Lost and Broken Things

During the first months after Jeff died, I lost my grip, not just figuratively, but literally. Things often slipped through my fingers for no apparent reason. I simply couldn’t hold on. It seemed as if when I lost the connection with him, I lost the ability to connect with anything. Or maybe grief sapped all my strength. One night, a mug slipped from my hand. My fingers were crooked through the handle, so I don’t know how it happened, but all of a sudden the mug hit the hard tile floor and exploded. It wasn’t an expensive mug, nor did I have a particularly sentimental attachment to it — it was one of two giveaways we’d received from the phone company during a local festival — but I wept as if my heart had broken. Or as if he had died again.

Gathering up the shattered pieces and slivers of the mug, I understood for the first time that as the months and years passed, all our things would break or wear out, and every loss would take me one more step away from our life.

Looking back, it seems odd that the broken mug affected me so much. I’d spent the first two months after he died getting rid of stuff — his clothes, his personal possessions, mementos of his life before me, food and supplies I couldn’t take with me to California, all sorts of things, perhaps a third of everything we owned. It was a horrific time, and I felt so lost and lonely and devastated that no one particular thing stood out as a loss, probably because anything that had a special resonance, I kept.

A couple years after that, there was another silly loss that sent me back into grief mode. My sister made a gorgeous decoration of ribbons and a bow for a gift she’d sent, and since I thought it was too beautiful to waste, I placed it around the hat I wore to keep off the desert sun. After a couple of weeks, it blew off in the wind, and when I realized it was gone, I went looking for it. Couldn’t find it. The bow wasn’t important in the grand scheme of life and death, but it was important to me. It made me feel good, for one thing, and it was a symbol, in a way, of my struggles to create a new life for myself.

After my father died, I went through the things I couldn’t get rid of after Jeff died and found I could dispose of quite a few more things. Then before I moved here, I got rid of still other things. More recently, I disposed of a damaged mug with only a brief pang when I remembered it was the mate to the one I had broken all those years ago.

You’d think after so much loss, one more thing out of my life wouldn’t make a difference, but apparently, it does. I’ve lost an iced tea spoon that once belonged to Jeff — the only such spoon we had — and I am devastated. I’m not crying over the spoon, though I can feel the tears in the back of my throat. I liked the spoon, liked that it reminded me of him, liked the connection to a previous time. And now, that, too is gone.

It’s not as if I don’t have other things of his. I do. We had a lot of duplication in kitchen stuff, for example — the things he brought to our home, the things I brought, the things we bought together. I still have his eating utensils as well as mine, enough to last me the rest of my life. But I don’t have that iced tea spoon.

The odd thing is, as I grow older and then older still, I’ll have to get rid of even more of our things until at the end, I’ll be gone, too. So the loss of this one dainty spoon shouldn’t be a problem.

But it is.

Now that I think about it, the lost and broken things that bother me are not those I chose to dispose of, but the those I didn’t. Just as I didn’t choose to dispose of Jeff.

Of course, I’ll get over losing the spoon, just as I got over breaking the cup and losing the bow and all the rest of the things that are out of my life. Of course I’m grateful for all the wonderful new things that have come into my life.

And yet . . . and yet . . .

Everything that happens, good or bad, takes me one more step away from my shared life with Jeff.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

9 Responses to “Lost and Broken Things”

  1. Auntysocial Says:

    I wonder what Jeff would say about you turning yourself inside out over these things.

  2. Uthayanan Says:

    Dear Pat,
    I am sorry Pat. The same thing happened to me from the first month I started loose my grip and not only I have broken down one mug and I have damaged our evening herbal tea pot. It hurt me a lot. I stated to loose things bought by my wife for me at home.
    The first thing what I did that I learned to be calm and started to take natural vitamins 100% vegetable origin double Magnesium one pill and vitamine B1, B8, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, iron, selenium, Zinc, Vitamine D3, Vitamine E, Chrome in two pills. With the permission of my doctor. It helped me a lot. With my wife’s cooking I never need vitamins and anything. Except green lime pressed with water while playing badminton.
    When I started loose things at home I said my self to be calme and you will find it later sometime after one month. (You never loose anything definitely at home and it was misplaced)
    Some how I started to learn attachments and detachments of our shared life.
    I know pretty sure from 23 years old (or before) I brink nothing with me in my coffin.
    As you said Everything that happens, good or bad But I am sure at the moment thousands and thousands beautiful souvenirs of her will stay with me forever even I leave all theses materials shared with her.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      It sounds like you’re on a good vitamin regimen. All are good things to help with the stress of loss.

      It’s funny your saying you never lose anything at home — it’s just misplaced. Not me. When I lose something, it’s gone forever. In the case of this spoon, it probably got knocked into the trash or something like that.

      It is weird, though, how we accumulate things during the first part of our lives and then spend the rest of our lives getting rid of them, one way or another..

      • Uthayanan Says:

        I am again so sorry Pat for your spoon.
        Some thing happened to me nearly 2-3 months my wife use to put one blue rubber ball in the washing Machine with clothes. I lost it some how I don’t know how but I am sure I didn’t put in the bin. I don’t want to buy another one and l love to get it back I am not searching in a active way but still searching…. it hurts a little I try to learn to live with it and hope to get it back !

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          It’s funny how these missing things seem so significant, but only to us and only because they reminds us of the person who is gone,

          • Uthayanan Says:

            Pat today i got it back the blue rubber ball of my wife after 5-7 months. It is still very much important for me to get it back instead of buy a new one. After two years and seven months I still feel lost, void, no different feeling with a birth, marriage, and dead. I will always be grateful for the help you have given me through your writing.
            Now it is nearly 4 am I am extremely very calm but it is not easy to sleep.

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            I’m glad you found the ball. People don’t realize how important the little things become when you no longer have the most important person in your life. I understand your still feeling lost. I felt lost for many years. It’s only since I’ve been in my new house, creating a new home for myself, that the feeling of being lost is gone. I still have moments of feeling lost, but usually I’m okay, and so will you be eventually. I hope you sleep well tonight.

  3. Judy Galyon Says:

    I feel the same way….broken.

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