A lady whose mother-in-law had been dead for about three months said to me, “I know that she’s dead and buried, but the other day I just had to dial her telephone number and let it ring so that I could see if it had really been disconnected.” She then went on to ask, “Can you explain why I dialled her telephone when I know that she is dead?”
I responded by alluding to that age-old phenomenon in grief which has to do with “the head vs. the heart,” i.e., the head, which represents our mind and what our mind knows to be factual, vs. the heart, which represents our feelings and emotions which are sometimes not rooted in factual reality.
Following loss, especially traumatic loss, it is not uncommon for bereaved persons to experience the head and the heart splitting apart. The heart is saying one thing while the head is saying something else which is altogether different. With our mind we know something to be true and factual, while with our heart we either wish something quite different to be true or else we have not had enough time to process the upsetting experience so that the reality that is true for the head is also true for the heart.
We hear numerous examples of this in the statements people make regarding their deceased loved ones. For example, “I know that he is dead (head), but I just had to reach over and check his side of the bed to see if he was really gone (heart).
An important, yet difficult, step in the process of recovering from the loss of a loved one is getting the head and the heart (mind and emotions) back together, i.e., reconnecting the head and the heart.
One thing that makes this process of reconnecting the head and the heart so difficult is that we have been mentally conditioned to think about a person being alive and an important part of our life. All of our mental and emotional processes of thinking and feeling regarding this person which had been fixed, set, and established must now be radically changed. This is one of the most difficult things we will ever do.