In 1996 a new theory of how grief works was published, called Continuing bonds (Klass, Silverman and Nickman). Their theory is that rather than ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one and move on, the purpose of grief is to redefine your relationship with the person who has died and integrate them into your new life. You don’t have to forget about them and leave them behind you can take them with you as you are adjusting. Grief is not something you go through, in fact it never ends, but it does change as you change.
When we work with children, we often focus on helping a child to maintain their connection to the deceased through memory work, telling the story and managing feelings. We encourage families to make time and space to talk about the person who died in ways that promote the sense of who they were. Everyday conversations and memories, rather than just on anniversaries and special occasions. Some people locate someone in a particular place and visit there to feel close to them, some talk to their loved one, some might have a daily ritual or habit – perhaps something they used to do with that person, some might draw on memories of the person to help with decisions and dilemmas (what would Nana say?). For the most part this is all very normal, and many people find it helps them to cope.
Where it may not be so helpful is if the relationship with the deceased was a difficult or harmful one. In those situations, working towards a letting go and ‘moving on’ may be more beneficial, as there may be some sense of relief that the relationship has ended.
We often use books and resources to support continuing bonds work and on Friday we will be recommending one that we find very helpful via our social media accounts.