One Year After 
Loss of Partner

 Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist

As the first year of grieving draws on, most survivors make a distinction between thoughts, feelings and behaviors which should be retained and the ones that are no longer appropriate.  

For example, earlier, survivors may have felt compelled to cook the favorite dish of the loved one for supper as if he or she is still present or, they may have been maintaining the loved one's closet, clothings, all neatly arranged as if he or she is going to return any moment.  

They may not have changed a thing about their bedroom since the loved one's death, a behavior which I refer to as the "mausoleum syndrome".  It impresses on them increasingly that these behaviors are no longer appropriate or necessary.  

On the other hand, they may feel greatly inspired by the values upheld by the lost person.  They may work on the goals that the lost person intended to pursue.  The survivor may uphold a cause or an idea, all in the memory of the lost person.  A mission may assume a passionate power due to the circumstances of the loss.  Forming an association or a local chapter, joining a volunteer or support group, making a donation in the memory of the lost person are examples of continuation of relationship with the lost person.  

Activities that are pursued in the memory of the lost person, not only keep the survivor connected with the lost person, but also serve the purpose of engaging the survivors in a constructive and emotionally gratifying activity.  

With the dissolution of the physical existence, the survivor, through such activities, connects with the lost person at the thought level.  She can now retain a sense of the continuing presence of the lost person without the emotional turmoil experienced earlier.  


We dream to fulfill a desire or to satisfy a wish that is unsatisfied.  Dreams are a continuation of the thoughts and feelings that we experience during the waking state.  

Dreams confront us in our sleep with what we were trying to avoid during the day.  Dreams present us with the work that we wanted to and needed to do during the waking state.  

Therefore, dreams have an important function to fulfill during the mourning.  Above all, they restore at the mental level, in dreams,  what is lost at the physical level.  They connect us with the loved one with such clarity and vividness that the dream seems almost real.  

Dreams come from the unconscious part of our mind, in which the primary relationships are etched for ever.  Dreams are not governed by the logic or the laws of the reality that are the part of the waking world.  

At the time of writing this, twenty-two years have passed since my brother died and I still see him alive in my dreams.  Why?  Because he is an inseparable part of my family of origin.  My family will always be intact for my dreaming mind.  Death is a reality for the conscious mind.  

The dreaming mind only adds; it does not subtract.  People added to our list of loved ones is lodged deep in the mind, we can't just drop them by will.  The dreaming mind does not have a clear cut distinction, as the waking mind has, between the past and present, the logical and illogical, and the real and unreal.  For example, in some of the dreams, my brother is completely healthy and in some he is a little infirm but he is alive.  In dreams when I see him alive, I am surprised.  

I ask myself, "How is it possible?  I have earlier known him to be dead."  (Incidentally, I was not present when he died.)  Then my mind finds some explanation, how the earlier news of his death turned out to be wrong.  

In some dreams, my brother explains to me about the miraculous treatment that saved him from almost certain death.  My puzzlement is explained and I continue dreaming, talking, laughing, and enjoying being around my brother.  If he is feeble in the dream, I help him to get around.  I see him getting better, sometimes, recovering completely.  

Freud said the dream is a fulfillment of a wish.  That appears to be so in the dreams of the grieving state.  We wish nothing more than to undo the loss of our loved ones.  Dreams of the lost person still being alive serve the purpose of maintaining the sense of his presence and continuing the relationship with him.  


Studies of bereavement indicate that more than 50 % of the bereaved, a year after the loss of their partners, can feel the continuing "presence" of their lost partner without the emotional turmoil.  

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 


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