Helium Balloons and Love After Loss

I’m not usually one who gets tearful watching movies, but I can’t watch the movie Up without needing a box of tissues. Anyone who’s seen the movie knows how heartbreaking the first few minutes of the film are: you watch Carl and Ellie fall in love with each other, live together and support each other through the good and the bad, then Ellie becomes ill and eventually passes away.

Later in the movie, a grieving Carl pulls out a photo book and reads a note from Ellie that says, “Thanks for the adventure! Now, go have a new one.” He realizes that Ellie was with him the entire time. You see the glimmer in his eyes and the new excitement as he sets out to live the rest of his life as an adventure in memory of her.  

What I love about the story is that it reinforces something important for us:

  • When our loved one dies, we can go on living in their memory. That bond is not broken by death. They live on in our hearts and in the moments we remember with them that we cherish. We can hold on to photos and items that remind us of them to bring us comfort and to help us feel closer to them.

In the early stages of our grief, some days can feel suffocating. We live most of those first months after the loss feeling like our lives are under a microscope. People ask us questions and seemingly pass judgements about how long it takes us to go through our loved one’s things, how long it takes us to “get over it,” and so much more. Those comments and our inner guilt can make it difficult for us to live life the way we want to, to re-marry after a loss, and to listen to what feels right for us.

You know you best, and grief has no timeline. You are the one who sits with your grief each day and gets to decide what to do with those feelings. You know how your husband’s jacket, with his smell still lingering in the fabric, calms you when you wake up and miss him. You know how comforting it is to read through your best friend’s texts in your phone that you can’t bring yourself to delete. It’s okay to keep those things. It’s okay for your relationship with your loved one to continue in this way after they are gone.

I am here to tell you; in case you need to hear it: Love never dies. You do not need to “move on.” You have permission to keep your loved one’s memory alive inside your heart in whatever way feels best to you.

Kailey Hanrath, LLMSW

Program Coordinator

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