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Why Letting Go of 'Things' Is Hard for Me as a Bereaved Parent

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The older I become, the more I desire to simplify. However, I feel the opposite has resulted, creating a vacuum.

When my son passed on, a void was created in me. My nature dictated that I somehow fill that vacuum. It seems to oppose the idea of “being still.” This need, however, made me vulnerable and resulted in unhealthy choices. It is also impossible to fill the void left by my son. Nothing and no one could ever do so. I made attempts of filling it with work, relationships, traveling, etc. But it was fruitless. I had to accept that vacuum. To do otherwise, can lead to frustration, which could easily become anger and rob me of any peace. The ways in which I mostly unconsciously attempt to fill that void can result in utter despair — all attempts to do so fail.

There is something else I have discovered. I seem almost incapable of discarding anything in my life that becomes a metaphor for loss. The loss of anything triggers a spontaneous “panic.” When I can’t locate something, a stifling fear immediately presents itself. This opposes any attempts to rid myself of “things.”

Yesterday, I went outside to do a few chores in my yard. A neighbor lady was also outside and we talked. She told me she was paying someone to clear out some unnecessary items she had been holding on to. She had old bicycles, containers, gadgets, and other items she no longer had use for and decided to discard them. Her husband had passed away a few years ago and some items he had collected over the years were not useful for her. She appeared to be lightening a burden she carried. I found it interesting and took note of her words when she lightheartedly described it as a, “spiritual cleansing.”

So, I found myself with an internal battle taking place. On the one hand, I desire to simplify; on the other hand, I have to confront the looming feeling of loss. The clash of the two produces stress. I need to resolve the ambivalent and conflicting emotions before making any decisions so I can hopefully choose wisely. I want to avoid any regrets down the road, if possible.

As a bereaved parent, grief is a constant companion. The simplest loss of any sort can unexpectedly re-open “Pandora’s Box.” Choosing to discard anything to which I once had a degree of attachment results in confronting even a minimal feeling of loss. The acquisition of simplification needs to be more significant and desirable from my perspective than any array of accumulated feelings of loss. I’m discovering that “simplifying” is a very complicated endeavor. There are things that belonged to my son that I could never discard. They are packed away in the corner of an attic and I haven’t opened those boxes in years. They take up space, have no practical use, etc. However, they will remain as long as I live and have any say in the matter. I need to not transfer how I feel about his things, though, unto other things that are completely separate. Grief is complicated. Peeling through the layers is hard work. It’s tentacles wrap themselves around what could appear to be the simplest things in our lives. Is it any wonder I often feel so drained?

It might become necessary for me to let go of some things. Letting go of anything can be frightening because I have already lost so much. Yet, letting go is necessary to simplifying, and simplifying reduces stress, which could allow peace to takes its place. I have to choose to swim upstream and work to make things easier for myself. I have to choose to be a walking contradiction to my natural tendencies which become the vacuum. I have to strive to be at peace. I have to yell at my thoughts to be silent. I have to take action to let go in order to find rest and be still.



Jude’s book, “Gifts from the Ashes,” is available at Direct Textbook.

Follow this journey on Jude’s website.

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Thinkstock image by cyano66

Originally published: May 10, 2017
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