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Is this an example of integration?


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When my 97 year old husband died in March, he left me with boxes and boxes of photos, slides, letters, and other documents not only from his long life, but also from his mother’s and father’s lives.  I have spent time almost everyday, going through these boxes, sifting through all of the history, organizing it and using some of it to make a slide show of my husband’s life and poster boards representing his nuclear family and their ancestors.  The slide show and the poster boards will be used at a memorial event that we will have on Father’s Day in 2022. This event will actually be a family reunion at which we will remember not only my husband, but also his three brothers.  All of the cousins who are the children of these four men will be coming together for the first time in at least 30 years.  I will use my creations from these many boxes to share a larger message with the whole family about these four brothers, and the lives of distinction and purpose and compassion that they lived.

 

Now, for the point of this posting.  I have noticed over the last week or so, that my mind is engaging in the same sort of process that I have been engaging in with these physical documents.  My mind is full of memories from my 40 plus years with this man, and they have been coming up randomly over the last several months, in no apparent order, sometimes as a pleasant memory and sometimes as a trigger that leads me into a crying spell.  But over the last week or so, I have noticed that my mind is selecting from all of these unbidden memories the ones that I seem to want to hold on to, the ones that seem more significant for telling my story of the 40 years that I spent with this man.  And now, I notice that I am using these saved or reserved memories to guide me as I construct an interpretation of what those 40 years really were, what they meant to me, what they meant to him, what they all added up to. And it all just seems to be happening without my explicit effort to make it happen.  I have been writing in a journal, and I believe that some of my meaning making is coming through those journal writings, but I have not set out to make this sort of grand effort at summing it all up.  But it is happening, and I think it is a good thing—not sure about that yet, but it feels good right now.

 

I have discovered in some of the grief-related materials that I have read over the last few months the idea of integration—that the psychological task of grieving is to integrate those parts of your loved one that you want to keep as a part of yourself and then finding a way to build those parts into your own psyche.  I do not know if what is happening to me is integration, but I kind of hope it is.  Anyway, I wanted to share these experiences I am having to see if they ring true for any of you.   

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You are very brave for tackling this, I have not and it's been 16 years for me.  The photos etc. sit in a large plastic tub, two of my old life, raising my kids, another a steel file drawer of the one my husband and I shared.  The memories are indelibly etched in my heart where they come to me as they will.  Some of what you are talking about reminds me of this:

Continuing Relationships
Continuing Bonds - WYG
Continuing Bonds - rituals, world, body, life, beliefs, cause, time, person, human
Thinking About Continuing Bonds | Psychology Today
Continuing beyond physical death

 

We continue to miss and love them the rest of our lives.  We no longer have them here in a physical way but incorporate them into our lives in a new way as they continue to live in our hearts.

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