Many of you know that this year, 2019, I've been working on my word for the year - "Simplify." Part of that process has included purging clutter from our home. As I've gone through that process, I've gained some interesting insights into the kinds of stuff we keep and the emotional attachments we form with our belongings.
Grief, for instance. Often when we lose someone, we form attachments to things that remind us of that person, or things that once belonged to them. I'm not much of a tea drinker, but I have about 100 teacups that belonged to my grandmother. I've held onto them for decades, despite the fact that they sit, unused, collecting dust on a shelf.
I started journaling in college. I saved every single journal and every single entry for decades – until a recent cleaning/purging binge. I came across all my old journals, tucked away in a drawer, and sat for a few minutes to read through them and reminisce. It was so depressing! There was so much sadness in those pages. My parent's divorce. My grandmother's death. Infertility. Miscarriage. Struggle after struggle after struggle - the more I read, the worse I felt.
All this time, I kept those notebooks and journals because I believed they connected me to my past - to the people I have loved and lost. But holding on was not bringing me comfort – it was keeping me stuck. What they really connected me to was the trauma of each of my losses - reading those pages was like reliving the worst moments of my life.
I had been hoarding my grief, collecting it and saving it like thousands upon thousands of painfully delicate teacups, the totality of which was crushingly heavy. I was ready to be free. Free to collect joy instead of sadness, hope instead of despair. With a deep breath and little time to reconsider, I grabbed the journals one by one and crammed them into a giant black trashbag. Then I hauled the unwieldy, weighty bag down the stairs and heaved it into the trashcan. It was one of the hardest, most liberating things I have ever done, and I have never once regretted the choice. I feel freer than I have in years - decades. Letting go of the weight of my grief was a gift.
Where is your grief stored? Are you keeping it in the pages of a journal? In a collection of clothes, books, teapots, toy clowns or other “heirlooms” you’ve inherited? Do you keep your grief in boxes in your attic, or stacked all around your house? What would it look like to pull your stored grief out into the open, acknowledge it, honor it, and then let it go? The love you feel for the person you lost can’t be contained in a collection of words or things. It lives and breathes inside of you. Letting go of “stuff” can be a symbolic step toward letting go of your grief - which is a burden no one is meant to bear indefinitely.