“I am losing the final piece of him…”

Dear Dr. Neimeyer,

My husband passed away nearly a dozen years ago and I have been receiving his Social Security Benefits since that time. On my birthday next Spring I will be taking my own Social Security.  My question is:  Why do I feel so apprehensive about taking mine and giving up my husband’s?  This is the last thing that I have that  was his and mine…I feel as though if I give it up I am losing the final piece of him.  Is this normal even after 12 years?

Thank you,

Dear Moira–

Ah, Moira.  Even in matters of the heart, we human beings are drawn to symbolism and significance.  And just as you say, the Social Security provided posthumously by your husband had profound meaning for you that went well beyond a monthly check or electronic deposit.  In an important sense, t was not simply a monthly deposit to a banking account–it was a deposit to a love account.  And now, even if your financial needs are met by your own retirement benefits, your emotional needs are not, and you feel the shadow of an old grief flicker across your vision of the future.

Understandable as this disquieting feeling is, it could also hold the key to its own solution.  That is, what seems required is the development of psychological security to replace the Social Security, to discern more clearly the many ways his is still very much with you.  Very likely many things in your home, from the chairs and tables that support your body and meals to the lamps that disperse the darkness bear his fingerprints or sense of presence, and perhaps the home itself is one that sheltered you both.  More intangibly, but ultimately more importantly, much of who you are likely bears the imprint of your years of loving connection.  You could find it helpful to reflect, perhaps in an AfterTalk letter or journal entry, on the “life imprint” he left on you, at levels ranging from your mannerisms and ways of speaking, through your ways of relating to others and yourself, to your choice of pastimes or interests and ultimately to your core values and purposes.  Meditating on these, and perhaps expressing in that symbolic letter to him the gratitude you have for the many ways he is still very much with you, could help bridge the transition from one expression of a continuing bond in the form of your joint Social Security check, to a form of psychological security expressed in a dozen more durable connections.

–Dr. Neimeyer


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1 thought on ““I am losing the final piece of him…””

  1. Stephanie Miller

    I am feeling much the same way as Moira, my mom passed away from liver cancer 6 months ago and everything she has ever touched I defend like a wild bear. My husband looks at me sometimes as if I have really gone over the edge. Phycologically, I know she is not in the scarf or chair or whatnot but to me it is all I have of hers and I hold onto it as my refusal to heal and move on. Deep down I sense I am rushing myself through the grief because I am really scared of feeling my feelings .. I have run from them for 30+ years. I want to say thank you to Moira for putting words to my feelings and helping me not feel so alone♥️ and Dr Neimeyer for your responses which are always truly helpful. The idea that I carry on with not only the memories but of expressing them as mom would , is fascinating. So I do feel closer to her and quietly chuckle to myself when I catch myself doing it. So, thank you so far it’s working and thank you for this safe place to say what I need🌞

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