A Simple Tool to help us Cope with the Immensity of Loss.

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“Letting go takes a lot of courage sometimes. But once you let go, happiness comes very quickly. You won’t have to go around searching for it.”~ Thích Nhât Hạnh

~

I have suffered some tremendous losses in the past year.

An ugly divorce, a devastating house fire, and struggles with anxiety and depression have left my life looking very different from the one I thought I was living.

As my husband moved on, new and unwelcome house guests moved in. Their names were loss, grief, hurt, and anger.

I worked really hard to kick them out. But, every time I thought I had finally done it, I realized they were still hanging around—like the kind of house guests who don’t realize that it’s time to go, so they just stay.

As I was sharing my feelings of grief and loss with my friend for probably the thousandth time, I realized that I needed a way to contain them.

She had been through a similar experience in her life, and told me she visualized putting her grief in a jar. She imagines taking it down every once in a while and shaking it up to really feel her feelings, and then she imagines putting it back on the shelf. That strategy helped her to put the “unwanted house guests” away so she could get on with taking care of the business of her life.

I took her idea and ran with it.

I liked the idea of the jars, but I am more visual and needed something concrete, so I took a bunch of my grandmother’s old Mason jars and got to work.

I made a jar for each of the feelings that were taking up room in my life. I had a jar for my anger and in it I put strips of paper listing all of the things I was angry about: the lies, the betrayal, the destructive things that were said. I made a jar for my loss: loss of my intact family, loss of the future I thought I would have, loss of holiday traditions, loss of my identity as a wife, loss of control over any part of my life. I then made a jar for my grief and a jar for my hurt.

I put my jars up on a shelf.

Sometimes I would take them down, shake them up, and feel the intensity of it all. I added strips of paper with others things I realized I was angry about or new hurts that came out of old wounds. I would write in my journal, or write letters that I wouldn’t send, to help me articulate what I was feeling. Then, I would put the jars back on the shelf and try to let them go.

It’s been about a year. I am still grieving. I am far less angry, although sometimes it comes out of nowhere and takes over. I am still profoundly aware of the loss and the hurt, but I am moving forward with my life.

As I move forward, I have realized that it’s time for some new jars.

I need future jars.

I can look back and see the past very clearly, but I still struggle to see the future. I need to give myself permission to have a life that looks different than the one I lived before. My new jars will capture all of the fleeting ideas I have for the next part of my life and allow me to breathe them into existence.

I need a jar for my hopes and dreams: for me and my kids. I hope to find a job where I can use my skill set to be of benefit (yes, I’m looking…). I dream about traveling. I hope to write a book. I hope my children will grow up and be okay.

I need a jar for new traditions to start: like opening gifts on Christmas Eve, eating ice cream for dinner after a bad day, or going away for birthdays.

I need a jar for things I need: reminders about things I am too quick to let go of or pieces of me I can too easily lose. I need to do yoga. I need to leave work every day by 5 p.m. I need to allow myself a grieving day when I get sad. I need to be honest without being mean.

I need a jar for things that I deserve. I deserve to be loved. I deserve to be respected. I deserve to be valued. I deserve to be cherished. I deserve to be okay with being myself in relationships.

These future jars will be able to stay long-term. And as I take down my jar of things that I deserve, I see the strip of paper that says, “I deserve to be loved.” I remember a time not too long ago that I didn’t believe that.

I’m just going to give that jar a little shake and remind myself that I deserve to live a life that I love, with people who love me. And maybe hold on to that one for a while.

~

author: Carin L. Reeve

Image: Naganath Chiluveru/Unsplash

Editor: Nicole Cameron

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Carin Reeve

Carin L. Reeve is currently exploring her midlife course correction and recalculating her path. A passionate educator, Carin has been writing about her experiences in urban education on her blog. She is also exploring finding her way on her second blog. Carin lives in Liverpool, New York where she is working on letting go and not being in control of absolutely everything.

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Lisa Jager Jul 16, 2018 1:50am

Thank you. It's comforting to know that people come out the other side and find peace and joy again.

Carin L. Reeve Jul 16, 2018 1:33am

I am so sorry for your loss and I understand your grief. I agree with Nancy that this can be a way to really connect with your feelings. Wishing you peace along your journey.

Carin L. Reeve Jul 16, 2018 1:29am

It is so hard to move forward when you didn't choose the path you're on. Wishing you peace on your journey.

Nancy Later Lavoie Jul 14, 2018 11:07pm

There is always a piece of your heart missing. Instead of looking at it like putting it on the shelf to ignore, try to think of it as taking time out of everyday to honestly honor your child, take the jar down, remember all the beautiful memories and take that time to be present in the remembering. Then put the jar back up on the shelf and know that your child would never ever want you to be sad for a minute while you are still here on this earth, They would ask you to play and dance and live with joy in their remembering. I know how you feel, I am there too. But I truely know that our pain is not what they want. So because of the love I choose to live, I wish this for you. Big hug.

Kandy Angel Jul 14, 2018 4:39pm

Same here. Perfect timing.

Lynn DeRose Jul 14, 2018 3:38pm

I love this idea, but have to say I do not believe loss of a child can be put in a jar...there is no place to set it aside.

Lisa Jager Jul 14, 2018 3:10pm

I am experiencing all of these same things and have been going through the same struggles this past year. Today is a particularly hard day. Your writing is just what I needed. Thank you for helping me find ways to deal with this pain and this opportunity for growth.