Remembering is a tricky thing, especially when remembering a loved one. We often tend to idealize the person who has passed on, many times placing that family member on a pedestal of honor and perfection. The danger in doing that is setting ourselves up for extreme guilt.
It’s good to remember; in fact, I think it’s necessary to remember. But, I think we need to do so with honesty, even when our tendency is to remember only the good times, only the good qualities, and only the most ideal situations with that person.
Part of the grieving and healing process is to accept “reality”, and often the reality is that the person who has died was not always friendly or loving or kind. On a personal level, that happened when my mother passed away. I was overcome with terrible guilt for quite a while following her death because I refused to (or maybe I just couldn’t at the time) remember her realistically. In my unrealistic image, she was a quiet, sweet, gentle person when in reality she was not that way at all. That’s not to say that I didn’t love my mother……..I certainly did, but it took me a while to love her as she truly was!
Now, I can remember with fondness and even with a lot of laughter and joy and tell funny stories about some of her antics. In fact, my kids love to hear the “real stories” about “Nana”, the character who left this earthly life far too soon for most of my children to get to know her.
Remembering is a large part of our healing. But, remembering truthfully is necessary or we will never be able to really work through this part of our grief in a healthy way. If Aunt Flo was a character who drank a bottle of Vodka a day and cussed up a storm, then that’s how we need to remember Aunt Flo — not as a prim and proper lady who never did any wrong and was quiet as a church mouse. To remember incorrectly is doing both a disservice to Aunt Flo and to ourselves.
Remember your loved one today, but do so with honesty. It’s okay to remember the flaws, too, because those things are part of who we all are.
My mother? She was an Aunt Flo, and then some! Along with her daily bottle of Vodka, she had a heart of gold, and I will always remember her giving spirit along with the ” wild tales of adventure” that made her who she was — “Little Helen, the Fireball”!