04/25/2013 08:27 am ET Updated Jun 25, 2013

Griever's Gold: Cherished Memories

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In the popular television series Once Upon a Time, Snow White is devastated that she cannot be with her true love, Prince Charming. The pain of facing life without him is so searing that she begs the village wizard for relief. He tells her that he can erase her pain forever and thus she eagerly drinks his potion.

What the wizard failed to mention is that the potion would erase not only her pain, but also all memories of her Prince Charming. By the time the potion did its work, she had no memories of loving him, no memories of him loving her, no idea of his identity, nor even of his importance in her life.

I have worked with grievers for nearly 25 years. When I ask them the hypothetical question, "Would you agree to erase all your pain even if the cost was to lose all your memories of your loved one?" the answer is unanimously "no!" The pain of grief may be overwhelming, but the thought of losing all connection to one's beloved is intolerable.

Memories are like gold nuggets, nuggets with sharp edges that eventually wear smooth. During the first year or two of grief, memories may be painful, only highlighting the loved one's absence. However, over time, a shift begins to occur. The sharp edges soften and memories become like treasures, prizes to cherish.

Memories have the power to lift the spirit, expand the heart, and remind the griever that he or she has experienced a great gift: a gift of love, which keeps on giving.

The following five techniques can help a griever shift perspective. Embracing memories is one important way of staying connected to a loved one.

1. Look at photographs or videos: Glance through albums, computer folders and old videos. Take in every detail of time and place as the memories come flooding back to you. Let yourself cry if you need to, but also let the memories remind you of a happy time.

2. Sift through gifts, cards, mementos from your dear one: Allow yourself to remember the time, place, and situation that led to this gift.

3. Share stories with other people: Talking about your loved one and sharing stories is a way to keep the memories alive. Another gold nugget is when you hear a story about your loved one from someone else, a story perhaps that you never heard before.

4. Write down selected memories in a journal: Writing in a journal helps to express your feelings, and also helps to crystallize special moments from the past.

5. Give thanks for the gift of this person in your life: Remember that you are who you are because of knowing and loving this person. Their impact on you is as lifelong as the presence of their love.

Savor the memories as magical treasures to be held, revisited and cherished. They are evidence of a love that transcends loss.

Ashley is the author of the bookTranscending Loss: Understanding the Lifelong Impact of Grief and How to Make it Meaningful.

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