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Memory Loss of Loved One Who Died

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When I was 4 years old, my grandpa passed away of Pancreatic Cancer. Everyone in my family has always told me that my grandpa loved me, and I loved him. My grandma even told me that my grandpa was afraid that I would forget about him.

It was February 2, 2005, and apparently, I was in the room when my grandpa passed away. When I say that I cannot remember a single thing about that man, I am not joking or exaggerating. I pray every night that I would be able to get some kind of recollection of my memories of my grandpa, but instead, I am left with an empty feeling inside.

I have always wondered if I was just too young to remember him since I was only 4, but I can remember stupid and little things from before then, just not about my grandpa. For instance, I had my 4th birthday at Chuck E. Cheese, and I can remember the feeling of the mascot’s paw on my hand from that day, but I can’t even remember anything about a man that was in my life for 4 years.

I get so angry at myself and at him because I let myself forget him, but he also did not leave me anything to remember him by. I ask all the time if he wrote letters or gave me anything, but sadly, there’s nothing.

I also wonder if maybe it’s because of the fact that I was apparently so in love with my grandpa and attached to him that I forced myself to forget about him when he died. I know that trauma can cause your brain to disassociate in order to protect itself, but I really wish that did not happen. My grandma says that me and her were the only ones in the room when my grandpa died and we both cried ourselves to sleep after he passed away.

I guess I just want to know why I am completely incapable of remembering someone who seemed to have been my best friend. I am 19 now, so he has been dead for 15 years, going on 16. I have struggled with this issue for a LONG time because I get jealous of my friends for taking their grandparents for granted while I struggle to remember mine.

Please let me know an answer. ANYTHING HELPS! (From the USA)

Memory Loss of Loved One Who Died

Answered by on -

A.

Love and loss have a profound effect on our senses, memory, and well-being. I think all of the things you’ve pointed to as possibilities for not being able to remember are relevant. They are all real candidates for why he may be difficult to remember. Yet, our memories are not like set stone. They change and shift as we recall and add information to our recollections.

My advice is to pull together a living biography of your grandfather. Talk to those who knew him, ask for stories — particularly stories where you might have been involved. Search for photos, stories, and artifacts of his. Everything has the potential of being valuable. Talk to your parents about their stories of him, and any family members alive that knew him.

Just as with biographies we read we come to know someone through the particulars of their life as seen through other’s eyes. The search for photos, videos and the like are important as hearing his voice and seeing interaction can have a great impact on constructing a person’s story.

If you feel inspired there are ancestry tracing services, such as these, that can take a bit of your DNA and help you learn about your family tree — and, of course, your grandfather. All of these methods are ways for you to construct an understanding, honoring, and recollection of who your grandfather was.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Memory Loss of Loved One Who Died

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Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2020). Memory Loss of Loved One Who Died. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 31, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2020/03/16/memory-loss-of-loved-one-who-died/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 14 Mar 2020 (Originally: 16 Mar 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 14 Mar 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.