By Joyce and Barry Vissell
Our memories are very precious!!! During this pandemic, so much has been taken from us. Where we live in California, our children will not be allowed to go back to school in the fall. Our religious institutions will have to continue online services. Many of the gyms have been closed. Restaurants for the most part are closed. Europe, Canada and Mexico have put a ban on all American tourists. Hawaii is totally closed to others, unless you want to quarantine for 14 days. Theaters closed, no concerts, and the list goes on and on. Everyone is missing something important for them. For us, the fact that we cannot do our workshops, work that we have done for the past 45 years and we dearly love, causes hurt to our hearts.
But one thing that cannot be taken away is our memories. I would like to invite everyone reading this to reflect on their memories either by themselves or share them with others. Rather than watching TV shows or movies, looking at social media, or the news, why not have a memory evening. We love to do this. We have dinner together, and talk about a certain event that we are missing, and we try to remember as many details and aspects as we can, especially everything about the event that we truly loved. We do not set a time frame for this lovely evening, but rather just allow our memories to have a voice.
For us, we have held our Breitenbush Family Retreat in Oregon for the past 33 years and there has never been a year that we have skipped, until this year when the retreat center is closed due to the pandemic. We love all of our work, but this weeklong workshop is definitely our favorite, as our children and grandsons participate as well. No retreat this year, but we have 33 years of beautiful memories to cherish. We have set aside several evenings to just talk about the retreat and remember as much as we can, to laugh at the funny parts, and allow the meaningful parts to touch our hearts once again … to actually feel the memories rather than just thinking about them. Always we end our “memory times” feeling more gratitude than any movie or especially a news show can ever bring.
Children can also participate in reminisces, and parents can make it into a fun game of seeing what is remembered. Perhaps for many families this year, family vacations will either be nonexistent or very different. But parents can set up special times and play the “memory game.” I love to hear what our children have remembered, and often what they remember best becomes part of the fabric of our family talked about year after year.
And then there are the memories of a loved one that has passed. Try to remember the loving, fun parts of being with this person, and share as many memories with others as you can. As we have to social distance now, perhaps have a video meeting with your siblings or friends to share memories. My father passed from this world twenty-one years ago. Our family likes to remember him by the unusual hugs that he gave. My dad was so uncomfortable with hugging people and for many years he just gave a slap on the back, keeping a distance. This was typical of men his age. As our children grew, they did not want a slap on the back. They wanted a real hug from their grandpa. Gradually over a few years he changed. He would get close to us as if to hug, and then he would slap our backs with both of his hands, his clear idea of increased intimacy. We all remember his “hugs” with such fondness for it showed my father willing to risk changing a lifetime behavior to show his great love for us with a hug, but still keeping his old tradition with a gentle slap on our back with his hands. When we get together and start remembering my dad, one of us will say, “Let me give you a grandpa hug,” and we all laugh in fondness of the man we all loved so much.
After my father passed, my mother liked to sit for several hours each day and just look at old photos of him. With each photo, she tried to remember as many details as she could, and also how happy she had been to be with him. I checked on my mother every day as she lived right next door. Sometimes she would be right in the middle of her memory time and she would be so happy. Often, I joined her in looking at the photos, but sometimes I left her alone as it seemed something magical was happening.
And then there are romantic memories. Recalling romantic times with your partner can be very healing. Sometimes, in a couple’s workshop, we will have each couple recall together when they first met and why they felt attracted to the other, what they felt when they first saw the other, what it felt like to hold hands for the first time, how they experienced the first kiss, the first time they joined their bodies together, and any other memories they have of their early years together. We have found that this is very helpful in connecting couples back into their hearts and their deep love for each other.
There are also memories that cause pain in our hearts. It is best with these memories to try and feel the gift that you received from this painful event. If you cannot find a gift or way that you have grown from this pain, it is good to connect with a therapist to help you move past the pain. If you keep reliving the painful memory, it can eventually affect your physical and mental health.
But the other memories of joy, laughter, warmth, friendship, fun, love, romance, and spiritual experience are very beneficial to remember and talk about. With so much taken away from us now during the pandemic, the memories that we have can be a source of much nurturing and meaning, especially if the memories can connect with your heart and bring a feeling of warmth and gratitude.
Joyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors near Santa Cruz, CA, who are passionate about conscious relationship and personal-spiritual growth. They are the authors of 9 books. Call 831-684-2299 for further information on counseling sessions by phone, on-line, or in person, their books, recordings or their schedule of talks and workshops. Visit their web site at SharedHeart.org for their free monthly e-heartletter, their updated schedule, and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationship and living from the heart.