Building Connection In Times Of Grief

“A legacy project can be a meaningful tool to bolster your own strength following a frightening diagnosis. It can be a means to support someone you love who is ill, or a way to reclaim a feeling of control after bereavement by turning emotions outward in a positive way towards others we love.”

For each of us the thought of losing a loved one, or of leaving loved ones behind, is a difficult thing to bear. When faced with a potentially terminal diagnosis we all want to save those we care about from grief, but in such times our normal vocabulary of support becomes redundant and we can find ourselves feeling powerless. In these moments the value of our connection to others can be a source of sadness or of strength, so here we will look at ways to actively choose, and forge, some of that much needed strength.

When such times fall upon us it can offer some relief to focus on the connection we share with those we love through a legacy project, the goal being to lay some small but comforting foundations to ensure that bond still feels present when we are no longer together.

When we experience loss we look for tokens of connection to our loved ones. Keep sakes become a very powerful tool as we go through grief and begin to heal. A legacy project is simply choosing to create something that we can leave behind to honour those connections, and sharing in this kind of activity can be an uplifting experience when positivity might seem hard to reach. It might be deciding to put together some old mementos and making notes on their relevance. It might be recording funny stories, challenging periods in our lives or moments of great happiness for posterity. It could be something practical or creative, big or small.

While we may choose to spend an afternoon on a legacy project for loved ones alone, it can be a great thing to do together as a means to focus on the wonderful things we carry with us, and pass on in time. A legacy project can be a meaningful tool to bolster your own strength following a frightening diagnosis. It can be a means to support someone you love who is ill, or a way to reclaim a feeling of control after a bereavement by turning emotions outward in a positive way towards others we love.

If putting something together in this way feels a little odd, try to think of it as a personalised time-capsule. You don’t have to use the term legacy project if you’d prefer not, but imagine whatever you choose to create as not only for your loved ones today, but perhaps for their children or even grandchildren. Remember the power of your own feelings of connection when you have seen pictures of your parents as children or even heard an old song that brought up a long forgotten memory. There is more value in small things than we often give credit to. Here are some simple ideas for your legacy project, although it can truly be anything you wish:

  • Choose three milestone moments from your life (or any number you like) and tell the story of what happened.
  • Put together a scrapbook of mementos, pictures and memories.
  • Collect some meaningful photographs into an album and write a description of your life at the time of each one, such as what was happening, how old you were, how you felt and what else was going on in that period of your life.
  • Record your very favourite recipes and any experiences they may remind you of.
  • Create a collection of handprints of you and your nearest and dearest.
  • Write a reflection on the advice you wish you’d been given as a child, intended as a message to the children in your family.
  • Create a poem, a song, or a drawing for those you love.
  • Write cards to be given on future birthdays or times of celebration.
  • Put together the playlist of your life. Select your favourite songs and record their significance to you.

Illness can make practical things difficult, but if you or your loved one is not able to write, there is always the option of dictating to a trusted friend or family member. If you are considering suggesting a project like this to someone you care for, perhaps make a list of questions you could ask them to prompt the unfolding of their story. You may discover episodes in their life that you’d never heard about before and build a more complete picture of what made them the person you value greatly today.

The form a legacy project takes is entirely personal and suited to your own needs and wishes. Focusing on what we can share and recording memories, or things that help us to retain a sense of the identity of our loved ones, can enable us to create positive moments when faced with grief. We can gain a sense that we are not leaving those we love in such a jarring way, or that we have celebrated the value of someone we hold dear – right to the last possible moment. Inevitably in life our paths may cross with great loss, and at these times the love we feel and the connections we have shared are things we carry on with us for comfort.