Grief work with the “stuff”

Grief is the processing of a significant loss in one’s life. This can be the loss of a loved one to death or divorce, the loss of a job, the loss of a home, or other losses. The grieving process is usually focused on the loss, something that is now missing from one’s life. Sometimes the loss leaves behind items that become constant reminders of the loss.

Examples include the contents of parents’ homes, wedding pictures, or a loved one’s clothing just to name a few. Feelings while making decisions about such items range from numb to heart-wrenching with many others in between. As my only sibling died after our mother but before our father, I was responsible for making most of the decisions about the items in my parent’s home. Most decisions of what to donate, keep, or discard were not that difficult for me as I had the assistance of my husband, son, and in-laws. Decisions about my mother’s wedding dress, my parent’s china or crystal, and letters from someone my mother worshiped, but was recently cruel to me, were more difficult.

How I handled the difficult items varied. It gave me great relief to burn the cards that my mother had so thoughtfully saved. My mother’s wedding dress, china, white gloves, handkerchiefs, scarves, and crystal were made into the art pieces below. The process of art making in my own art therapy allowed me to process the grief of my losses as well as manage the “stuff” that was deeply entwined with my experiences of the people I was grieving. As we approach another holiday season, how will you manage your “stuff”?

Written by: Robin Keller, LLP, ATR
Robin Keller, LLP, ATR came to Heron Ridge with employment experiences in small outpatient practices as well as residential addiction treatment. She holds Masters degrees in art therapy (Wayne State University) and clinical psychology (Michigan School of Psychology). She is a registered art therapist as well as a masters level psychologist. Prior to her graduate work, Robin worked in the field of interior architecture in design and facility management roles. As a requirement of LLP licensure, Robin’s supervisor is Dr. M. Ellis Jaruzel

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