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

Moving Energy Around

Certain theories of energy, particularly as pertains to the energy of the human body, state that moving energy around through mental visualization or other means can help or hinder a person. For example, upward moving energy puts us out of sorts — revving us up, screwing us up, making us uptight. Downward moving energy, on other the other hand, brings us down to earth, calms us down.

Ever since my sister came to help take care of our aging father, she has been insistent on moving energy around, not in us so much as in the house. To that end, she has lit candles, done a thorough cleaning (including windows!), rearranged things, even rearranged lives. (It’s her efforts that got my dysfunctional brother packed and in the car so I could drive him back to Colorado.) Lately I’ve been sweeping out my past, and she is encouraging me, saying that I’m moving energy around.

I don’t know what, if anything, this movement of energy means or if in fact it is making a difference in any significant way, but it is helping me break ties to some of my “things.” I don’t own much, and what I do own is of little value, but I have a special connection to things I have made, to things my deceased life mate/soul mate appreciated, to pretty boxes and bows. I’ve gotten rid of much of the unnecessary things of his and my shared life, but I’ve kept many things just because someday I might like to have them, but now with my sister’s insistence on moving energy around, I’m finding myself getting rid of things I’d always planned to keep. The things simply no longer seem important. (I wonder if I’m going too far and will later regret getting rid of so much, but the truth is, whatever I keep will have to be stored or moved multiple times since I won’t have a permanent place to live.)

One thing I haven’t gotten rid of yet is his ashes, though they too no longer seem important.

I never had any plans to keep his ashes, but a minister friend once cautioned against getting rid of them all. Apparently, people come to regret such a move. Since I didn’t like the idea of opening the box and separating out a bit of him, and since I couldn’t bring myself to throw him away, I’ve simply kept the box intact. But now I think I should be moving the energy around. It’s not his energy in that box/urn, of course — he’s been gone for almost four and a half years. It’s not my energy either, as far as I know. I don’t have much emotion invested his remains anymore, don’t even really think about them, but they are always present.

Right after his death, getting rid of those “cremains” would have broken what was left of my heart because they were all I had left of him. But they are not him. I know he wouldn’t have wanted me to keep them. Well, for that matter, I don’t particularly want to keep them, either, but whenever I’ve considered getting rid of them, the thought assumed such importance that I felt better off leaving them where they are.

I can see the time is coming to move that energy around, to throw out what is, in essence, inorganic matter without any particular meaning. Strangely, I’m even beginning to feel uneasy having his cremains around, as if I’m holding onto a desiccated corpse.

I wish he were here, wish I could talk to him, wish I could show him the things I made or wrote and see his slow sweet smile of appreciation, wish I could go home to him. But none of that will ever happen. So even though I know he would not like my tossing out so much of what I have made, I remind myself he no longer has a say in my life, and I keep moving energy around.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.