The Soul of Grief – Paying Attention to Things As Symbols of Love

transitional objectThe Ring is More Than A Thing – A Symbol of Love

I sat at the table with my ever-warm and caring Aunt Waneta – My Dad’s youngest sister. Her eyes had tears in them. She was expressing concern and love towards me, as my father had just passed away the previous Friday.

“I just think it is something your Dad would want you to have,” she said. “I’ve already talked to your Mom about it and Betty agrees. Your mom wants you to have your father’s wedding ring if you would like it.”

Throughout the years, my Aunt Waneta and Uncle Junior gave love, caring, and just a lot of humor to me. They were among my favorite people in the world.

I had no idea how Aunt Waneta’s decision would give me a sense of security and comfort in the years to come.

My Dad was one of my best friends. I had no doubt I was the apple of his eye. And he had no doubt he was the first man I ever loved – my template for relationships with men in the healthiest and safest of ways.

I was 30 years old at the time. I would go on after his death – through difficult times – touching the ring. I would twist it around and around my middle finger on my left hand – next to my wedding ring.

Dad’s ring was more than “a thing.” It was a symbol of love no one could ever take out of me or away from me.

Transitional Objectsman-beach-love-sand

Transitional Objects are the things that remind us of security and an “inner sense of home.” The importance of transitional objects in walking through the journey of grief is widely known among grieving professionals. My Aunt Waneta wasn’t a professional, though. She was a common-sense, Indiana country woman who was wise. She had a huge heart and cared deeply for others.

Allow me to encourage you to think about having a Transitional Object during your journey through The Soul of Grief. Below are a few points regarding this helpful tool.

1. A Transitional Object is a reminder of the relationship and love you had with the person who died.

While you are missing your loved one, and adjusting to the change in your relationships, this symbol can be a reminder of the relationship and memories that can never be taken from you. The Transitional Object can be a “touchstone” of inner security.

The Transitional Object is different from the “valuables” or the things needing to be equally divided up between surviving family members. The items of financial worth will be determined by the Last Will and Testament of the deceased. If not – Hang on! Family members can get crazy – Not necessarily, but sometimes they do.

This item may or may not have financial value. The important factor to consider is the emotional value the object holds for you.

mobile2. Only you can decide your unique Transitional Object

A Transitional Object does not need to be a ring or a piece of jewelry. (Although, the convenience of having something you wear as a reminder of your loved one is comforting immediately when it is needed.)

  • For a number of women who have lost their husbands, it is a shirt their husbands wore that still holds the comforting aroma of their beloved.
  • For husbands who have become widowers, the custom of keeping their wives personal belongings around is common for a period of time.
  • For the unnatural death of a child, parents often choose the child’s favorite toy or stuffed animal.

The death of my Aunt Elouise (my second Mom) was difficult for me. I chose a house dress she used to wear to remind me of her love. The simple, blue and white, front-zippered, cotton dress is not one I would ever wear in public. However, when I found myself missing the days of Indiana and my extended family, I would wear her dress in my apartment. The memories of her being available for me during my growing up years would comfort me.

3. Discovering Transitional Objects for Others Can Be Caringholidays-dinner-eating-lunch

Grieving times are a time when families can implode. Remember how I said, “When people go into their hearts, the go out of their heads?” Sometimes families argue about “stuff.” It is important when this happens to step back and ask each other, “What is the reason you want this particular object?”

Asking this question can create understanding and help to clear up disagreements before they even begin. You may be surprised about what others find important.

My Mom was convinced I would want some of my Grandma David’s dishes when my grandma passed away. They were beautiful. They were symbols of family dinners and pies that were simply out of this world. But – I knew those dishes were important to Grandma David’s daughters and their daughters.

Mom asked me if there was anything in particular I wanted of Grandma’s. She was surprised to hear my answer. “Of course there is! I want the white, tin cup that I remember using to get water from the well in the back yard of Grandma’s house.” When Grandma moved from the country house to her house in town, Grandma always had this same cup on the top of the sink – waiting to provide refreshment to her house guests.

Today – that same white, tin cup is at the top of my sink. I look at it often and smile with memories of cinnamon pie crusts and my gentle, loving, and smiling, Grandma David.

4. Know When the Time is Right For You to Let Go

Grieving is a unique journey for all of us. There are no time tables or schedules to the journey through the shadow of death. Only you can determine if you will let the Transitional Object go.

Please give yourself time and lots of space before deciding to do so. Be gentle with this process. There is no rushing grief.

Remembering The Love

The benefits of a Transitional Object can help to provide comfort while you are moving through the loss of your loved one. They are objects only you can decide will help you through. They might have financial value. They might not. They might be something you wear. They might not.

Helping others who will be going through this grieving process by setting aside something to help them hold on to while they miss their loved one is kind and considerate. Just make certain it is what they would want.

Making certain the family recognizes the “things” that are actually more than “things” will be important to keep in mind.

And finally, only you can determine the time when it is right to let the object go.

Sometimes the time will never be right. For me, I cannot imagine my left hand without my Dad’s wedding ring.

Always keep in mind the one rule about grief – You Make The Rules


Kate Pieper LMFTThe above information is provided for your journey through The Soul of Grief. It is not professional advice. I’m Kate Pieper, LMFT. I am your reluctant tour guide through this journey. I hope this information and encouragement is helpful for you. You can reach me at kate@katepieperlmft or 530-268-3558. If you are needing a professional to walk with your through this process, call. We can see if I am the right person to walk with you.

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