Endings are powerful events. When relationships are ended, we are often faced with a flood of memories. When life as we have known it comes to an end, the space created seems to be invaded by thousands of memories. It is as all the pieces of our relationship to others were held behind a concrete dam. While we were still in relationship with the other, those memories were released a little at a time. But, when the relationship ended, the flood gates are opened and it is hard to control the flow.
One of the reasons this happens is that we may not want to let that relationship go. Or at least there are parts of it that we cherish. But, our connections to important people and organizations are so important in our own self-understanding that it scares us to let it go. We may not know who we are if we are not in relationship to that person or institution. Our identity is up for grabs.
So, memories clamber over each other to get our attention. The members of our mental and emotional family were integrated as long as our relationship was a living one. But when there is a death of a relationship, the chaos scatters those stories and we don't know who we are.
So, we remember. We are litterly trying to re-member what has been dismembered. We are trying to keep the relationship alive in our vision of ourselves. It is terribly disorienting to have important parts of our self taken away by an ending relationship. And because the relationship has been important to us, we have to put it together in a new way within our psyche/soul. Because the relationship is no longer a living presence, we need to construct a spiritual presence.
This is why it is so important for people who have had significant losses to keep telling their story--continually rehearsing what happened. They know that who they are is a collection of all the relationships they have had the the events that they have been part of. They need to integrate the experience of the ending of the relationship with their experience of the relationship.
And that takes as long as it takes--generally longer than some around them would like. So, be a patient friend to those who need to talk. They are doing hard work of spiritual integration.