Living Columns & Blogs

Memories are precious, but how do you handle the painful ones?

Recently, as I re-watched the royal wedding of Harry and Meghan, memories flooded my mind. The expressions of love exchanged between Harry and Meghan and the excitement of the day brought back feelings I experienced on my wedding day, almost 52 years ago.

Today, life has been greatly changed. My husband was killed in a farm accident almost one year ago and my life instantly changed. I was not present at the time of the accident and we didn’t find his body until hours later. The resulting chaos was bedlam. Firetrucks, ambulance, coroner and police appeared on the scene. Because the death was unwitnessed, proceedings regarding a criminal investigation had to be carried out. Somehow in the midst of all that I spotted a beautiful rainbow in the sky. For me that was a sign of God’s care for me and my loved ones.

How has life changed for me? I found I didn’t enjoy making meals for myself to eat alone. The evenings were long and there was no one to share my bed with me. I was forced to make changes, to clean out my house and dispose of things which held many memories. My husband was always a handyman to fix things but now I had to do those things for myself or ask someone else to come and do it for me.

Grief is an uncontrolled state of being. One never knows what will spark an onset of regrets and questions or at other times a flood of memories. You can’t prevent it from happening. As Valentine’s Day approached this year I was reminded of the valentine my husband gave me last year. He returned from a floral supply house with a load of flowers for my daughter, who is a florist. He came in to me carrying a big beautiful silk rose which he had bought and said, “Here’s your valentine! It won’t ever die or grow old.”

Knowing my husband, I was grateful he remembered me but I also knew he was thinking about all the money people spend on flowers that die and need to be thrown away. Did he have a premonition? I wonder. But I am so grateful for that precious silk rose — it is in the corner of my kitchen reminding me each day of his love for me.

For me, memories are precious but I am aware for others memories are very painful and can’t be erased. Just like my memory of the expression on my husband’s face when we found his body pinned between the tractor and a partition in the machinery shed. What do we do with those painful memories? We can’t deny their reality, they are engraved in our brain. For me, I try not to dwell on it because I have other memories which are more pleasant. I can choose which memories I want to think about.

But for those of you who live with painful memories and regrets, I encourage you to find a friend or counselor who can help you process that pain and memory. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness but of strength which will help you to move on to experience a fuller life in the future and to prevent repeating the mistakes of the past. It has been said that people who experience the fullest joy have often experienced the depth of despair and darkness. I am told that the waves of grief will lose their force with the passing of time but that the loss will always be felt. Let us move on from the valley of grief to new experiences of happiness.

Hope Brubaker is a retired registered nurse. Her husband was an organic farmer and their farm grows food for their customers through a Community Supported Agriculture program. She loves to grow flowers and make the world more beautiful with their beauty. This column is coordinated by www.ltlwys.org whose mission is to create educational and conversational opportunities for meaningful intergenerational exchanges on loss, grief, growth and transformation.
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